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Westdeutsche Zeitung > Questions for a city: What do young people need to realise their dreams?

Wupper-Topia: Students of the Kohlstrasse Vocational College and the Langerfeld Comprehensive School Develop a Utopia of Wuppertal with Artists.
Wuppertal. What will the city look like in 2030? How should the Pina Bausch Centre be designed? This and much more was answered by the young people of Wuppertal with Michael Carter and Gala Moody.

by Anke Strotmann, Westdeutsche Zeitung

[translated from German]

The Pina Bausch Centre is to become a place that appeals to many people. “The content concept combines tradition and awakening, artistic excellence and democratic understanding of art, international charisma and involvement of the urban society,” it says on the homepage. To find out what young people want from this place, the dancers and project leaders Gala Moody and Michael Carter from Cie.Ofen came up with the symposium “Wupper-Topia”. Over a period of two weeks, as part of the “Under construction” festival, which took place from 21 to 29 November, they produced a film that summarises the ideas of pupils from the Berufskolleg Kohlstraße and the Gesamtschule Langerfeld.

What occupies young people in Wuppertal? What do they appreciate about the city? What do they need to realise their dreams? These were just some of the questions that Gala Moody and Michael Carter asked the students. The result is a 12.5 minute film collage that shows what needs young people aged 16 to 20 have. The project was mostly done digitally due to the Corona pandemic. “We worked 95 per cent online,” says Australian-born Michael Carter in a Skype interview. Questions and answers were exchanged via WhatsApp chat, in German and in English. This was a big challenge for the two because they did not know the students.

Cie.Ofen sees itself as a creative base for dancers and directors. Behind Cie.Ofen are Gala Moody and Michael Carter, who have over 15 years of experience in world-renowned companies such as Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch and Ultima Vez / Wim Vandekeybus. Gala and Michael work across disciplines, drawing influence from literature, theatre, sculpture, poetry, audio-visual and performance art in their creations. The name Cie.Ofen is an anagram derived from the title of Cie.Ofen’s debut work One Final Evolutionary Note, which premiered at Spring Forward Festival (Umeå, Sweden) in 2014 and for which Cie.Ofen was selected as a priority by Aerowaves. The film Wupper-Topia had its streaming premiere during the festival week “Pina Bausch Zentrum under construction”. Like numerous other videos of the festival, it is available in the media library as well as at Cie.Ofen:

Between adaptation and the desire for change
“Two weeks is very short for a project like this, but we wanted to be able to talk to the young people about Utopia,” says Gala Moody. To have a basis, the two project leaders first ask questions about themselves and what they like about Wuppertal. “Then we slowly moved on to asking what they don’t like about Wuppertal and what they would like to change,” says Moody. These were very subjective approaches, he says, as the students had different socio-economic backgrounds. “It’s often more of a challenge for the young people to adapt than to change the environment to fit what they themselves would like to do in life,” says Carter. The artists wanted the young people to give the project the mandate, so to speak, to perhaps bring about change.

Racism is a huge issue
“We took part without knowing much,” says Christiane Schröder, teacher of the EF level music course at Langerfeld Comprehensive School. At the beginning, the students were overwhelmed with one task per day. But then they settled into a pace that suited them better. Using tasks such as “Imagine it’s 2030”, the students created a very personal utopia, which they sent to the two artists as audio or video. “In the films they told what they dreamed of,” says Schröder. The ideas ranged from personal wishes for a family of their own and a car to more cultural life in the city and world peace.

“Overall, it was very exciting, also for the students,” says Schröder. “It was not just academic learning that was required, but someone was also interested in their wishes and dreams.” To address their future goals and perspectives, he says, it is important to reflect on questions like “Where is my home?”, “Where do I position myself in the whole?”, “What are the perspectives and what is needed for that?”

