THE ARCHITECTURE OF A LINE
All elements that contribute to a stage, an atmosphere, a mood, are visible here as active co-creators and all relating to each other. An openness and awareness is thereby created, as if one is not simply watching a dance piece, but is part of the creative process; on the dance construction site so to speak. The joys of the creative process, growth, trial and error are still tangible and have not disappeared behind a finished product. Katrin Bettina Müller, 21-22/09/2019
Riki von Falken ‚… masters the art of reduction in a quite inimitable way. This has nothing to do with the efficiency of movement, but rather with the knowledge that the seemingly simple can give rise to a great complexity. The reduction to the essentials directs our eyes to every little detail. The slightest of movements have a meaning without being pregnant or charged with meaning. We can observe every movement, and no movements are superfluous.
Despite Riki von Falken responding as a dancer to developments (…). We see her watching this change, and reacting in her movements. We see e.g. slight shifts and curves in her body, which are then in turn succeeded by a stark linearity of movement. The choreographer positions everything including herself (…). And also the way she has the musician and the light designer move around, has nothing to do with theatrical scenery. The point here is not presenting or showing. It’s about being active, and we see the artists acting in concert. Elisabeth Nehring, 19/09/2019
ECHO. IT’S JUST A TEMPORARY THING.
“When Space Breaks“, TanzraumBerlin
A duet for Riki von Falken and Naim Syahrazad
It has been some time since Riki von Falken was in Kuala Lumpur, but the impression it made on her was long lasting. One reason for this is that during her working period over there, the choreographer discovered a link between her own abstract choreographies and traditional Malaysian dance. For her new piece “Echo. It’s just a temporary thing” she thus invited young dancer and choreographer Naim Syahrazad to join her in Berlin to explore the connections between their dance styles, setting them in a contemporary context and re-establishing their relation to the space. The earthquake in New Zealand two years ago affected her feeling for space, says von Falken. “The experience that space can break sharpened my perception immensely.As a child I always thought that rooms, if they could dissolve, could also be recreated.” With she now has a partner with whom this might even be possible. September 2012
THE GEOMETRY OF SEPARATION
Some words lose their corresponding real-life equivalents over time. “Aura” is such a word. Hardly anyone uses it anymore. And yet it still applies to a very special dancer: Riki von Falken, 56 years old. In her newest production “The Geometry of Separation”, she once again demonstrates what is possible, when an artist with a temperament that resists currying favor with the zeitgeist concentrates on her own interests: a truly auratic and captivating performance. The video sequences by Mareike Engelhardt between the solo dance passages function like welcome breaks in the maelstrom of the dance. In the video, Friederike Plafki appears as the younger alter ego of the dancer on stage. This doubling of real and virtual woman is just as much basis of the piece, as are the topics of young and old, fear of exclusion, but also fear of separation and of being trapped – trapped, like in the film sequences, in a room or, as on stage, in the body.
There Riki von Falken builds constantly new constructs out of white Styrofoam cubes and surveys the space with a blue rope – but in light of her dance, all this becomes irrelevant. The mature dancer appears slender and frail in a white, slightly ruffled blouse and a blue flouncy skirt. The upper arms tightly embrace the body over long periods, first one lower arm swings outwards, then the other; the head executes an almost indiscernible eighth of a rotation, a shoulder rolls.
Redundancies, but also variations and the intensification of individual sequences are part of the magic of Riki von Falken. Her arms swing straight and clear, lift upwards and fall softly. A foot veers out and back from a standing position, a minimal rotation of the upper body, the arm follows. The movements seem in no way mechanical and are accompanied at first by birdsong and then increasingly by industrial noises.
The side-by-side of organic softness and austere execution of the movements is the result of many years of work: from the tiniest of shifts and engravings in the body, sometimes no more than a breathe, to movements, which are so precise and exact that the dancer seems to stab the empty space. Her specific quality is nourished by the conviction that emotionality can be cast in abstraction and in doing so, be enhanced. By carefully binding feeling to and into a meticulous severity of form, Riki von Falken’s art gains its auratic intensity. Elisabeth Nehring, Mai 2010
The Geometry of Separation was created in collaboration with video artist Mareike Engelhardt. The Radialsystem V in Berlin is well suited – hermetic enough as a functional space with an extensive stage and closed doors – to poetically interweave two media – solo dance and film.
