RIKI VON FALKEN has worked as a dancer and choreographer in Berlin since 1981.
She received decisive impulses for her artistic path during two study stays in New York, through the works of Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Jennifer Muller and Stephen Petronio. From 1990 she created the solo evenings „DIE HAARAUSBREITENDE NO.2“ (Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie, Berlin 1990), „ THE FOUR-CORNERED BULL“ (Academy of Arts, Berlin 1991), „OHRELLA“ (Hebbel-Theater, Berlin 1992), „LAVANDINA“ (Theater am Halleschen Ufer, Berlin 1994), „BARRERES“ (Hebbel-Theater, Berlin 1996), „WHITE LINEN“ (Theater am Halleschen Ufer, Berlin 2000), „AWAKE“ (Theater am Halleschen Ufer, Berlin 2001) and „ONE MORE THAN ONE“ (Theater am Halleschen Ufer, Berlin 2003).
For ‘White Linen’ she was named ‘Dancer of the Year 2001’ in Tip Magazine, and in the international critics survey of ballettanz 2002/03 she was named, ‘Profiled Dancer’. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv she showed experts of her work in 2004 at the Room Dances Festival Dance and Poet by Amos Hetz. „ENCOUNTER WITH UNEQUALS“ had its premiere in 2005 at the Akademie der Künste Berlin. „THE GEOMETRIE OF SEPARATION“, a collaboration with the filmmaker Mareike Engelhardt, premiered at Radialsystem V in Berlin in May 2009 and was invited to Cameroon.
In 2010 she taught choreography at the invitation of the Goethe Institute in Kuala Lumpur. Autumn 2011 she developed „ECHO I“, for the Southern Light Dance Company and the Body and Dance Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 2011 „ECHO II“, a cooperationbetween Rimbun Dahan, Goethe Institute Malaysia and Aswara, premiered in Kuala Lumpur. In January 2012, she will perform SONGBOOKS at the John Cage tribute of the Academy of Arts. The duet „ECHO. IT’S JUST A TEMPORARY THING“ with the dancer Naim Syahrazad from Kuala Lumpur was developed in cooperation with the Goethe Institute, ITI, Dock11 and Aswara, Malaysia and premiered in October 2012 in Berlin. Guest performances in 2012 and 2015 took Echo. It’s just a temporary thing to Brazil, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The piece „ONE MORE THAN ONE“ was resumed in February 2015 and shown in the Uferstudios Berlin and invited to Timisoara, Romania. In January 2015, Riki von Falken received the first Willms Neuhaus Prize from the Chance and Design Foundation for her choreographic oeuvre.
Riki von Falken developed 2016 „LAUNDRIES IN HANOI“ in collaboration with the vietnamese Video artist Nguyen Trinh Thi. After the premiere in Berlin, the choreography, which was created in cooperation with the Goethe Institute Hanoi, opened the Hanoi Dance Festival and travelled to Ho Chi Minh City.
In 2019 Riki von Falken created the experimental piece „THE ARCHITECTURE OF A LINE“. The premiere took place on September 19 at the Uferstudios Berlin. January 2021 “THE ARCHITECTURE OF A LINE” was resumed as live streaming in Berlin.
Willms Neuhaus Prize
Laudation by Katrin Bettina Müller
Dear Riki, dear Mrs Neuhaus, dear guests,
Riki von Falken wrote me a letter in December. Enclosed were three photocopies with different views of a sculpture by Eva Hesse: “One more than one”, which gave the title to the piece from which we have just seen an excerpt. Two strings can be seen hanging from two circular openings made of paper mache on the wall in these images; loosely the strings hang down and curl a little on the floor. In each illustration they run differently in the lower part, crossing, touching, winding around each other. This is an extremely succinct invitation for randomness to play along and become visible in the form of the sculpture, which in this openness and reduction was a sensation in 1967 for the detachment of sculpture from the fixed. Riki von Falken is an admirer of Eva Hesse, precisely because of this unpretentious openness. Her art is an invitation to the here and now to enter the work. And this also happens in the choreographer’s work.
