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Learn more about dance in Munich! In TTmag dance creators talk about their aesthetics and approach, dance formats and Munich dance topics are put under the microscope!

Conversations about pieces
Stefan Maria Marb: Liquid Face

In 2014 you founded the Butohatelier, I think with or out of the participants of your weekly Butoh classes at Tanztenz?

First the Butoh_Lab developed in 2011 out of the Butoh courses in the Tanztenz - for the advanced among the participants. Finally, in 2014, the performance "Love_Child" at Domagk 50 resulted from this and subsequently the Butohatelier - open to all - from the Wednesday courses.

In principle, if I understand correctly, it is a work with amateur dancers, many of whom have been working with you for a very long time. Can one still speak of amateurs at all?

Most of the participants have been with me for several years, some have actually been attending my classes for 15 years; but every year new ones join, which is very good for the work as a whole. The idea for performative work with non-professionals came out of necessity, when a professional dancer cancelled a stage production shortly before the premiere in 1993. Then I brought the enthusiastic amateur Dr. Christian Stübner on stage, who from then on accompanied my work with passion. I did not regret this decision, on the contrary, it opened my eyes to the manifold possibilities of butoh dance, where, for example, age is a quality criterion. In this art form, the boundaries between professionals and amateurs are permeable, the purely physical-dancing aspect is supplemented and expanded in Butoh by psychological-spiritual skills that only emerge from many years of intensive occupation.

What is the motivation of the participants of your courses or what is the motivation of the participants to deal with Butoh dance?

Very different motivations prevail. On the one hand, Butoh leaves room and opportunity to train and experience personal expression even in old age; others are generally looking for an individual psychophysical expression; still others simply want to get to know their own dark side.

With the Butohatelier you perform a public performance approx. once a year, this year "Liquid Face", how does the rehearsal process work or how does the process from the workshop to the rehearsals happen.

Once a week, during the regular Wednesday training sessions, we begin to improvise on the theme (in this case 'face') and compile individual movement material, which I also document on film. This first phase, usually on about ten dates, allows the participants, so to speak, the inner access to the theme, then in the second section of the rehearsal phase, which includes two weeks of daily rehearsals, the whole thing is successively poured into a choreographic form until the premiere and adapted to the venue.

The themes of your performances with the Butohatelier – "Totentanz" "Das heilige Spiel", "Engel" are often mythical or sacral in connotation. How do you choose? Or would you rather say not mythical or sacral but standing in a deeper or inner connection to Butoh as an art form?

I usually specify the theme after a thorough research; it should be a timeless theme that reflects our own fragile humanity and it must also really interest me as a course instructor. Furthermore, the theme should have to do with Butoh in a broader sense, where indeed ritual, mythical and also 'shadowy' themes claim a place. Then the course is advertised and interested participants sign up. In the course of the improvisation phase and the rehearsal phase, further ideas of the participants are added, the theme is thus enriched and expanded.

Your current performance "Liquid Face" questions the discrepancy between the learned social mask and the face as a mirror of the soul...

Exactly; we are driven by the questions: What is behind our persona (a term from ancient Greek theater for the mask)? What do we actually have to hide there? Which emotional impulses are held back in the social context? If all this is questioned and the masks are lifted, the face initially loses its hold, the emotional impulses are allowed to see the light of day, the face becomes so to speak 'liquid'.

You write in your text on "Liquid Face": "A manifest split of face and body can thus be gradually lifted and enable a creative integration, which has a liberating effect." An almost psychoanalytical approach?

Yes, that sounds a bit psychoanalytical, I am also from the profession... (Stefan Maria Marb is a graduate psychologist, editor's note). But it fits to my holistic understanding of Butoh, that the process mentioned in your question, besides the mental component, primarily addresses the body as the integrating element.

With your own, as well as with the Butohatelier's performances, you very often go to non-theater spaces, such as museums, a riverbank, or, as in "Liquid Face," the park of the Mohr Villa.

I like to take projects to 'living' places that breathe a history that reflects the staged theme and where my dancers as well as the audience can easily find a personal connection. The park of the Mohr Villa is wonderfully spacious, huge trees encompass a generous area and allow the dance in "Liquid Face" to breathe in nature.

Long-time collaborators on your plays are the actor Gerd Lohmeyer and the cellist Jost-H. Hecker, both are also involved in "Liquid Face". How do language and music combine with dance in your work? What function do they have?

Gerd is one of my most eager Butoh students, who has been coming to my classes for eight years now. Because he really is a professional in his acting, he brings this professional attitude into the Butoh work and enriches the other dancers from the amateur area immensely. In addition, his voice opens up an additional wonderful resonance space in the Butoh pieces - in "Liquid Face", for example, some Rilke texts are very well suited. I worked with Jost for the first time at the Glyptothek in 2017 in my solo performance "TIME CODES-EPHEMER" - it was a stroke of luck. He is also a full professional, he improvises virtuously and also plays classical music; both with great passion and precision, that fits very well with Butoh. This allows him to react and act flexibly in the moment to Gerd's voice and to the dance in equal measure. Both together form an important connecting bracket in their actions in the respective pieces.

"Liquid Face" will take place June 3 & 4, both at 8:30 p.m. in Mohr Villa Park: INFO

More about Stefan Maria Marb: Stefan Maria Marb

The interview was conducted by Simone Lutz, May 2022

Tanztendenz Munich e.V. is sponsored
by the Munich Department of Arts and Culture