‘Why stillness? Stillness is not needed for equality.’

 

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In December 2018 i trained and performed in Central Java with my teacher Pak Suprapto Suryodarmo (Prapto). Our basis was in Solo/Surakarta city, where we practiced at Taman Budaya Surakarta and Wisma Seni. We also worked at the mythical and mystical Parangtritis beach (5 days) and at 15th Century Hindu Sukuh Temple on the mountain Lawu (10 days). On our ways from and to Parangtritis we stopped and practised at Plaosan Temple, Barong Temple and Ratu Boko. One morning we also worked at Ceto Temple, close to Sukuh Temple, an incredibly beautiful and slightly risky journey to another part of the mountain, through almost vertical tea plantations and terraced fields with rice and onions.

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In the practice group were four Chinese and two Russian participants and myself. During all this time Indonesian dancers, actors, musicians and healing art practisioners from different islands were coming in and out to visit, to meet, to exchange and discuss, to work for one or more days and/or to perform. 

Among the Indonesian artists that joined, I performed with Widya Ayu Kusumawardani (Purbalingga / Solo, Java) and Alexander Gebe (Lampung, Sumatra) and several musicians from Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi. 

Needless to say, much happened in these four weeks i was in Indonesia. For this blog i will share some on stillness and (the lack of) silence in Java.

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Surrender

Listen

Tune

Part of SILENT DANCES is my wish to meet the audience in a shared sense of equality through working with stillness. 

Prapto has been bringing people together from different walks of life and religions in Indonesia and created works of different kinds, such as ritual performances (throughout Indonesia and at the UN after 9/11) and an interreligious music video, Mandala Salam*. He continuously creates situations where people don’t ‘only speak for themselves’, but where dialogue can happen, to hear and see, appreciate and honour each other in equality. 

So i wished to speak with him about his experience and my wish to work with a sense of equality through stillness in my dance. The first thing Prapto said when i brought this up was: ‘Why stillness?  Stillness is not needed for equality.’ There goes anticipation and wishful expectation i didn’t realize i had. It was an unexpected opener of our conversation. 

Dialogue. Tuning into each other. 

Exactly what i did ask for.

Listening. Connection.

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I felt i needed to perhaps listen differently. Not sure what that meant, there was a sense of allowing more of the unknown. Somehow this opened something behind my heart it seemed. In this listening i felt a new kind of stillness. Or somehow a stillness where i hadn’t let it be still yet. I wanted to allow this new unknown, so to speak. Perhaps we wouldn’t talk about stillness and equality. Not directly. But then we would talk about equality. And we would talk about stillness. And work with both. Connections would reveal themselves in time through practicing. 

 

The breathing of stillness itself

 

The question and the approach of Prapto brings me to what i wrote in my earlier blog post, about not wanting to use stillness as a way to keep silent, or as Audre Lorde’s book title says: “Your Silence Will Not Protect you.” I wrote about this here: https://stilltrajectory.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/stillness-equality-or-how-slavery-in-louisiana-and-in-the-netherlands-the-deep-story-and-learning-to-listen-relate-to-my-dances/

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Throughout our talk i answered the question of ‘Why stillness?’ in steps. It is something i continuously am answering and opening to and answering and opening to, to get as close and clear as i can to the heart of this work. Yet in a way, in this moment, answering this itself was not what mattered most it seemed to me. Although saying the things that have been with me for long in a new context to who i see as an artist activist, as many of my inspirations/examples are, somehow asks at the same time: ‘Are you sure about this?’ And i am. I don’t know anything about its possible impact or consequence or lack of this, but i feel clearly that this is my work now. So with all the answering and asking and opening to learn more, i have been working on the how. How do i actually practice to create this work? And this is what i could do in Java too. 

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Stillness and connection

How to work with stillness. Prapto pointed to a non-Javanese man that in that moment was walking on a path in the garden, disconnected, restless, not in touch with what was beyond the path. Prapto said that a Javanese person walks in connection with what else is in the garden. Something quiet, yet connected. There is openness. (Even if less so and more pointed now that there are mobile phones.) 

I worked with this throughout the practice time. Layers of it. Understandings. Mistunderstandings. Refinements. Openings. Revelations. 

The breathing of stillness itself

I see this in Prapto himself. This embodiment of stillness and connection. When i see him perform, when i see him walk or smoke or day dream.