Many students who participated in the project have a migration background. That’s why the topic of racism is a huge issue, says Schröder. Knowing that they are being listened to gives them courage. “One pupil said: ‘We say what we want. Those who hear us can also push it a bit’,” says Schröder. In small groups, the students worked out what the Pina Bausch Centre should look like. The students agreed: the centre should be a place for all cultures. One group even rolled out a red carpet for visitors of all ages.

Review: New People 3.0 > Westdeustche Zeitung

There is seething behind the facade of the people

Excerpt from longer article in the Westdeustche Zeitung (translated from German)

It seethes behind the facade of the human being, it screams, rages, cries and laughs. It forces its way out, even though this is precisely what the directorial team is trying to prevent. By commanding the four figures (Bénédicte Billiet, Tsai-Wei Tien, Brenna O’Mara and Julie Shanahan) in their shapeless costumes. They chastise them and then ask if they are comfortable. Which is visibly not the case, oppressive and amusing at the same time. Cie.OFEN (Gala Moody and Michael Carter) see their choreographing as social practice. “New People 3.0” was born out of the utopian desire to work together in dance in a sustainable and holistic way; the experiment failed. The audience likes it.

– By Monika Werner-Staude


Review: Dancescreen 2019 + TANZRAUSCHEN Festival Wuppertal

28. November, 2019

“NEW PEOPLE” – Gala Moody & Michael Carter

by Annelie Andre, Tanzweb

looking inside a golden structure where there is a film projected on the interior showing 3 people sitting on a couch

They’ve built a golden tent. We can all meet there and have a common experience. It is a place that protects us from the world out there, it´s warm and cosy. It even gives you the illusion of being inside an ufo on another planet. Based on a fictional image of aliens looking for a better life, they created utopian visions of collaborating and working together.

Their work deals with social systems and seeing their choreographic practice as a social one. This is also reflected in their way of using the camera as they do it in a very respectful way, protecting the well being of the collaborators and showing an honest perspective on the topics in space: frustration, (dis)empowerment, disappointment – feelings and topics that all of them came across during their dance career. All of this was listened to and used as material for the creative process.

Moody’s and Carter’s work is all about the creative process itself, not so much about the product in the end. That is also how they understand their role as film makers and directors. I would even say that they are more observing, joining, accompanying than directing. Their interest is grounded in the transparency of an artistic process, having an honest gaze on the people who are part of it, with all their thoughts and struggles, wishes and ideas.

Film as a medium can be very intimate and is used as a tool to dive into moments and worlds you wouldn’t be able to enter otherwise. In a sensitive way they are following movement and atmospheres in space, having a rather intuitive approach on filming than a technically professional one. The focus should be on their work and not so much on a high quality video.

What I find special in their video installation is, that often the dancers work under the choreographer, finding themselves in a position of fitting in frames and supporting the choreographers idea. But in this work the dancers, the humans and their processes are elevated and given space to choose where to go and what to initiate. Both the good and the bad experiences, the highlights and difficulties are seen as relevant. At the same time it is not about reproducing their archives, reliving the experiences they made. It is about being aware of them and then daring to alienate from them, finding new ways of reacting to impulses, following new paths while encountering the unknown.

It is brave, I feel. One of my personal highlights of the festival and so important to be shown. The dance is not visible but the taste of it is all around. Free and true, a multi-layered expression, heavy and light. It’s a poetic and political statement that provides an insight into a creative process based on respect and non-hierarchical collaboration.

Review: Dance frenzy or soap bubble?

24 November 2019

By Annelie Andre, Tanzweb

[translated from German]

It rushes. I’m sitting on the train back to Berlin and it’s still rushing.

