DISTURBING PATTERNS - MMDD Aarhus residency, 21 – 29 March 2022

The host of the residency is Bora Bora - Dance and Visual Theater, based in Aarhus, Denmark. Bora Bora presents, produces, and co-produces local, national, and international contemporary dance and visual theatre. The Bora Bora Residency Centre hosts around ten paid research residencies a year. “Contextualizing Dance” is an ongoing dramaturgical project in the residency centre that correlates well with the MMDD project. This project seeks to disturb routines in dance productions by contextualising both the artistic process and the ‘marketing’ of the performance in the present time and geography/demography.

The chosen theme of the Aarhus residency, therefore, is disturbing patterns, which also aims to disturb the established patterns of the programme in many ways. Having had two MMDD intensives that were idealising dramaturgy (weaving the fabric of society, bringing people together), we would like to explore the more uncomfortable, questioning, disturbing, so to say ‘darker’ or even political side of dance dramaturgy. The theme also resonates with those socially conscious, innovative methods that are used at Bora Bora, as summarised by their artistic director, Jesper de Neergaard: “facing our worries and arming our resistance and creativity at the same time”.

The theme, disturbing patterns, offers two interpretations:

  • Bringing awareness to existing patterns in our thinking as well as in society etc. that trouble us, that we find problematic. Either because they are no longer acceptable, or because they have been used repeatedly for so long that by now they have lost their meaning and become empty patterns that no longer lead to anything fruitful at this historical moment that screams for critical thinking and reformation.
  • Disrupting, changing, and disengaging with existing patterns of our working process: reflecting on emotions, thinking processes, actions, methods, communication and engagement with others on an individual and an institutional level.

The residency will respond to both sets of questions.

During the residency we will explore the many possible layers of interpretation the theme disturbing patterns can offer us: dramaturgically, politically, environmentally, choreographically, geographically etc. We will think about this on a personal level (relating it to our practice and thinking), on an institutional level, and a societal level. We would also like to ‘disturb’ our thinking about dance and art by encountering different disciplines and exploring seemingly non-related topics.

“The world is a confusing and turbulent place, but we make sense of it by finding order”, noted science writer Philip Ball in his book exploring and explaining patterns in nature. “We look for similarity, predictability, regularity (...) We try to break down the complex profusion of nature into simple rules, to find order among what might first look like chaos. This makes us all pattern seekers.”

Dramaturgy is often defined as the recognition of patterns and creating meaning through them. When creating the ‘texture’ of a performance, we look at occurrences, recognise patterns, movements and correlations, and arrange the constituents of a performance into a composition, a dynamic form. Through this process, we are creating a unique chemistry between bodies in time and space, arranging familiar and unfamiliar, balancing excitement and reassurance, this way shaping narratives, emotions or experience.

Yet, as dramaturg Ruth Little argues, relying on patterns can make us complacent: “In fact, all growth or evolution is only possible when something changes or is disturbed - when a pattern is created out of a seemingly random association of elements, or a pattern is destroyed, sensitising us to the conditions which disturbed it. So meaning is, in effect, found not in the pattern itself, but in its disturbance, and the creation of new patterns. Knowledge lies at thresholds and edges of experience, and this is the place where dramaturgy happens.”

This residency, therefore, will focus our attention on rhythm and pattern, and their disturbance on different levels: we’ll examine patterns in our thinking and our practice, in our processes on micro and macro levels. How do we work as individual artists, and what are the patterns of our processes as organisations, and as a society? Through the ten days of the residency, we’ll disturb and challenge these patterns, and use dramaturgy as a tool to ask these sometimes uncomfortable or difficult questions.