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Why stillness to experience and share equality? 

simply: i love stillness 

I love stillness and i wish to share this love

But there is more to it. I see stillness as source, the heart of the space where we can truly meet. Before anything is known. And when everything is known. There is so much distraction. There is so much difficulty to dialogue. There is so much polarisation. There is so much to say. Maybe all of it wants to be said and heard. Maybe most of it needs to be heard. But for us to be able to allow it and to hear it, we need to be able to access that source of stillness. From there we can hear and see. From there we can speak or sing or dance differently. The need to polarise or be right dissolves. It encourages appreciation of each other and living together while having different opinions, wishes, forms, likes, dislikes, religions, preferences. It opens to a sense of equality. To really see each other.

“Everyone is transparent if we really watch.”   – Pina Bausch

Meeting beyond religion. Meeting beyond opinion. Through dialogue or through stillness? Through stillness, then dialogue? Meeting beyond imagination.

In another earlier blog post i write about this: https://stilltrajectory.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/meeting-beyond-imagination-ont-moeting-voorbij-de-verbeelding/ 

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Stillness is always there. Here.

To experience a shared stillness through dance. This excites me. I want to create that space. I want to dance that dance. I can only find it through becoming still. Actively. Alive. Fertile.

I love the word ‘fertile’ in relation to stillness. I had been using the words ‘aliveness’ and ‘dynamic’, ‘open’ in stillness. Fertile is a word that Prapto used in our conversations. The performances on the first of January were in the context of planting seeds as symbols and actualities to continue nature, life, to grow and evolve. To plant fertile seeds. Growing. Expanding. 

The fertility of stillness

Alive stillness in fertility

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Stillness. Practice. Mystery.

An experience: 1 January 2019: i am about to perform a duet with Alexander Gebe titled ‘Purification’. We were just asked to change the order with another duet and begin earlier. We are waiting under the trees when it starts to rain. Musim hujan. Rainy season. It is time. When we begin it comes down hard. The audience moves to sit underneath food stalls and tent roofs around the performance grounds. Everyone stays. Present. All we hear is the rain and in the background of that four musicians, flutes, vocals, percussion. Half way the performance we both stand in the center of the grassy stage, close to the rocks that form a face on the ground. I am holding long grasses, point them to the sky and look up. Right at that moment the rain pours down as hard as possible while still and just being able to define separate drops or lines. An incredible moment. Nothing that could have been staged this way would have the same power. Improvising. All of us witnessing this. We didn’t count on the gift of rain there and then. Grace. And being ready to receive it, surrender to it and move on. Practice in place. In performance.

Connection

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SILENCE

Silence is not needed for stillness. It can help. But it is not needed.

In these four weeks in Java I noticed only two moments of silence. Brief but clear and striking and so present because they are so rare. No motor bikes, no cars, no footsteps, no radio, no tofu seller’s tape, no bakso seller’s tune, no song, no frogs, no birds, no geckos, no crickets, no gamelan, no laughter, no talking, no praying, no wind in the trees, no rain on the roof. 

Silence 

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Relief i didn’t know i wanted. Until the next motor bike came up the mountain. But then when the moment of silence was gone, i didn’t miss it either. This is interesting to me because i love silence. 

I love silence

But i surrender in Indonesia. To the sounds being there. I let myself be included in the sound space as much as i am able to and as much as i am allowed to be part of it. I surrender to the sense of community living that seems to go along with all these sounds being around and never hearing anyone complain about it, to shared space, shared beauty, shared prayers, shared rituals, shared difficulties, shared slow time, shared sounds. And yet or perhaps because of this, i can’t be sure, there is a sense of stillness in everyone i meet. As if privacy is known and acknowledged in this stillness that is in each one and every one. 

Individuality and one ness.           Shared.           Equality.

This is also why i mention the work with the Indonesian artists in the beginning of this writing. It means much to me to be able to work with them. There is often some kind of instant connection in the depth of the dance. I relate this to this sense of stillness. Something else may be that my mother and all of her family was born in the Dutch East Indies and i feel kinship and immediate love for people in Indonesia. But in a way i relate this too to stillness. That space where all that could be in the way of meeting becomes quiet. 

Quiet. Then falls away. 

Like time. It falls away. Our meeting is now. Not in the past of my family. Not in the past of our families’ or countries’ histories. Simultaneously all of it is there somehow. No denial. Everything and nothing. 

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All of this and more.

To come back home feeling changed somehow somewhere. How can this be sustainable? 

Love. This. Live. Now. Be still. Be deep if you want to. But not holding. Moving to let it flow as it does. Practice. Notice.

Receive. Surrender. Choose. 

Allow change. 

