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  • Writer's pictureJessica Hellmuth

Werkplaats Deipenheim - Artist connections and perfect focus

After some confusion with residency dates, I managed to set up a last minute residency at Werkplaats Deipenheim for four days in the middle of March. I had heard of this space before as it is becoming one of the few Netherlands circus residencies that can accommodate rigging. The purpose of this residency was to connect with my movement eye Piet Rogie for the first time since summer and work on the now 45 minute show in detail. I have worked so much alone that I was in desperate need of a pair of eyes besides my own to process the material and Piet has very skillful eyes for this work.

We arrived to a tiny beautiful town that seemed in the middle of nowhere, but was quickly distinguishable as a thriving place for arts. Walking past some happy ducks in their pond we were shown around the building to a cozy apartment with its own personal entrance. It was already clear that Deipenheim was a place where rest would come easily.

In the same building there are the communal room and working studios. It was a very nice combination: a cozy and inspiring common area, filled with art, books, a big table, couches, and a lovely large kitchen, but through a couple doors there was a large space, with rigging equipment, foam puzzle mats, windows that could easily be covered, smooth floor, and blank walls. This space facilitated thriving conversations in the common room and complete focus in the workspace, and soon we found ourselves working from breakfast until midnight discussing the piece over our meals and walking about the space at night playing with ideas that the day's work had kicked up. There was a beautiful fluidity between creation and creation-related rest.

Along with a studio across the hall for music, Deipenheim has an amazing basement full of stones and beautiful presses used for lithography. I had no idea about the art form, but the artists teaching workshops taught us all about it, and it was really nice to share enthusiasm about our very different arts sharing the space. After getting to know them a bit, I decided to invite everyone to a showing on the last day. Even though they had a limited time, and some were paying to take a workshop, almost all of them came, and although they planned to leave part of the way through the now hour long performance, they all stayed until the end.

It couldn’t have been a better time for a showing. Since last expanding the piece in Dommelhof in October, I hadn’t had the space or time to work with the 15 minutes of new material. While working with Piet, we lost ourselves in the details of the movements, intentions, and quality. We brainstormed for hours about how to start and end the performance, and went through every moment and deepened my understanding of what the mental process was that inspired and was contained by the movement I made on stage. We became very interested in the audience's role in the piece. Even though from the outside they only sit and watch, by now it had become so intimate that to perform it with eyes from ’the outside’ could make a huge difference, especially since the content deals so much with feeling and reacting to the gaze.

There were 6 people watching, which was the most I’d performed Corpo for so far. The parts we had added had a lot to do with the audience, and it felt we had spent so much time hypothesizing how the audience would take or feel parts of the show, and how they would react on or change the atmosphere. After the showing, I couldn’t believe how well it had gone. I was unsure about the ending, and my ability to hold the right intention with an audience, but throughout I’d felt an indistinguishable connection to everyone watching. Their presence made a hugely positive impact to the piece. Afterwards I had the pleasure of discussing it with them, and hearing about how they related to the piece, what it made them question, and what else they wanted from it. I can watch 100 videos of the material, and it won’t tell nearly as much as the thoughts of a single viewer, and each time I receive feedback, it becomes one of the most rewarding parts of making piece like this.

After only four days, I am determined to further connect to the community and art that the people of Werkplaats Deipenheim have created.

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