Dear friends of dance, dear guests,
I am very pleased to be able to give the laudation for the dancer and choreographer Riki von Falken. I am happy that she is receiving recognition for her work through the first Willms Neuhaus Prize. Unlike the work of a sculptress, the creation of a choreographer does not materialise objectively and cannot be called up at any time; it only ever becomes visible and can be experienced in performance. This is precisely why the prize is a wonderful occasion to look at more than just one choreography.
This dance is not simply there – even its author cannot simply retrieve and reproduce earlier pieces. Rather, as in the case of the revival of “One more than one”, which was created about 12 years ago, she must work out a reconstruction. Looking at a recording is only the first tool, it cannot simply be imitated, the movements must be analysed; they go through the language once, are reflected. The state, the mood of their creation is recalled.
“One more than one” is also a dialogue with the music, by Heiner Goebbels and Steve Reich, among others – what is emphasised by the movement and what is not is not based on counting out bars but on perception, on how long to hold a tension – and that always only emerges in the performance.
Before Riki von Falken told me about this process, I had no idea that revisiting an earlier piece was such a form of rewriting or reliving. But this makes it even clearer that dance is not so much a manifest work as a present that is constantly being recreated.
In Riki von Falken’s choreographies, one is drawn into a very fine web of perceptions and sensations. The gaze, the hearing, the sense of space gradually sharpen. It is often small movements of the hands, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet that demand attention, that shift and divide something that just seemed one. And soon, as a spectator, you share with the dancer the listening inwards, into your own body, into the storehouse of bodily knowledge and memories, and experience the awareness of the sensations that make up its contact with the outside.
The media theorist Peter Weibel, who heads the ZKM – Centre for Art and Media Technology in Karlsruhe – has begun programming exhibitions about dance there. “We do not inhabit space through the mind, we inhabit space through the body” he writes in one of the first catalogues, on an exhibition by Sasha Waltz. “The body is the medium of space and also of time. In dance, the finiteness of space and time is revealed”, he explains his interest in this art and goes on to say that in dance, “the fear of finiteness” and the “transience of the individual” are expressed.
What Weibel formulates for dance in general applies to the history of Riki von Falken’s solo pieces. About 15 years ago, she began a series of important works that told very precisely of encounters with the finitude of life, of moments of fear, of states of mourning, of the speechlessness that often accompanies illness and dying. The pieces “White Linen”, “Wach” and “One more than one” had something relentless in their look at what can happen to our bodies and lives and in their look at the powerlessness, with which we are confronted by decay and loss. They were also unusually formally rigorous and focused. Their language of movement, which at first seems abstract and reduced, is nevertheless saturated with moods of tension, alertness, and the search for communication where language fails or takes refuge in empty phrases.
Riki von Falken was already over forty at the time; the staying power she showed as an artist and the consistency with which she followed her themes were already an admirable peculiarity in a cultural landscape that makes it difficult for ageing artists in the independent scene to find production funding and support. Many of the choreographers and dancers, with whom she had started at the Tanzfabrik Berlin in the 1980s were no longer on stage themselves but continued to work as teachers or in dance management. Keeping up the profession as a dancer, dance teacher and choreographer, even beyond the age of fifty, is not only physically challenging but also economically hard. And so, it is rare that the perspectives and experiences of the second half of life become the basis of dance work as they do for Riki von Falken.
Dear listeners, I would now like to say a few words about Riki von Falken’s biography.
She had to fight to become an artist almost from the beginning. Born in 1954 in Hohenlimburg in North Rhine-Westphalia, she grew up with her older sister and her mother, who had a laundry. The father had died when Riki was nine years old. A free artist’s existence did not seem to be an option; it was more natural to get involved in social work. Riki studied social education in Marburg before she left for Berlin after the age of twenty and ventured into the independent dance scene. She had been in the children’s ballet, and had danced in operettas, but it was only now that she caught up with what was happening in contemporary dance, soon learning and teaching at the Tanzfabrik, receiving scholarships to New York to study in the studios of Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown, with Jennifer Muller and Stephen Petronio.
