Jefta van Dinther (NL/SE) is a choreographer and dancer working between Stockholm and Berlin. His work is characterized by a rigorous physical approach and always implies a staged research of movement itself. The subject matter is the conditioning of choreography, i.e. how methods of working create specific bodies with specific organizations, different for every performance. Systems, scores, practices and principles are fed with affect, emotionality and imagination as well as vice versa. Processes exhibited live on stage become performances. They often play with formats of presentation, always creating new dispositifs of staging the relation between performers and audience. Moreover, the work consequently investigates the relationship between body and materials.
Intrigued by the contaminating power of movement and its ability to set an audience in motion, Jefta at the beginning of his choreographic career primarily dedicated most of his time on thorough physical research and movement. The notions of empathy in movement and kinesthesia solidified a ground out of which he created his first own performance: The Way Things Go (2009), a homage to perpetual movement that displays a slowly moving sculpture of cause and effect. The source of inspiration was the art film Der Lauf der Dinge form the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss from 1987. The choreographic arrangement of the objects in the film was literally and physically translated to the body. In the performance a simple and consequent mechanism unfolded. The Way Things Go was recently taken up in the repertory of the Cullberg Ballet, were the performance was restaged for nine dancers. This new version went further in the exploration of diversions, details and musical complexity of the choreography, and blurs the boundaries between spectator and performer even more.
Perpetual movement defines each of Jefta's choreographies. IT'S IN THE AIR (2008), a choreography that Jefta created in collaboration with the Danish Mette Ingvartsen, also clearly shows that. Jumping on two trampolines the two dancers try to overcome the physical limitation that the trampoline – the machine – as well as gravity – nature – imposes on them. The trampolines evoke spectacular images of gymnastic competitions and other acrobatic variations, but also of playing children in a playground, of sports, of death, ecstasy, freedom, animals etc. In IT'S IN THE AIR the viewer is being sucked into a kinesthetic sensation by the repetitive and slowly transforming patterns of the jumps.
With the production Kneeding (2010) Jefta's work gained a new dimension. His performances no longer emerged from a purely physical approach, but also acquired a psychological layer. The research of Kneeding, however, had its starting point in movement – to be precise in the activity of kneading. But in a deeper investigation of the movement, emotionally loaded themes surfaced: need, addiction, drive, persistence and desire. Hence Kneeding: a compilation of the words “kneading” and “needing”. The performance opened up to a new phase in Jefta's artistic trajectory. A phase in which body and mind were correlating, feed backing each other, or sometimes even synonymous.
Many of Jefta's performances were brought about in collaboration with other performers and choreographers. After Kneeding Jefta created The Blanket Dance (2011) in collaboration with Frederic Gies (DE/FR) and DD Dorvillier (USA), a performance that investigates the concepts of touch, movement and relation. This triad relationship in which the one perpetually produced the other, in consequence generated a string of images and meanings. The Blanket Dance was also a study into how sensation can act as a motor for movement. The images evoked during The Blanket Dance partly originate from the array of every-day objects, that are laid out in an L-shape on the floor. By being handled, touched, probed with and transported by the dancers, these objects come to life. The Blanket Dance is, like The Way Things Go a perpetuum mobile. But because the objects in The Blanket Dance generate meanings, a narrative unfolds. The relation between body and object/materials is also recurring theme in Jefta's work. Whether it is the objects under the blankets in The Blanket Dance, the electric cables tugged at in GRIND or the trampolines as machinic extensions of the bodies in IT'S IN THE AIR, the interaction between body and materials often generate the choreography itself.
Jefta's work exists at the cross section of choreography and other art forms. This is partly due to his investment in deeper collaborations with artists from other disciplines. This development is maybe most visibly manifested in the recent work GRIND; an artistic collaboration with lighting designer Minna Tiikkainen and sound designer David Kiers. GRIND is a physically overwhelming experience and a challenge to the senses in which the boundaries between light, sound and body are blurred. In his work, Jefta often experiments with different audience dispositifs. During The Way Things Go, the audience is on stage close to the performers. They move, as it were, with the performers through the room. GRIND uses a traditional and frontal audience setup, but as the light and the sound completely overpower the space, the piece is experienced as an installation performance. The performance quite literally reaches out to the spectator with its perceptive effects, as when the audience seats tremble from the extreme and low bass sounds. In Kneeding the spectators sit on three sides of the performance area of the performers. In close proximity, they can follow each movement, their attention guided by the attention of the dancers. Being in the midst the activities of the dancers the performance steps into the social realm as muted speaking is addressed to them. THIS IS CONCRETE (2012) is van Dinther’s most recent production, made in collaboration with the Brazilian choreographer Thiago Granato. In it the spectators can almost creep under the skin of the performers, but not in the direct physical way. THIS IS CONCRETE is a performance in which two men's bodies intermingle with each other incessantly, infused in a sonic environment of dizzying beats and revolving shadows. The performance plays with the perception and sensation of time, intimacy and sexuality. The audience is confronted to relate to the intimacy generated between the two performers, wherein the spectators' voyeuristic position slowly turns into their own trip.
In November 2012 Jefta was awarded with the Birgit Cullberg Grant of 100 000 Swedish Crowns.
Jefta graduated from the Amsterdam School of the Arts (MTD) in 2003 and was thereafter engaged as a dancer and worked with several choreographers such as Mette Ingvartsen, Frederic Gies, Keren Levi, Ivana Muller, Leine&Roebana and Xavier le Roy.
Jefta teaches choreography at various international centers and educational programs. He has recently been appointed Senior Lecturer and Artistic Director, together with Frederic Gies, at the the MA program in Choreography at DOCH (University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm).
Jefta is currently working towards a new production with nine dancers of the Cullberg Ballet for big stages around Europe and beyond. In Plateau Effect, the dancers resemble a community that is constantly on the move, in an unsettled progression through various terrains. The dancers’ physical undertakings, such as communicating, transporting, building and inhabiting, turn into choreography as they unite them in a joint effort to create more than one person can alone. The title Plateau Effect refers to a temporary state of stable productivity, in which a leveling out occurs, and Jefta's wish is to cultivate and promote a space where an audience can spend time with the things they do not recognize. For Plateau Effect Jefta will continue his collaboration with lighting designer Minna Tiikkainnen and sound designer David Kiers, and further with the artistic duo SIMKA, consisting of Simon Häggblom and Karin Lind, for scenography.