Jefta van Dinther

Jefta van Dinther is a choreographer and a dancer. In his work he researches movement in rigorously constructed choreographies. He guides the attention of both audience and dancers with care and precision. He produces intensity, affect, kinesthetic empathy and makes the body manifest in new and unfamiliar ways. Through the works van Dinther shows a strong interest in visual, sonic and tactile immersive encounters between bodies and environments, or bodies and things. Memories, desires and sensations become the materials of those performances, as well as light, sound and time.

The dances of van Dinther often seem to deal with the physical, sense-based encounter of an environment or the inside spaces of the body itself and a subsequent exploration of the borders of the human body, or the “bodyself.” The performers in the pieces seldom strictly appear as personalities but also make visible the physical aspect of the body. Simultaneously, and maybe in contrary to many other post dramatic choreographers, the psychological aspects of a person are included and important – hereby the introduction of the term “bodyself.” At the same time, the thingness of the human body, the body of a thing and the blurring of those categories are important in many pieces. It becomes especially apparent from an audience perspective when the performers interact with objects separate from their bodies through touch, or when the act of experiencing the body from within appears as another form of tactile encounter. Touch seems like an interaction driven by desire, but also a curious estrangement, an un-knowing, un-prejudiced way of encountering the world through active senses. By making strange what is known, it is a touch that notices the flesh of a thing and the materiality of a bodyself – a touch that might not necessarily create a difference between a human body and a thing. This touch expresses an ability to experience everything as new as well as the desire for experiential sensory abundance. In this way, the works of Jefta van Dinther propose an erotic way of being in the world, as it models an appetite for sensation and tactile curiosity.

The external form of his dances is not made to represent such an un-prejudiced state of un-knowing, but to embody it. This seems to be achieved through a specific, often immersive way of being in relationship to the environment, achieved by the performers through directing the attention, to act on other information than what is normally singled out by our habitual, active perception. As the attention is directed through tasks and through relating to certain parameters, virtuosity might appear as the dedication to or continued engagement with those tasks or sets of parameters, in combination with the ability to express experience, through the ability to externalize and make visible how the body is perceived from within. The body appears as in reciprocal relationship with the environment, not merely a means to display shape. This makes the body appear as both ever-changing and formable and also as formative.

The dissolution of what might be considered stable – the bodyself – is expressed in dances that are seldom phrased conventionally with stops and poses, but rather seem to exist through this continuous engagement with insides as well as outsides, in an immersive act of transformation. The phrasing tends instead towards the dramaturgical, as the ongoing dances move through different intensities, intentions, states and qualities. Thus the performances don’t make the performer appear as a stable personality in the first place, but propose an understanding of the human body as material, as a container full of fluids, organs, memories, flesh and bones. And even though the subject sometimes appears as an object, it simultaneously appears as a bodyself – a body with desires, history and psychology. This points to the idea that what appears as neutral or natural is in fact a complex construction – intertwined layers of social, cultural, historical heritage. The performances display an intertwined human body that is not either material or social, but holds all the properties at the same time, as different aspects of the same thing. The psychological, biological, social, cultural and physical appear as indistinguishable. The body as a volume, a vessel and a person is a medium through which the potentially universal or common in a singular experience can be externalized and made perceptible for an audience. When narratives enter the picture, they do so mainly not as representations of psychological narratives but through an embodiment that does not ignore the psychological aspect of a material body, but also does not take the socio-cultural constructions for granted. Thus, the work never tackles form or meaning in a single plane, but engages through an embodiment of psychological, conceptual and aesthetic perspectives simultaneously.

The dances of Jefta van Dinther take their time as they rearrange one’s sense of time as well as the relationship between self and other, inside and outside. They reorganize perception as they melt into a sonic soundscape or make apparent how perception is directed by and contingent upon not only habit and presupposition but also culture, history and ideology. This tampering with perception is strongly motorized by an understanding of perception as active and reality as constructed. Sometimes, the dances become visible through lighting designs that make the materiality of body, light and sound appear as immersed, as soaked up in and enveloped by each other. The individual and separate elements dissolve as singularities to become part of a synthesized artwork.

Ellen Söderhult