10. December, 2020

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

by Anke Strotmann, Westdeutsche Zeitung

Photo by Rinaldo Sata

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.

[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.

01. December 2019


There is seething behind the facade of the people

By Monika Werner-Staude, Westdeustche Zeitung 

Excerpt from longer article

[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.


28. November, 2019

Dancescreen 2019 + TANZRAUSCHEN Festival Wuppertal

“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.