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About those motor bikes… I love being on the back of one by way of transportation. In the city late at night to the pasar with a new friend in search of ‘gula kelapa’ (coconut palm sugar) and up and down the mountain passing villages on my one day off. I don’t mind the noise. The flow in the traffic asks for surrender. I feel quiet in the midst of what could be overwhelming movement and noise. I smell freedom. I prefer no helmet.

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For more photos of places where we worked, you can visit my facebook profile and scroll through December and January: www.facebook.com/lilykiaraNL

* Link to Interreligious Music Video ‘Mandala Salam’ with works by Indonesian Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist composers: https://youtu.be/-s0Dm7w7eRY

Advertenties

Such Silence

American poet Mary Oliver passed away two days ago. In preparation for my blog that follows my work time in Java, Indonesia, i am posting two of her poems from her vast body of work. Poetry can be life saving. Mary Oliver’s poetry has been among that field of being to me. And, i imagine, continues to be. I thank her often. And pause. I wonder if she now is in that space where she left us with the questions in her poems.

 

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Butterfly in Java, Indonesia

 

SUCH SILENCE

 

As deep as I ever went into the forest

I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,

and around it a clearing, and beyond that

trees taller and older than I had ever seen.

 

Such silence!

It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed

all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.

So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.

 

Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility.

What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots

than reason.

I hope everyone knows that.

 

I sat on the bench, waiting for something.

An angel, perhaps.

Or dancers with the legs of goats.

 

No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because

I didn’t stay long enough.

 

 

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Photos taken of trees in Java, Indonesia

 

FORGIVE ME

 

Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.

It’s what i sense in the mud and the roots of the 

trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with

its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and 

makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some

spirit, some small god, who abides there.

 

If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing

continuously.

I’m not, though I pause wherever I feel this

holiness, which is why I’m often so late coming

back from wherever I went.

 

Forgive me.

 

 

 

Both poems are in ‘Blue Horses’, by Mary Oliver, 2014

 

Below is a short excerpt of a reading by Mary Oliver and a conversation with Coleman Barks. I love this. Maybe you do too. At the end of the clip you can find links to the full conversation.

 

Meeting Beyond Imagination | Ont-moeting voorbij de Verbeelding

‘To see one must go beyond the imagination and for that one must stand absolutely still as though in the center of a leap.’      – John Cage, in: Silence, Lectures and Writings

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16 November i performed SILENT DANCES at the beautiful Uilenburgersjoel in Amsterdam. In this performance my main area of attention was ‘meeting in stillness’. In my wish to meet the audience in stillness in order to become aware of and share a sense of equality, i wanted more attention on what meeting means and how i could make what could perhaps be called ‘the act of meeting’ the audience more obvious and less optional. But not pushed either, inviting. In a space that brings together, but also offers openness.

Ont-moeting, maar tegelijkertijd niet vrijblijvend, maar noodzakelijk.  Zonder te dwingen. In een ruimte die samenbrengt en ook openheid biedt.

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I had exchanges with actress Abke Haring. It shifted my attention on the broader sense of an open empty (full) space of stillness to the more direct inclusion of the audience by looking them in the eyes and welcoming them, inviting them in and then keeping us together throughout the piece. Offering and finding space and connection. It was quite a shift from earlier performances. It also seemed natural to take as a next step. I loved the connections. It was moving and affected the dance and its choreography too.

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In the rehearsal time before, i also had another individual training with tai chi teacher Martin Klett, with attention to ‘yi’ and the sword form. Intention and precision. This is powerful to me and brings me somehow to another way of working more direct. Clarity of form and intention.

De noodzaak iets te zeggen. En het te zeggen. Zo helder mogelijk.

It is not about me as a performer. Can we meet in a way through the dance where you can meet yourself in the performance? And then, could we move beyond ourselves? Could we be in stillness, see in stillness, beyond the imagination, of ourselves and of ‘the other’?

Het publiek te ontmoeten door middel van de dans zodat je als publiek ook jezelf ontmoet. Het gaat niet om mij als performer. En kunnen we gedurende de voorstelling voorbij onszelf gaan? Kunnen we in de stilte zijn, in de stilte zien, voorbij de verbeelding van onszelf of ‘de ander’?

This way, did we get closer to the shared sense of equality in this piece?

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Photos: Sara Anke Morris, 2018, Uilenburgersjoel, Amsterdam

Stillness & Equality / or how slavery in Louisiana and in The Netherlands, the ‘deep story’ and learning to listen relate to my dances

Since i was a teenager i have been drawn to the work of African American writers and poets. Among them are Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks and Martin Luther King, and more recently john a. powell. In my forties i learned about this book that i consider one of the most important books i’ve read, one i felt i always had wished to find: Begging To Be Black, by South-African writer, poet Antjie Krog. 

