Coming to Sadler’s Wells this March, Sasha Waltz & Guests present Körper – a unique study of the human body performed by an ensemble of 13 dancers. In this interview, Canadian-born ensemble member and co-creator of the piece, Luc Dunberry reveals how the functions the of the body became a starting point for its creation and how it has evolved during its 18 year life-span.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Valleyfield, Canada, studying music at the Collège de Sherbrooke, drama at the UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) and dance at LADMMI (Les Ateliers de Danse Moderne de Montréal Inc.). As a member of the Groupe de la Place Royale I have worked with various choreographers, among them Sasha Waltz who introduced me to dance for her company in 1996. I have been a member of her dance ensemble at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz Berlin as both dancer and choreographer. Alongside my work with Sasha Waltz & Guests, I have always been developing my own choreographies and dance films.
You performed in Körper during its world premiere, and created the piece with Sasha Waltz. What is it like to work with Sasha?
We have a long-lasting relationship and we understand each other well in the work. We start often from improvisation so we are really involved in the creative process, we are searching for something together.
What was the starting point for the subject matter of this piece? Where did you draw your inspiration?
We started with a very broad spectrum on the idea of the body, but it became rapidly clear that the subject was too vast for a single piece. So we concentrated for this first part of the trilogy, on the very basic matter that composes the body, the biology and physics of it. A lot of the research has developed from fundamental systems of the body, like the bones, the skin, body fluids, nervous system etc.
How would you describe the style of this piece to audiences?
It’s a very graphic piece that functions like a collage of images. The sound design from Hans-Peter Kuhn sets a very strong tone and ties in with the visual identity of the piece. There is no narrative per se but I believe the abstraction of the piece is balanced by some glimpses of humanity under the flesh and bones.
What was the process involved in creating this piece?
There were two preparatory projects with public showings in 1999, prior to developing the piece itself. One was shown in Sophiensaele, a theatre that Sasha and her husband Jochen had inaugurated in 1996, and the second one in the yet to be opened Jewish Museum in Berlin. As for the dance material itself, we did a lot of improvisations on specific functions of the body, from which a selection of elements were then researched and deepened into the finished choreography. We dialogued with the architectural features of the Daniel Liebeskind building which had a strong influence on the set design for the stage. There were as well image-based ideas that were used as starting points, like the Vitrine at the beginning of the piece or the Body Mountains where the bodies are piled, arranged or aligned in different ways.
How has the experience of performing in Körper changed since you were involved in its creation and premiere over 18 years ago?
It is, at the same time, exactly the same as before and every time different. We have played the piece over a hundred times, it has accompanied us, we evolved with it. There is an aspect of it that is so well-known and second nature-like, but on the other hand, there’s always the unique present moment of doing it, every time its own, even if for the 115th time.
What do you want audiences to take away from watching this piece?
I think there is space for every spectator to witness, interpret and question the piece in their own personal way. I believe some images have a potential for strong physical impact and identification. If I would wish for something, it would be that the viewers get physical sensations from their own bodies from watching.
What one word would you use to describe Körper?
Header image: Sebastian Bolesch