It rushes. I’m on the train back to Berlin and it’s still roaring. The abundance of films I have seen in the last four days has made me tired. And yet here I sit, with a head full of thoughts, questions, opinions and trying to put them into words. I have an urge to move.
“There’s no fire,” says Klaus Dilger, and I can feel what he means. The opening as well as the award ceremony resemble a soap bubble, colourful on the outside and hollow on the inside. What happens on the screen during the festival often remains distant and unapproachable, the formats impersonal and on the surface. Take, for example, the panels that were tailored to the IMZ, ARTE or other larger or smaller institutions, but only in very few cases initiated a fruitful discussion of artistic questions and positions.
Who are the people behind the perfectly made films? Where are the ideas and concepts, the passion, the drive for expression?
A presentation of the films, an introduction of the artists and specific audience formats such as talks, feedback rounds or more open exchange opportunities would have helped to understand and perceive differently. I would have liked more accompaniment in the dance noise labyrinth.
What is a good dance film? A question that has remained open until now. Are there general criteria that create a broader level of discourse than the purely subjective feeling of whether something carries me away, moves me, touches me? Who chooses jury members, which jury chooses which films and why? A network of those who want, those who have, those who decide. Promoters, sponsors, producers, producers, promoters, sponsors, institutions, producers. I don’t know what’s going on, and that doesn’t bother anyone.

In retrospect, the festival motto “WE LIVE FUTURE NOW” leaves a pale aftertaste.

Art in which the polished appearance is more important than the content, a predominantly white, European society sitting passively in cinema seats and staring side by side in a given direction? A festival director who opens with his own film, digging into the past and dragging memories through forests in plastic bags? Is this what awaits us in the future? I’m not looking forward to it. And anyway – who is this WE?
What I am looking forward to, however, is the golden tent of Gala Moody & Michael Carter at the Schauspielhaus. A place to retreat to for a moment. Immerse yourself in a world where cooperation works differently. Non-hierarchical, respectful, close. Perhaps illusory, one might think – but it is better to develop utopian visions than to deprive dreams of the air they need to breathe.
This has shown me how important the space, the place is where we experience dance film. A cinema brings with it certain conventions and expectations. Being entertained on a Friday night, maybe the second date. Cinema is a service. I don’t have to do anything for it. Just watch. In the end I can stick my thumb in one direction or the other and afterwards we go to Burger King and talk about cars.
It works differently at the Schauspielhaus. There I can look, move at my own pace through the unfamiliar landscape of screens, sounds and visitors, embedded in an architecturally fascinating space that smells like art. And outside, the trees dance when I lend them my gaze.
Isn’t it wonderful to land in unfamiliar places after the thick fog has lifted, after being TRANSLATED from familiar to unfamiliar terrain? Dance film can do that.
I want to be challenged when I look at art. I want to be stimulated and navigate through new worlds, to be enchanted. And yes, also to be disappointed, bored, confronted with my limits and systems. We have forgotten how to endure. To expose ourselves, to surrender to friction. We have forgotten to surrender to places that hold up a mirror to us, that shake our foundations and yet are the ones that make us grow. I want to be allowed to think, to feel my body and to feel like I am someone else when the film is over. I want to feel that I can now feel more, understand more, see differently – people, spaces, things. Maybe I’m asking too much. But if art can’t take it, who can?

Dancescreen2019 + TANZRAUSCHEN Wuppertal, a festival that means well, smacks of mainstream. Does it want to? Or was the setting of the feast just not the right one?

Perhaps a campfire around which we all gather and share lightly charred stick bread would be sexier than the expensive high-tech kitchen where we sit motionless at a long table and are served overly pretty morsels that don’t fill us up.
I wonder where the festival is going. What impulses it gives the city of Wuppertal and what the vision for it is. To establish it as a fixed component of Wuppertal’s cultural landscape? To build it out of the ground as a castle of sand and then tear it down again when all the guests have left?
Will the IMZ help clean up or is there not enough money in the budget? Come on, let’s make a social project out of it, I’m sure it’ll work. But no popcorn this time.


