WoWmen! Does the body lie?

Between International Women’s Day and Equal Pay Day, the Kaaitheater is presenting the second edition of WoWmen!, a festival that looks at gender, society, and art via an exhibition, films, debates, research, and performance. One of the performances is entitled Deceptive Bodies.
In Deceptive Bodies, the choreographer Charlotte Vanden Eynde investigates to what extent a body is sincere or deceptive in the way it behaves or “communicates” with another person. She does so in cooperation with the actress Dolores Bouckaert. Charlotte Vanden Eynde: “Dolores comes from the theatre, I come from dance. I asked her to work with me because of my fascination with her theatricality and the way she stands on a stage. That theatricality was something I myself had never sought in the past. I was more concerned to strip the body onstage of theatricality, in order to present it entirely naked – as “itself” – and to communicate with the body instead of with the face and all sorts of disguises. This time I wanted a confrontation with someone who works in a different way. There was a similarity between Dolores and myself that I find difficult to explain, but that has to do with the fact that she exposes a substantial part of herself.”

The two of you drew inspiration from the phenomenon of female hysteria, which used to be seen as a mental illness.
Charlotte Vanden Eynde: As we talked and read, we came across that subject, because theatricality plays a role in it too. What are called hysterical moods were presented before an audience by doctors in the nineteenth century, photographed, and described in books in an almost artistic way. For a long time, people looked for a purely physical cause – as with epilepsy – but eventually they recognised the psychological background of the physical phenomena, which made the victims manipulable. Because they were being watched, women even encouraged and imitated each other. They were actually looking for attention, but went so far that sometimes genuine paralysis occurred. The question raised by that phenomenon of hysteria – whether what the body does is genuine or not, whether it says something about the person in question or is artificial and acted – corresponded with what Dolores and I wanted to investigate. 

So how did you finally come up with a performance?
Vanden Eynde: We started from scratch. We asked each other to sit on a chair and do something, and then asked ourselves what it was, what it said about ourselves, and whether and what we wanted to communicate with it. We looked at each other and at ourselves. We tried to completely switch off our self-awareness or, on the contrary, not at all – which, of course, is almost impossible. Our research turned into an investigation of what is “genuine” in theatre and dance. Is it possible to communicate honestly? Is it possible to feel something intensely again and again?

What does the result look like onstage?
Vanden Eynde: It has become a very physical performance. There is a tiny bit of text in it, but that too is deployed in order to be able to do something with the body. It was our intention to do something that was genuinely by both of us, in which our two worlds met up, in a quite pure, minimal way. Dolores and I do have two different “lines” in the show. You can still see who is who, but we have also learned a lot from each other and frequently move unexpectedly into each other’s territory. 

Deceptive Bodies 12 & 13/3, 20.30, 14/3, 21.00, Kaaistudio’s
WoWmen! • 10 > 15/3, kaaitheater, square Sainctelettesquare 20, Brussel/Bruxelles & Kaaistudio’s Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Vaakstraat 81 rue Notre-Dame du Sommeil, Brussel/Bruxelles, 02-201.59.59, www.kaaitheater.be

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