As the dancer delicately treads her path forward, she resolutely pursues the geometrization of the body with increasing intensity. This time, she encases her long, clear lines, her signature style, in white cubes and blue ropes, which she constantly relocates in order to redirect the strategy of her course. With circular steps, figure-eight twists of a wringing torso, arms flung out close to the body, she spells out a Morse code that is well aware of the higher mathematics of inner limitations. Like in clockwork, precision and order are the encrypting powers. One cog gripping the next. Rigorously she defends her terrain, wrapped in a sound landscape that brings her closer to the night calls of an owl.
In a parallel film universe, we see a young dancer. Moving between table, bed, closet and bathtub, Friederike Plafki seems unable to cast off her own skin to put on her shirt. As she stretches out her hand, the teacup flees from it as if in a nightmare by Luis Buñuel. Her virtual home is narrow, oppressive and filmed in extreme proximity. The real dancer – hounded by compulsive action – restructures the styrofoam blocks that serve as the projection surface for the psychological thriller being played. She adds more on, deconstructs them again. A black hole emerges creating a fascinating third dimension in the film. The highly talented dancer Plafi also appeared in Falken’s previous piece in 2005 as her twin. Now there is no physical encounter of any kind. The surreal film alter ego disappears through the bathroom window over the rooftop into the night sky. In the raw here and now of the extensive stage, time no longer drips linearly for the woman of flesh and blood, it stretches horizontally and circles outwards. The narrative claustrophobia is over. As she drops to the floor and sheers out of her stylistic structure, it becomes clear that she carries the essence of the younger self inside her, using it to gain strength. Falken persistently defies the fast pace of the dance business. She takes the time she needs, goes deeper and forward in the refinement of her art, year after year. Her fascinating trilogy (created between 2000 and 2003) about illness, loss and death are proof of this. Today, her dance distances itself from personal concerns. She rises to face the challenge of relentlessly progressing time and the isolation that people and dancers are increasingly subjected to. She bravely confronts the uncertain future. The geometrical structure of the piece holds the chaos at bay polyphonically – until annoying industrial noise swallows the dancer. Irene Sieben, 4 – 09
“Geometric Feelings“, tanzraum Berlin
Riki von Falken speaks about her work
“The Geometry of Separation” was created in 2009, after which Riki von Falken went to Malaysia for a three-month work residency. Here she speaks with tanzraumberlin about the creation and development of her piece.
What inspired you to create “The Geometry of Separation”, what was the determining factor?
I had the impression that I had somehow marginalized myself, moved into the periphery both in my work and my private life. From there, I began to think about a performance space, whose architectural structures would have an extreme influence on me. I did then actually find a space with high concrete walls in which I could gaze into the space from different levels and which conveyed this feeling of being locked in. There I experimented with drawing lines through the space using ropes in a very restricted way. What emerged were a number of new ways of structuring the space which I could organize myself in. I exposed myself for quite a long period of time to this space.
How did the piece then take shape?
A new challenge came up. I met the filmmaker Mareike Engelhard and we worked on a story, which describes a woman in various phases of her life as an outsider. We wanted to include a second woman as my alter ego in the film. This woman is forced to organize herself both in real and simultaneously surreal spaces – in a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom and on the roof.
How much is visible of these rooms in the piece?
The atmosphere in the surreal rooms came from my immediate surroundings. I observed myself sitting at the kitchen table, trying to grasp a coffee cup. I missed. A strange feeling, perception shifted. For a moment my habit of grasping something, of having the sense of doing so and making a connection was interrupted. I had a short ‘loss of reality’. My body demonstrated a reaction to this shift, which then formed for me the basis to redefine this body in a state of ‘insecurity’. In the same way, I also collected impressions in the bathroom. I sat in the bathtub and saw by chance details of my body in the mirror. It was like a montage: the body part that I saw in the mirror had nothing to do with my own perception of my body. In this way, four different rooms emerged, in which the person in the film lives with a feeling of being marginalized. My dance on stage is meant to take place in close interaction with the film. In order to thus integrate the film into my actions on stage, I built a de-constructable cube of Styrofoam. Together with the video installation projected on this Styrofoam block, I then construct my own abstract space on stage.
Has the “The Geometry of Separation” changed over the past year – maybe also because of your residency in Asia?
“The Geometry of Separation” will never remain what it was. It will change as my experiences change. A little bit every time. My work in Malaysia will surely contribute much to this. The contact with the culture and the people – especially the dancers there – touched my deeply. Their energy lent their movements a tremendous clarity. That alone will inscribe itself into my body. In addition, I greatly enjoyed watching the students. The traditional forms of Malay, Indian and Chinese dance and the martial arts form Silat fascinated me just as much as the movement material, which they developed in my class.