Review: In Purgatory by Michael S. Zerban,

Visit on 22 October 2017 (One-time guest performance)

THE VASE (Gala Moody, Michael Carter) at Move!, Krefeld, Fabrik Heeder


Photo by Francesca D’Ath


[translated from German]

In principle, a great story, these Krefeld Days for Modern Dance, which have very originally given themselves the title MOVE! If we assume that more than half of Krefeld’s population uses English as their mother tongue, of course everyone immediately knows what it’s all about. The municipal theatre in Krefeld is supplemented in a meaningful way with its exclusive ballet offer and, in addition, funding can be raised for the Heeder factory. This is already working for the 16th time. More or less.

For all the joy of cultural diversity, it has to be said that most of the names on the programme of the festival, which runs from 14 October to 25 November, are already familiar from the Tanzhaus NRW in Düsseldorf. Whether someone from Krefeld travels to Fabrik Heeder or Tanzhaus NRW should make little difference in terms of time. Quite different synergy models would be conceivable here.

Instead, there is a conceivably uncharitable design, for example, an evening slip for which a back-office manager is presumably responsible, who is not able to translate an English text into German, but instead inserts it into a German template. And more information is then not provided. Audience interest is accordingly modest. But who cares about the audience when the funding is secured? Yet the programme is certainly top-class. Like, for example, on a Sunday evening when the Compagnie Ofen performs its current piece The Vase. In German, it is quite profanely called Die Vase, a title that is completely misleading. It is based on an artistic event from 2005, when Kris Martin destroyed a blue and white Chinese porcelain vase over two metres high, reconstructed it and then exhibited it. He repeated the process over and over again. This inspired Gala Moody and Michael Carter not only to deal with the metaphor of the object, but also to apply it to a completely different situation. They drew on the play Purgatorio by Ariel Dorfman, which in turn deals with the story of Medea by Euripides.


photo by Francesca d’Ath


The atmosphere on the studio stage in the Heeder factory is as cool as can be. A clay-smeared black sheet on the floor, a few chairs, a table with technology, that’s all that’s needed on stage to portray the worst imaginable situation of all. Jason has deeply hurt Medea by trampling her love into the dirt, Medea has taken revenge by killing his beloved. So far, so bad. You part, hate each other, maybe one will still kill the other at some point and life goes on. But what if there is now a renewed rapprochement, so the vase has to be putty again? It is almost unthinkable what the Compagnie Ofen wants to dance there. It can hardly be done with theatrical illusion, says Carter, who is a member of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. In order not to get completely lost in emotionality, there have to be anchor points. So the two operate the stage equipment from the stage. This creates distance and breaks, also lengths.

At the beginning there is an incomprehensible spoken text by Moody that ends with the words “Have you said any words of love today? There are no words of love today”. It is not about the meaning of the text, but about its effect. The coldness enters the action. In the following hour, the man and the woman, as they are called in Dorfman, will fight for their salvation. Constant attempts at rapprochement fail again and again, the horror of what has happened is too great. The mental exposure is expressed in the undressing, which then does not reach the final consequence. Subtle movement language that seems to avoid dance, only to break out again. Pounding beats, created by Sascha Budimski, underpin the insoluble conflict. Even hysterical laughter, which is discharged every now and then in between, does not provide relaxation.

There is no redemption through forgiveness. But there is no other solution either. The conflict remains when Medea or she disappears. In the end, no sympathy remains for the dancers. They have conveyed all too impressively what their concern was. Many audience members leave the performance frustrated after having applauded in a friendly manner. It is a pity, because they have just experienced a very strong piece of dance without being able to recognise it.

The cultural office of the city of Krefeld really doesn’t cover itself with glory as organiser. Of all the festivals visited this year, MOVE! is the most uninspired and loveless. And no English name and no exclamation mark will help.

Aktuelle Aufführungen


Review by Nicole Strecker (Tanzweb Krefeld)

Not To Be Held Back, Not To Be Saved

Gala Moody and Michael Carter succeed with “THE VASE” in Krefeld

By Nicole Strecker

(translated by Veronica Posth)

October 25, 2017

a scene from a theatre show. A figure with shoulder length hair wearing underwear and a white t-shirt is standing and lit from the back so we can't see their face. Behind them is another figure is lying tense on the ground.

