FRAMED | Window on the city – how it all began
Choreographer Conny Janssen looks back here, in conversation with dramaturge Judith Wendel, at how FRAMED was created in 2020. And how the concept grew in the years that followed into the performance that can currently be seen in theaters from February to June 2023.
We had just gone through a Covid wave – the first one as it turned out to be – in which all kind of things happened, and all kind of things did not happen. All of a sudden, everything came to a standstill. Productions were cancelled and booked performances were rescheduled. Unexpectedly, we had to relate to something we were not familiar with. However, at the same time, we moved on, albeit cautiously. In our own house, and within the restrictions Covid imposed upon us, we created nine solo performances under the unifying title of MONUMENTS OF SOLITUDE, our answer to the unexpected standstill.
After the summer of 2020, in high spirits, we picked up from where we left off and we started preparations for FRAMED. The first lockdown had shocked us but, at the same time, we drew inspiration from it. We reflected on the impact it has on a city, on the people who live there: isolated, cut off from other people, and trapped in our own bubble. What happens when you are forced to look into your inner self? When social connections are not self-evident? When we keep our doors and windows shut?
In FRAMED we wanted to show ‘slices of life’. To zoom in on what happened behind our closed doors. We wanted to look around in the city and get behind the walls of the houses. We asked the dancers to create material based on that topic. We developed solo performances and duets. We translated their inner world into dance material. We forged and moulded, creating a world that showed all these ‘frames’, all these enclosed people. We looked for music that was emotionally in line with this variety of feelings and thoughts. From energetic sparkling Vivaldi music, through urban pulsating soundscapes to Nina Simone’s mind-blowing voice. We invaded Rotterdam, filmed the city. A LEDwall on stage showed these images as the skin of the city. From that skin, the exterior of all those lives, we were going to penetrate the interior of the people. In short, we were creating a performance that enabled us to express the impact this period had on us.
End of 2020.
We were overtaken by reality. We were confronted with a second lockdown. Again, theatres closed their doors and so FRAMED did not premiere. However, we were not defeated by it and turned the performance into a film. This stream was available to every living room, and thus we shared with the world what we had to say on the subject. It was a weird paradox. The performance that thematised the notion of ‘being-trapped’ became a film that was only available from behind our closed front doors.
Finally, in the 2021 – 2022 season, we could meet our audience again. We played HOME at venues throughout the Netherlands; we staged the site-specific performance SO HERE WE ARE sixteen times at the former distribution centre of the Van Nelle Fabriek.
Start of the FRAMED rehearsals. Together with a partly new ensemble, we picked up from where we left off and started to resume our work on the performance. Every now and again, one of us has to stay at home to sweat it out, but this time Covid does not hold us in its grip anymore. We leave our homes, rehearse together, work hard to fine-tune and deepen the material.
February 10, 2023.
Opening night FRAMED!
When I look around, I see a skyline of apartment buildings and houses where people live in their own cocoon. Every single one with his own story, sorrow and happiness. FRAMED focusses on twelve characters we lift out of the city’s anonymity. I, as it were, zoom in on such an apartment, on these stacked lives in search of what is going on behind those windows. The dancers resemble these characters. You encounter their desires, their playfulness, and their narratives. In the course of the performance, you get to know them better. Ultimately, it is about you and me. We too are behind our own walls looking for each other and trying to connect. A city or town, whether they are big or small, is a compilation of stories and, in the final analysis, these stories become universal. Conny Janssen