Modern dance from the USA, an abstract, elegant, often casual language of movement that transcends the artificiality of ballet and instead of using codified or expressive gestures, that is more interested in space, time, and the body as pure materials, which can, but need not, be occupied by history and stories, was her first adopted home as an artist.
Added to this was a keen interest in the visual arts. This was further strengthened by her friendship with the Berlin sculptor Günter Anlauf, who soon also became her life partner. Her first longer solo pieces were inspired by his sculptures, and she began to conceive her stage spaces together with visual artists.
In her last two pieces, “The Geometry of Separation” and “Echo”, it was video images by Mareike Engelhardt and Oscar Loeser that she incorporated and a sound that consisted of many acoustic spaces alongside contemporary, experimental music. In “Geometry”, the interweaving of real space on stage and the projected space in the images gives rise to a multiply interlaced structure of different times and different spaces. Part of the performance is to reconstruct the white cubes, onto which the immaterial image is projected, to fragment images, to change the size of the shots, to open views. Visually, this was a very charged work, also with the viewer’s gaze, between constriction and opening, disintegration of wholes and reassembly.
In “Echo” it is a field of plates that is reconstructed during the dance. From the beginning, they carry something fragile and graceful into the choreography, which Riki von Falken danced this time together with a partner, Naim Syahrazad from Kuala Lumpur.
Like many artists in the independent scene, Riki von Falken must apply for funding for every new piece she wants to develop; this is not always granted, often the realisation must be postponed for another year. This is not a structure of encouragement, especially not over decades. Nevertheless, Riki’s work has experienced another boost in the last six or seven years. The Goethe-Institut was also involved in this, helping her to arrange guest performances and workshops with “Geometry of Separation” and to make working residencies possible in New Zealand, Cameroon, Malaysia, and Brazil.
Dear audience, those of you, who know Riki von Falken’s dance pieces know that her last two works also tell us about these conditions, under which art is created.
“Geometry of Separation” is a very personal and courageous work, precisely because it also tells of moments of despondency, of feeling excluded, of losing oneself and of vulnerability, which can be linked both to the experience of growing older as a woman and to the situation as an artist and lone fighter. Riki von Falken has a partner in this, the dancer Friederike Plafki, who is present alone in the video images; a kind of younger alter ego, whom we see lost in her flat in her immediate environment, curled up on the wardrobe, or not at home in clothes, and reaching for plates and cups as if she were seeking support in them in an everyday life that is slipping away. Riki von Falken counters this on stage with a dance of tension, reduction, repetition, with small and tight movements that reflect the retreat to boundaries and the effort to hold together what makes one.
And yet this choreography is not simply a sad piece, but also one that tells of the strength to find one’s own voice in this puzzle game, to endure doubt, not to submit to apparent constraints of self-marketing. There is something very transparent, almost glassy about the aesthetics; it creates a framework of caution, in which the images of hardship stand.
In “Echo”, Riki collaborates with Naim Syahrazad, whom she met in Kuala Lumpur. It is a piece of a very different cuddliness to the found than her previous works and is saturated with many perceptions during her working visits to Malaysia. The smoothness and coolness of the porcelain plates, the daintiness of the movements, with which Naim Syahrazad moves from plate to plate as if they were stones in a river; the echo that their movements give to his in a duet that repeatedly scans the roundness of the plates with the heels of their hands, elbows and fingertips, or even how they both move across the floor on stage, accepting his presence with their backs, the front of their upper bodies, with thighs and knees, making him a partner in dialogue – all this creates a framework of trust. One cannot even name what concretely; perhaps a kind of basic trust towards life.
Dear Ms Neuhaus, dear listener,
I think that Riki von Falken is about to be given the prize of the Willms Neuhaus Foundation for this as well: for this ability to enrich experience and for accepting changes, as they became visible in the last two plays. This is a quality that we all know is difficult to develop. Many thanks