What does the piece mean to you one year later?
It keeps getting more important for me, especially with respect to my time in Kuala Lumpur. There I experienced myself in a completely new space. I am very curious to see how my extraordinary encounters with the people in Malaysia will be reflected in “The Geometry of Separation”. Conversation: Elisabeth Wellershaus, 5-6/2010
“On the Invisible Border to the Exterior“, TAZ Plan
Dance theater – Minimalist and personal: “The Geometry of Separation” by Riki von Falken and Mareike Engelhardt at Radialsystem
The vectors of movement space.
This body contains itself. It makes itself narrow, takes the short, straight path, keeps the arms close to the ribcage. This is how Riki von Falken enters “The Geometry of Separation” surrounded by a constricted, densely packed energy. Only to then assert her position with sharp and short movements, distinct and tidy, sparingly and precise. Her hands spring forward and take themselves back, arms thrust upwards and sink back down again, then cross over straight in front of the body. The hem of the blue skirt stretches as she curves into the diagonal with a large step and becomes a rectangle and other parallelograms.
Not only the title that Riki von Falken and film artist Mareike Egelhardt have given their joint piece “The Geometry of Separation” emphasizes the meaning of geometry for the composition of movement in space. The division of planes, thinking in graphic lines, the formation of space between the elements, all this is contained in every detail of the movements on stage and on film, in the set design and on the projection surfaces. These are formed out of blocks that can be rearranged by the dancer. The closed surface of the screen thus breaks open into a multi-dimensional collage. The fragmentation augments what is taking place in the film. Here, a second, younger woman appears in her apartment. She gets up in the morning and can’t manage to slip into any of her clothes. She fingers her dishes as if these everyday objects could reveal to her who she actually is. Full of transitions and close-ups, Mareike Engelhardt’s film turns tiny, everyday movements into a dramatic, emotionally loaded situation, which escalates into despair and hopelessness. The young woman’s turmoil (Friederike Pflafki) corresponds to the turmoil of the dancer on stage. She could be the embodiment of a character stuck in different time periods. What they share is the feeling of being cut off from their surroundings.
A soundscape of noises and long stretches of instrumental minimalist music increase the feeling of tension, building bit by bit. In neither of both worlds – on stage and in the apartment, the public and the private space – can the question of personal identity be conclusively solved alone. “The Geometry of Separation” again, like Riki von Falken’s previous pieces, originally developed out of a biographic experience. The topic, the feeling of being foreign in one’s own life, of being thrown back onto oneself, is more however than mere navel-gazing: it concerns every entity that doesn’t conform to market standards. Katrin Bettina Müller, 30-31/05/2009
In her language of movement Riki von Falken combines a sensual affection for image and object with her own inner conflicts. Her earlier solo performances were decisively marked by her commitment to fine arts and architecture.
In ‘Barreres’ she finds a response to her own emotions in the sculptural beauty and particular physical quality of the Barrera; The Barrera becomes a metaphor for dealing with personal barriers, it shapes her dance and can be abstractly visualized in the simple lines of her body.
‘White Linen’ is of a different quality. The inwardness of the piece is radical and the dancer’s personal experience of life and death is clearly perceptible, „yet there is nothing private about the piece. It is a question of diagonal and straight lines which are drawn in space, with a clarity and determination and at the same time a fragility which makes the movement appear from the first moment as something floating, vulnerable“.
„The piece is characterized by an alarming sense of honesty; a flickering reality of intuition and perception; and by a rapture given form by von Falken in subtle movements. The pieces, which developed in stages with intervals of one or two years, are conceptional in style and question the relationship of body and space. ‘White Linen’ stands out strikingly, in its narrative of this unique experience and is no doubt Riki von Falkens’s best work.“ Michaela Schlagenwerth, 21/03/2000
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
„In a moving piece discibing unrest, waiting and struggling for hope, the dancer moved through and beyond her experience of life and death… The private nature of ´White Linen` is radical, in the sense that as one views it, nothing is being revealed… Without question ´White Linen`is a very personal piece that is characterized by an inner urgency, without betraying the formal side.“ Franz Anton Cramer, 24/03/2000
„The fact that one looks breathless, but without great anxiety, lies in the transparent structure of the piece. Its origin testifies to how the perception of space returned and loneliness could again be left behind. Riki von Falken enters the space from the auditorium; there is no other way out either.“ Katrin-Bettina Müller, 18/03/2000
“Diagonal, Zigzag, Straight“, Frankfurter Allgemeine
Dance: Riki von Falken’s inspiring new solo program
The audience is still taking their seats when a woman runs across the stage. From unlit black depths she appears at the diagonal…. Harried, amazed, terrified, and almost a bit confused, Riki von Falken gazes into the auditorium. Then she turns around and strides calmly back to the far right corner of the stage. Just before she turns, it looks as if she wants to say something. If she were wearing shoes, one would take her for an actress during this prologue. Several times the dancer walks into the evening this way. Immediately thereafter she develops another variant of feeling her way forwards and then retreating again. …
…This is typical of von Falken. A diagonal, zigzagging chaos, a clear straight-ahead, a circle: these are the paths through space along which her dance moves. She walks, runs, and turns…. In this dance, however, every gesture that von Falken retains from her earlier choreographies seems different, fresh, calmer and more deliberate…. Her movements always make sense, whether she is putting her face in her hands or energetically wiping her mouth. But what strange gestures in a dance piece! Von Falken performs them as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She does quite simple things very slowly, but intriguingly.