I just returned from a short music tour in the south of the USA, mostly spending time in beautiful New Orleans, Louisiana. Last year there were demonstrations around the left overs, the pedestals of (removed) statues of confederate leaders, with confederate flags and Trump supporters flags side by side. This time i had more time to be in New Orleans and i learned more about the city as a port for slaves to come into the USA in the 18th century, and the still so strong resonances of the history in New Orleans today. A friend and local New Orleanean, took me to visit a plantation, the Whitney Plantation, along the Mississippi River. At this particular plantation the emphasis is on the lives and suffering of the former slaves, other than on the wealth and the big house of the plantation owner, which most of the other plantations seem to focus on. I was surprised to hear this last fact. Maybe i shouldn’t be. But it’s 2018.

In the 1930s the Federal Writer’s Project was set up, gathering the oral testimony of formal slaves. Most of the interviews were done by white men, possibly limiting the kind of information that was shared. The people interviewed were very old by then but many remembered in detail. Incredible also that many lived to be a hundred as the average age of slaves was about 35 before the (official) end of slavery in 1865, if i remember well from what the guide told us.

Two examples of books with interviews with former slaves: We Lived in a Little Cabin in the Yard, ed. by Belinda Hurmence and this one focusing on experiences of female slaves: Far More Terrible For Women, Personal Accounts of Women in Slavery, Ed. by Patrick Minges.

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At the Whitney Plantation, Louisiana / near the Mississippi River

I am back home in Amsterdam and one of the first news items i read was about human rights activist Jerry Afriyie not having been given an equal seat at the table of a talk show, because the white guest who he has been in a courtcase with decided last minute she didn’t want to sit at the same table with him. The program host was ambivalent about what to do, eventhough it seemed like he thought he was making a statement. Both guests are engaged in the actions in the Netherlands about either keeping or abolishing black pete. I watched the videoclip of what had happened. A disgusting and shameful situation, one in which the inability to really see and listen what is happening is alarmingly clear to me. The difficulty of being human. I don’t need to go to the Deep South to learn about slavery and its long resonances. I already knew that. My mother was born in the Dutch East Indies, one of the many colonies. But traveling does help me to see a bigger picture while it’s happening close at home.

Yesterday i came across two articles, so timely together. I include these articles, because the writers say so clearly what i have difficulty to find words for. 

In Dutch: No Seat At The Table, by Jerry Afriyie: https://www.oneworld.nl/achtergrond/niet-welkom-aan-tafel/

And about our ‘deep stories’ (a term introduced by sociologist of emotion, Arlie Hochschild), and how we can learn by learning to listen and how we can learn from another heart, from someone with a completely different point of view.

Interview from ‘On Being’: The Deep Stories of Our Time, with Arlie Hochschild: https://onbeing.org/programs/arlie-hochschild-the-deep-stories-of-our-time-oct2018/?utm_source=On+Being+Newsletter&utm_campaign=80144bb9df-20181020_ThePause&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1c66543c2f-80144bb9df-70020297&mc_cid=80144bb9df&mc_eid=fec0e8b576

“ … and you go to a different region and get to know people — first of all, get to know how to treat people respectfully and listen actively and be immediate. Everybody should learn those skills. And then go across to see if we can rebuild that connective tissue.”  – Arlie Hochschild

 

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Ghana, where slaves were sold and shipped by the Dutch

 

some people

when they hear

your story.

contract.

others

upon hearing 

your story.

expand.

and 

this is how

you

know.

– nayyirah waheed. from salt. 2013

 

I find it hard to write about all this. It moves me so deeply and i always feel incompetent and of course terribly incomplete. So much comes up when i start reading, thinking or writing about inequality. Inequality in racism, gender, economics, how to learn to live together, how to learn to listen, how to learn to be in close touch with ourselves, other than removed from our own being. But now i attempt this small writing about a subject and history and resonance so huge.

I write now because it is also part of my work, if not on the surface, it is in the deep ground of my work, both my dance and my songwriting: this longing for equality and the sense of inequality embedded in so many living aspects of our lives. It is more prominently a part of my work now in my dance in SILENT DANCES. Through this work in silence i too need to speak up and say what my work is dealing with. This work wants to be made and i have to show up for it.

