cover image: Phenomena of touch / photography Danielle Corbijn
I’m Laura Saumweber, originally from Munich in the south of Germany. I studied at ArtEZ University of Arts in Arnhem where I graduated in June 2017 with the Bachelor of Dance in Education. Already during my study I established my own collective together with Johanna Knefelkamp– we are the contweedancecollective. It’s a collective to combine creating & performing, coaching/teaching and investigating contemporary dance. Together we recently moved to Barcelona as base of the collective. Being involved in researches that include the principles of contact improvisation, we want to spread our vision about the beauty of sharing dance and exploring physical communication. The act of sharing and trusting are important elements of our work as maker, teacher and dancer.
Begegnungen, Arnhem July 2017 / photography Albert Bokslag
Tell us about your graduation project?
The starting point of my graduation project came from my huge fascination of moving bodies caught on the endless search of new pathways and possibilities with one another. At the same time there is on a certain level a naturalness of trusting each other which captures my attention as a dancer and as a dance maker. I decided to focus my research on the aspect of physical trust through elements of contact improvisation and how to shape this ideas during a performance.
Questions which interested and triggered me are for example:
How can I as a choreographer provoke, use and stretch out a trusting- relationship among the dancers?
What would it unfold for the dancers and the audience?
What is actually physical trust and what can touching each other mean in a society of constant transformation and digitalisation, also beyond the frame of Performing Arts?
During the research I came across a quote of the Russian writer Anton Chekhov which really inspired me during the process, he said: “You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.“ In a way that was exactly what I wanted to create on stage. So, in order to identify a way to increase the level of physical trust among the dancers, I investigated practically on the dance floor. Within lots of sessions I explored this topic with a group of ten dancers and three musicians to create a final artistic product- „Phenomena of touch“.
What did you expect when you started your education?
Primary, I decided to study Dance in Education at ArtEZ because I wanted to dive into the aspect of teaching dance and movement. Before ArtEZ I followed professional dance programs in Germany and Spain and realized that I would like to get more knowledge about the background of teaching and education, especially because I had little experience within these fields. The idea of being in front of a whole group of students was actually intimidating and a big challenge for me.
I expected to be guided and educated sufficiently to be able to find my own strengths, gain more experience and to learn how to trust my knowledge. And of course I wanted to make my dancing perfect 😉
When I started, I never expected that I would develop such a big interest for choreography and „making dance“. Neither I expected that there would be so many options to specialize myself in the field of dance and education…
What did you learn and what would you like to see differently?
As I already said: I realized how broad the field of dance & education is. I learned how to use my passion and my knowledge to put it in an educational context, I experienced the richness of working together with other art disciplines, I became aware of the importance of networking/ running a business and I explored my interest for composition and choreography. And within all that I was constantly working on my own body, my own dancing.
On the other hand I asked myself sometimes if the broad approach to the diverse working field already during the study- is too wide? Is it enough to know a bit of everything rather than being super-qualified in less aspects? Sometimes I would have wished to get the chance to specify myself earlier and dive deeper in certain techniques or directions of dance and to get more physical training, especially contemporary dance. Besides that I would have liked to get the chance to explore my ideas and goals for a longer period of time in exchange with other Art Universities or international institutions.
What advice would you like to give to current students?
I think the most important advice I would give is: Look around and try out, everywhere and always!! It is amazing what constantly is happening just right besides us. There is so much space and opportunity for exchanging concepts, for sharing ideas, getting to know each other & learning from each other. With starting collaborations or own projects I got together with amazing artists and partners for my own work. I was exploring myself in divers projects, with different people and various aims…and now I know that this helped me to define what I wanted to do with my own ideas and plans in the end, after the 4 years. Because lots of times, I also found out what or how I DON’T want projects or proceses to be. So my advice is to try out your body and your mind, your ideas as much as possible, to use the moments when you don’t have to follow class, to just enter a studio or whatever and start playing around…
What are your plans for the coming year?