…This caution is infectious: … Brinker positively glows, as if he could simply throw out circles of light, diagonals or vertical showers and nobody really knows where up there he gets them from. He finds the appropriate finale for his dancer, who ends by turning and turning to the music of Philip Glass: he turns up the lights in the auditorium and allows the stage to sink into total darkness. Wiebke Hüster, 01/12/2001
…Since her last piece, ”White Linen,” Riki von Falken has not looked outside herself, but listened only to her inner voice. Her art has gained consistently in space and depth as a result. She rushes across the stage like a hunted animal. Her head is heavy, so that she must support it, holding it between her arms. In a sweeping suivi she embarks upon a long path, at the end of which she will ”awaken” from a long dream. Riki von Falken’s dances tell of being lost, of the abyss and a certain new beginning – of a life lived, and that is what makes it so impressive. Brigitte Heilmann, 12/12/2001
“The Heartbeat of Art“, Der Tagesspiegel
In ”Wide Awake” Riki von Falken Describes the Overcoming of Fear
”I am sitting in front of a large window and feel life with a new intensity.” Thus, in a nut-shell, does Riki von Falken describe the experience of overcoming the fear of death that had long plagued her. It has been a year since her husband, the sculptor Günter Anlauf, died after numerous stays in hospital. Her new choreography, ”Wide Awake”, is a piece about saying goodbye, going on with life and the discovery of a new space. ”It was a liberation. Instead of the abyss I had feared for so long, a wide space opened up before me,” the dancer explains. Her life and her art now share the same heartbeat.
In her last solo piece, ”White Linen,” von Falken had already begun to work through her experiences in dealing with illness and feelings of abandonment. After the isolation in which she had endured her husband’s long stays in the intensive care unit, where the rhythm of life was set by machines, she felt as if she herself had been switched off. ”White Linen” described the melting-away of external reality, the narrowing of the horizon and a gradual sinking into a profound silence; but also the rescue from this isolation, the return to time. The experience of coming closer to the void and nothingness transformed itself into a charged alertness. The vocabulary of movement impressed with its clarity and simplicity. The piece never seemed private, illustrative or pathos-laden. ”White Linen” earned Riki von Falken great respect.
The precision with which the 46-year-old choreographer works is the result of a long journey. She joined the Tanzfabrik Berlin in 1981, at a time when dance was conquering new themes and competencies, and beginning to specialize in questioning gender roles and rehearsing social behavior. In the early 1990s Riki von Falken extricated herself from all of these contexts. In a series of solo pieces she began to analyze the necessity of movement. Her confrontation with architecture and the organization of space took on a fundamental quality. In these beautiful pieces one sometimes felt cut off from everyday life and its thoughtless squandering of the resources of space, energy, and time.
Since ”White Linen,” however, this purism has borne new fruits. Riki von Falken has become more radical and more open. She is closer to her audience. Twenty years on the stage have lent her work a sounding space seldom experienced in this fleeting art form. Katrin Bettina Müller, Spielzeit 12.01
ONE MORE THAN ONE
“The Assertion of the Singular“, taz
The outside world of the inside world: Riki von Falken’s new dance piece ‘One more than one’ at the Theater am Halleschen Ufer
In 1995 Steve Reich composed ‘City Life’ for flute, oboe, clarinet, two pianos and samples of the cries of street vendors, demonstrators and firemen, honking cars, slamming doors, heart beats and sirens. When the dancer Riki von Falken begins her new piece ‘One more than one’, this music whirls through the room, densely inscribing it with acoustic signals like the all-over painting on a picture by Jackson Pollock. The sound expands, pours through the streets, rains down housefronts, flings itself into the underground of the city and never ends. Her figure, in contrast, is slim, pale and reticent, asserting itself before this multiplicity of voices and directions with great concentration in the singular. Here I am, seeking my own path.
