about GRIPGRIP is a choreographic platform under the direction of choreographer and dancer Jan Martens and business manager and coordinator Klaartje Oerlemans.
GRIP produces and supports in the first place the work of choreographer and maker Jan Martens, who quickly made himself a name in the performing arts field by following an intense, international and non-conventional parcours. His performances play in that grey zone between concrete stories and abstract concepts. The focus often lies on people who try to find their way through life, showing both vulnerability and strength.
GRIP furthermore endorses four choreographers in developing their artistic trajectory: Bára Sigfúsdóttir, Steven Michel, Cherish Menzo and Michele Rizzo. The artistic director and business manager decide jointly what artists join GRIP. In doing so they seek to reflect and broaden the diversity and variation in the landscape of contemporary dance and performance.
Besides the dance makers there are five supporters: a business manager and coordinator (Klaartje Oerlemans), a production supervisor and tour manager (Sylvie Svanberg), a production intern (Marie Luyten), a communications manager (Sam Loncke) and an advisor and house dramaturge (Rudi Meulemans) who acts as a sounding board for the makers, independently from the production dramaturges. There are also a number of freelance collaborators, among them a rehearsal director, production dramaturges and indeed the dancers and performers.
GRIP is a nomadic structure. GRIP does not have a studio of its own, but makes use of the existing infrastructure in the performing arts landscape by forging alliances with theatres, co-producers, production companies and residency venues. The creations always emerge in different spaces and in interaction with the different professional contexts.
GRIP is active in several countries. GRIP is a non-profit association based in Antwerp and in Rotterdam. GRIP receives structural subsidies from the Government of Flanders (2017-2021) and has several international co-producers as well as many partners in Europe and North America.
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Jan Martens about his workTechnological developments in recent years have meant that the transfer of information has reached unprecedented speeds and that previously inaccessible knowledge and sources are now within reach. Unfortunately these developments have also had a number of negative consequences. Lack of concentration, screen addiction and superficial processing of information are part of this age. That duality finds direct expression in my work.
On the one hand:
I slow down. In my first works, unconsciously. Today, purposefully.
With each work I want to create a space in which there is time to observe. Theatre is the ideal place in which to observe, without the pressure of time and without embarrassment, flesh and blood people, and to relate this observation to personal experience. My work is in that respect nothing more than watching people in their simplicity or complexity.
In an age when each opinion can be published and shared unfiltered, where we are under pressure to come up as quickly as possible with ready-made answers or another belief on those published judgements, I find it important to offer something else. An offer to zoom in, not to judge but to ask yourself slowly what that which is on offer does to you and why it does that to you. I offer quiet and reflection in the daily commotion. Time to digest.
On the other hand:
I experience freedom as a maker.
The abundance of influences, sources and information that are within reach are something I use in my work. I sample, cover, remix until the original idioms become unrecognizable or else I use them as a prototype in a new story to be told.
As an artist I do not go in search of a so-called dance or movement language of my own. Each performance requires a different idiom. I use existing movement idioms and try to adapt them to my needs or to place them in another context.
I find that liberating. I have decided for myself that my work can go in all directions, that one time it can be choreographic and musical and that another work can be based on mere eye contact and improvised interaction. That the unity of all these different works will surface by itself. That there are only a few beliefs I have to hold onto in order to bring about that unity because I alone make the choices that I make.
- the body speaks
My work is based on the belief that the body is both something obvious and a mystery. That a body can enthral another body and mind. That the body does not go out of fashion, that it can transform but does not change.
That that body speaks to us in a language that can be used in a robust and unpolished manner because it communicates one way or another: purposefully or unintentionally.
That we can channel and crystallize ideas through that body, not only through the mind.
On the belief that that body connects us all.
That we all long for contact, sometimes literally.
- the body speaks from person to person
A quality that connects all the performers with whom I have worked in recent years is the fact that they all mobilize their humanity on stage naturally and organically. I try to keep that humanity on the stage, even though the performer sometimes executes movements that would never happen in everyday life. Thus there is often a big discrepancy between the artificiality of the movement and the humanity that the performer radiates.
The chosen form for each specific representation cannot stand in the way of that humanity. It must be given the chance precisely to find its way to the audience in all its subtlety, so that we can (re)conquer that audience.
I do not want my performers to soar but for their imprint on stage to become visible. I want my work to keep both feet on the ground.
- simplicity rules
If everything is stripped of all adornment, all that remains on stage is the essence. What do the remaining images tell? By minimizing, isn’t the maximum core of meaning brought to the surface?
I consciously choose for transparent, simple structures. As a maker and as a spectator I like examining that which is created. There is no room on my stage for ten actions to occur simultaneously. I try to steer directly the gaze of the spectator. What happens on stage is orderly, but never in such a way that it limits the spectator’s observation and interpretation. I try to build in space and time in order to trigger reflection. I do not bombard the spectator.
I delimit but leave open. I supply but let reflect.
- form is content is form is content is …
Form and content flow forth from one another. I never choose for form or content.
The content always dictates the form of the performance, but the form is just as important. The aim is that the form becomes the content, or the content the form.
Seeking and polishing until the right language has been found is still one of the things I most enjoy in the artistic process. The belief that there is only one adequate language to evoke the theme that you are tackling at that moment.
- new insights
My work must carry in it the possibility of offering the public new insights about their own ability, viewing and/or thinking.
I want my work to be seen because I am convinced that it has the power to bring about that change. For the public, for participants in workshops and projects, for the performers, for myself.
Each new insight, each enrichment – no matter how small – is valuable.
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