There are lots of ideas I want to be busy with the coming year. But first of all this years’ slogan is „vamos conectandonos- contweedancecollective goes Barcelona“. „Conectandonos“ means connecting ourselves…in every sense: connecting people through dance with different projects and workshops, making new contacts and refreshing old connections here in Barcelona, looking for collaborators, holding our connecting with the Netherlands and Germany alive and establishing our collective here: connecting to the locals.
We want to keep on working on our artistic ideas, going into the studio and create as well as applying for residencies and festivals to develop our artistic work. We want to use the huge scene of professional dance in Barcelona to go and take profi-classes and to offer our own workshops and projects. I am curious what this year will bring, which surprises will arise…?
What would you do if you knew you could not fail? (embrace failure)
Hmmm, that’s a good question….
…If I could not fail I would like to create performance nights for different small theaters: creating our own performances with the contweedancecollective, inviting artists with different backgrounds and being responsible for all the organization around. I would like to invite experienced and upcoming artists to share their work and to be part of it.
…If I could not fail I would perhaps not doubt so much about my artistic work.
…If I could not fail I would probably not be so worried about my future, financially. I would dare to negotiate more with people I work for/ with to achieve a better payment, especially here in Spain 😉
But actually there is also an aspect I like about failure…even if the moment that you failed feels horrible in the beginning: I like the idea that I can learn from every experience and take it with me to another one & to make it better.
Where would you like to be in 5 years from now?
In five years…I think this is really connected to our idea of the collective and our future plans. Our vision is to work on longterm and short term projects mainly in the three countries we are connected with: the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. So in 5 years I wish to have a fixed base from where we organize all our work. And of course I would love to have a base with our own studio-space! A biiiiiig space, a bit rough and with lots of light.
From there I see myself and Johanna traveling between the three countries to share our work and to share more dance with the people, sometimes together, sometimes individually.
I would like to follow a masters programme within the next five years and it would be amazing to combine it with the work of the collective. I guess that I will look for a study which is based in one of our working- countries…but I am still doubting about where, when and what kind of master exactly I want to do. Our aim is to keep on combining dancing, creating and teaching/ coaching. We love this combination of all of the different elements in our work and in five years I hope we are still doing all of it. And another important aspect for me is that in 5 years I want to be able to make a living just from that- without the need to do any side job or anything else. Just contweedancecollective 🙂
How do you look at innovation, and what does it mean to you and your work?
Innovation means to me to always keep on searching for new, unknown pathways. To take a risk with our ideas. To keep on being curious about the world and the people. Sometimes being crazy. Sometimes being naive and going for something which seems unreachable.
Innovation as in ‚the dream‘, ‚the unexpected surprise‘, ‚the small seed which slowly grows to become a colorful flower‘…
All these aspects are in a way part of our work with the collective. Exactly these aspects are the things I am looking for in our own work and way of working. To never stop learning…from and about others, from myself and my partner Johanna. To never stop being curious about my surroundings, to never stop being developing crazy ideas…keeping the wheel turing in a way.
What does entrepreneurship means for you and your work?
When I was looking for a good translation for ‚ondernemen‘ I found the expression ‚to go for something‘. I like that 😉 In this context I look at it in the sense that you get a clear idea of what you want to bring out to the people or to share with your environment. So you specify your idea and then you completely go for it. Within this ‚going for it‘ you take little steps and you take every chance to make your idea become stronger and successful.
Actually that is what we are doing right now: We had the idea of building up a collective together. Since almost a year, we are busy to find out what the core of our initial idea is, how to shape all the different aspects of our work and how to establish our idea within the working field. It started with a hesitant wish to keep on working together in the future. Now it ended up with having officially the contweedancecollective and having moved to Barcelona as current base of our work.
And now we are here already for one month…going for our ideas and plans, checking out possibilities and sowing the fresh, little seed of the contweedancecollectivee in Barcelona. At the end of this year we want our little seed to be grown…tall and strong so that everybody knows what we do by then.