At the beginning her feet scarcely move from the spot. Her arms fly like a children’s swing, her fingertips describe circles, spirals and figures of eight in the air, parallel and in the opposite direction. There is a great power in these precise lines. In them, the first exchange between the inner and the outer tension occurs. They take advantage of the full extent of the space. Later, when the music changes to compositions by Heiner Goebbels and Beat Furrer, the dancer leaves the centre of the room and occupies the entire surface in quick, shallow zigzag lines, circumscribing the outer framework.
The title ‘One more than one’ is borrowed from a 1967 sculpture by Eva Hesse, in which two cords hang down as if by accident from a block with indentations on the wall, apparently formed by their own weight alone. In fact, the clear spatial concepts of Riki von Falken’s choreographies generally exhibit a close proximity to sculpture and architecture. It is surely no accident that many art students attend her modern dance classes at Dock 11 and the Tanzfabrik. Her pieces arise where the inner space of self-perception meets the outward gaze.
The once abstract forms of modern dance have been acquiring increasingly personal outlines in her pieces of late. ‘One more than one’ is the final part of a trilogy; the preceding solo pieces, ‘White Linen’ and ‘Wach’ (Awake), which also premiered at the Theater am Halleschen Ufer, also followed an autobiographical subtext. They traversed situations in which life appeared highly fragile and vulnerable, and scant strength remained for encounters with the outside world. These moments are still present in ‘One more than one’, but this time they are enclosed like miniatures in movements of new beginning.
Sometimes seemingly symbolic gestures enter the dance. A hand marks the lines between the shoulders and along the spine, and this resembles the sign of the cross. It is an anatomical marking, which follows the shortest path between skull and lap, between pleasure and pain. Other movements begin as embraces that grasp emptiness and ultimately find support only in themselves.
Riki von Falken is not the only artist to transform the material of the dance and musical avantgardes in such a way that it can not only be filled with stories of existential situations, but also, at the same time, can become aware of its own historicity. Up until now, this has been evident above all in guest appearances by American performers and composers at the Hebbel Theater. These performances have increasingly become portraits of their performers. This is an unanticipated development in the history of abstraction and minimalism. With time, they are acquiring a liveliness of which, with their concentration on form, one would not have thought them capable. Karin Bettina Müller, 26/04/2003
“Looking forward“, tanzjournal
The slender female figure stands turned away from us, looking to the back, as if to be alone for another moment before opening her inner self. Her simple skirt is lime-green: there is still hope. At the beginning of ‘one more than one’, which closes a solo trilogy, Riki von Falken physically recalls her first two steps on the difficult path back into life from an experience of loss that changed everything. She dances motifs from ‘White Linen’ and ‘Wach’ (Awake). Stiff and restless, her arms swing around her body closely like a rotating protective shield, which tries to compensate for its permeability with speed. Then a momentary pause: tentatively, her hands run up her torso, grasping at something, enclosing her neck like a stranger–a soothing embrace.
If personal experience was the starting point for von Falken’s delicate but incredibly powerful work, in ‘one more than one’ the choreography also returns to a cool, strongly formal expression, which resists any reduction to the private. It is decisive that the 46-year-old dancer lost both her husband, the sculptor Günther Anlauf, who had seemed to be on the road to recovery after a severe illness and 180 days in an intensive care unit, and her mother in quick succession. And at the same time it doesn’t matter at all, for what the trilogy has to tell us about mortal fear and indefatigable hope, the loss of self and salutary silence, goes beyond individual fate.
After suddenly falling out of life and tentatively beginning to rediscover it, in ‘one more than one’ von Falken recovers a new, timid lightness to the music of Steve Reich, Heiner Goebbels and Beat Furrer. At times, the mature dancer looks like a young girl, now awkward, now relaxed, confronting the logic of birth and death with her own searching carelessness. Her body braces itself tenaciously against the floor, her bent arms pumping energy in front of her chest like an insect working up the strength to fly. An uncertain look into the mirror of the palm of her hand, then a self-confident gaze ahead, directly at the audience.
After a concentrated three-quarters of an hour, the weight of memory, which at the beginning still upset her balance, is now a part of her. And the auto-embrace, the agreeable but dishonest comfort, is no longer necessary. Franz Anton Cramer, 4.03