A woman who is not to be held back, not to be saved. Medea, the most brutal, most uncontainable hero of all the Greek myths, mother and monster, lamentable victim and incomprehensibly vindictive perpetrator. In 2014, dancer Gala Moody played Medea in Wim Vandekeybus‘ production “Booty Looting“, and it is understandable why this character who is a primitive force of nature even in the present-day, who radically destructed the concept of the love story, doesn’t let go.

A year later, Moody and Michael Carter started development on “The Vase“ which is a piece about a couple in the mode of eternal power-struggle, like at one time Medea and her husband Jason. But who manipulates whom? Moody and Carter succeed magnificently in making the emotional power struggle between man and woman cliche free, with steep calculated changes, to stage. It remains a game – and yet it is painful harassment.

The performer Gala Moody – already the name is a promise! – appears in a long beige dress as a pale hero. Her fair hair uncombed and her arms, legs, also fingers, feet, all fairylike, long and thin. She seems to come from another era, but then she mundanely goes to a mixing console, which stands in the middle of the stage; she dims the lights and tips a sound file on the computer. Preparations for her scene, a self-made setting and a statement: – what is happening here is just a theatrical illusion, an experimental arrangement to understand the nightmare “love“ – Here, Euripides’ tragedy Medea is quoted and its adaptation by an unknown Chilean author, Ariel Dorfman who, in his biography written in Chile during the the dictatorship by Augusto Pinochets, was clearly possessed and obsessed by the themes of revenge and forgiveness. In The Vase we find ourselves in Sartre’s hell, which is what others are for us. We are in Heiner Müller’s famous piece about a lovers quarrel „Die Quartet“, in which man and woman are playfully destructing themselves, in the process changing the gender roles. Thats what occurs with Gala Moody and Michael Carter.

After Moody, alone, continuously recites the first words of the Euripides drama, Carter appears. They measure each other up. Their bodies are tense as if the bare look of each other provokes a painful spasm, as if Jason has already betrayed Medea with another, or as if she had already murdered their children. Then Moody suddenly jumps back with a laugh to a much earlier point in their relationship.

Carter then claims “I am her”. He is Medea; the immigrant, the powerful. And while he babbles to his beloved one, she jumps around and grabs him, keeps his mouth closed, jostles him, bounces on one leg as he accidentally steps on her foot. The rough tenderness of two bodies without suspicion nor shame. But are not the shoves now a bit crude and the arms around the neck a bit too tight? These are kisses that become Penthesilea-like deadly bites, the interaction between Moody and Carter becomes imperceptibly harder, from stroking to clawing, from gentle tangle of the hands into forceful constraining.

This evening the two have worked sensationally on the ambivalence of each gesture. Two star dancers. She worked with the wild fellows of the dance scene: Romeo Castellucci, Ivo Dimchev and Wim Vandekeybus. He has been with the Tanztheater Wuppertal since 2014.  Having the charisma of a sensitive melancholic, he us intrinsically a wonderful counterpart to the rigorous action women Moody, this makes their still young company “Cie. OFEN“ absolutely attractive.

This time, however, Medea-Moody removes her gentle Jason to the corner, as if his sarcastic, cruel attacks are more like cautious attempts to subdue, the ’suspension of hostility‘ in the erotic power play is somewhat unbelievable.

Nevertheless, it is captivating how the two have so enchantingly and intensively rummaged into the physical sensibilities of their characters and how cleverly they reflected on the stereotypes of the subjects doing it without any chintzy effect, it wins you over. Love as a war in which there can be no winner. Gala Moody and Michael Carter tell of this age-old disillusionment of all romantics with the passionate resignation of two psychologists, even with the most shrewd analysis, one will not be exempt from the pull of emotions. – By Nicole Strecker

Original article by Nicole Strecker

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