Longing for equality brings in me a longing for stillness. Not a silence where there is no talking or no storytelling, no truthtelling, but at least a moment of that deeper stillness where we can meet. Where we can possibly sense some of the stories and yet be still within it all together. In the depth of this stillness i know equality. In the depth of this stillness i know possibility. This is what i work on to share in my dance, in SILENT DANCES, in the bigger project that this comes from: Field of Disappearance. Can we truly meet? What does this mean? can i create a space that invites you in, a space in which we can experience a sense of equality? Through dance? Through stillness?

Be welcome. It would be an honour to share this space with any and all of you.

SILENT DANCES: 16 November, Uilenburgersjoel, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 91, Amsterdam, 20:00 / TICKETS TRAILER

 

In SILENT DANCES i work to go beyond stories, not by denying them but by allowing them to come through in the form of the dance in the moment of performing, from deep within the stillness. I listen to the dance that can come from stillness. I know equality in stillness, there i just know. There is nothing between us, any wall seems to just come down. I wish to meet there, in this one whole still and intimate space. Allowing each other our differences. Accepting that it is so and respecting each other on our own path. And knowing that with all that we are equal. I am finding out what this means for the dance and for the exchange between performer and audience.

 

i love listening. it is one of the only 

spaces where you can be still and

moved at the same time.

– nayyirah waheed. 2018

 

SILENT DANCES: 16 November, Uilenburgersjoel, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 91, Amsterdam, 20:00 / TICKETS TRAILER

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SILENT DANCES (c) photos by: Sara Anke Morris

when silence is so windowful

“Length what is length when silence is so windowful.” – Gertrude Stein / in liner notes of CD of Morton Feldman, Works for piano 2

“Bedenk dat je in jouw taal van alles mag beweren. Heb eerbied voor jouw grammatica en jouw syntaxis. Heb lak aan je taal.” Misha Mengelberg

– in conversation with Michael Moore

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“It is not the shakuhachi.”  – in conversation with Ab Baars

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“Stillness is also the complete willingness and readiness to not do something.” – in conversation with Wilbert de Joode

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14 July, Belcampo, Amsterdam, 20:30 / reservations

Stillness & Musicality

STILL

Today i continued working in the studio again, tuning in towards sharing where i am at now with the work, on 14th July at Belcampo 20:30 / Belcampo

You can now find the trailer online

As part of this trajectory on stillness i have sessions with three musicians: Ab Baars, Wilbert de Joode and this week with Michael Moore. We’re exchanging about the roles of silence and stillness in musical composition, ways of working, and compositional approaches. My wish to do this comes from the realization that when i leave everything else out and ‘only’ let the dance remain, the musicality of the dance becomes even more important, especially in working with silence. The presentation 14 July will include findings, workings, playings with what has been shared in these exchanges with the musicians.

SILENT DANCES front 10,7x15

14 July / Belcampo / Hannie Dankbaarpassage 10, De Hallen, naast de OBA / 20:30 / entrance 10 euros / reservations: Belcampo /

This night will start with a solo, followed by a duet with Julyen Hamilton / no break

More info on the trajectory and project on my website

(c) Photo Lily by: Sara Anke Morris

 

Subtext

On 14 June we performed Subtext on the opening night of the Doek Festival. We are Kaja Draksler, Marta Warelis (piano and small instruments), Michael Schumacher, Lily Kiara (dance) and Ellen Knops (lights). At the end of the concert (a new quintet of Michael Moore) and the performance, there was a talk about the piece and our collaboration and its relation to silence.

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subtext wall

Listening is at the heart of this piece. Our entrance is our relation to space and how relationships and stories move and change or at times are held by where and how we are in space- and where and how we are spatially related to each other. The way we work together creates much ‘space of time’ , or a sense of stillness through the shared listening. Space feels closely related to stillness, deeply. Inside the body i often experience space as stillness. There can be different spaces but when i experience stillness, there is always also a sense of space. It’s an openness in which we meet, both as performers to allow the piece to form itself through our listening and actions- and also a meeting between performers and audience. This night it seemed to me clearly one space of listening and sharing.

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Ben Taffijn wrote a wonderful review about the evening, in Draai om je oren, including about Subtext.

~ ‘…The music sometimes is refined, full of quiet, seemingly natural sounds, but often it is unusual, freaky and fierce what this quartet presents us with, musically as well as in the strong movements of Kiara and Schumacher.’

~’…A magnificent and daring project, this Subtext which crosses borders, that surely deserves to be extended.’

(whole review in Dutch): https://draaiomjeoren.blogspot.com/2018/06/concert-doek-festival-2018-1-low-slow.html

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Photos: Maarten van de Kamp

http://www.doek.org