Photo: Daniel Dömölky
Photo: Daniel Dömölky
Comic booklet drawings: Larissa Bertonasco, Jul Gordon, marialuisa (SPRING Magazin) Comic booklet graphics: Beate Pietrek, Philip Schultz (Raum für Illustration)
An Interview with Lisa Rykena and Carolin Jüngst
What motivates the work that you do together and what was the inspiration for She Legend?
LR: We met in 2014, and found that we have a very deep connection. We recognised that we are interested in dance not just as a nonverbal act, but also using singing and sounds. We were both interested in a method in which we were adding to the body, giving the body a sound.
CJ: I think a common interest was that we like to entertain, to be theatrical and to work with a certain performativity. We like to take pop cultural references and then deconstruct them, criticise them, adapt them and take them into our bodies.
Did you have any particular pop culture figures in mind when you were creating She Legend?
CJ: For a long time we were busy with Greek mythology. Because it’s not like a scientific fact, more like a legend, it gave us the freedom to take the stories and kind of cut them up and put them back together in a different way, like a collage; to have different narratives, to seduce with the narrative, and then go somewhere else and take a detour. So we were busy with this and started to do some research on the Amazons, the female warriors, and then from this we went to comics. There’s a very popular comic Wonder Woman, which is somehow considered to be the first feminist comic figure. At the same time, of course there’s a lot of critique that it’s a very stereotyped representation of a female comic superhero. So we took this as a starting point.
LR: We were looking at a lot of transformer-like figures, learning their behaviours, how they talk, how they act with their bodies, in comics and in the movies. We took a lot of inspiration from Hollywood, from the American side of things. When we created She Legend, in 2019, Iron Man, The Avengers, all these bodies were so present in Europe. So we were bringing all of that into the studio with our bodies, and then transforming that body. We were circling around a lot of figures that created multiple physicalities within us like the shapeshifter and transformer. We didn’t just focus on the figures, but also on the landscapes and environments, apocalyptic and post apocalyptic landscapes. These landscapes created a shape in our body, and also made us move in different ways. That was a nice task for us, to explore the choreography and invent these avatars, these slightly artificial bodies.
Can you talk about the inspiration behind the aesthetics of the choreography?
CJ: It’s always about storytelling and our expressivity on stage – the expressivity of bodies. When a dancing or a moving body is sounding or singing, there is a different subjectivity. I think this is one of our main interests, to not just have bodies on stage, but to really have their subjectivity, their fragility, their vulnerability. So we always wanted to sound, and to break the tradition for the dancer to be silent, not talking, not speaking, not sounding or singing.
LR: In this piece we take a lot of space for being expressive in our faces, our gestures and our mimic. For me, that created the hybrid body, the transformer. Before She Legend we were mostly circling around female figures, and there was always this binary – a female on stage needs to be and have a certain shape, or needs to act in a certain way. With She Legend we dived into taking space with gesture, mimic and expressiveness, and gave space for our bodies to be ungraceful.
CJ: In She Legend there is this over expressivity because we have to battle against these male warriors, these superheroes. So it worked with the whole story of a certain figure and a certain representation.
What were you searching for or exploring with this piece?
CJ: I think we were looking for the relationship between these two figures. It was also a deconstruction of this very typical lone hero figure, but more the attempt to let people identify with this relationship. To play with this kind of dual constellation, and our being together, and sometimes against each other, on a mission. It was this story of us.
LR: And also the story of us on a journey that can only be undertaken together, the two of us. No one can do it alone.
Is there a hopeful resolution for the journey these two figures are undertaking, or does their struggle continue forever?
CJ: I think there’s fun and humour in the way that we try a lot of things, we exchange hearts and keep on going and try to support each other. In the end we still die, but it’s always possible for us to get up again – like two gaming figures who start the game anew.
LR: This motive of rebirth creates a loop in a lot of the stories of heroes and heroines. And we wanted to show that it can be a loop that we don’t want to be stuck in. I think, if there is a clear statement at the end, it’s that we were ready to give the heroines an end, but we were not allowed to because of the loop that we were stuck in. For us it was like, this society wants its heroes, its heroines, it creates this loop that we can never get out of. Also, as stage personalities, there are always expectations…
CJ: I feel totally hopeful at the end. The piece is playing with the despair, the pessimism, all of these miserable feelings, but in the end it’s a process of empowerment.
What is the significance of the red triangle?
CJ: It’s definitely like a counter balance for us. And what it is keeps changing throughout the piece. Sometimes it’s like our final enemy, a very male force, and we battle with it. But in some scenes, it’s like a container that we can grab power from, like a reload. I think the object makes this abstraction really graspable. Also, to show the relationship between the two figures sometimes there has to be a third performer. I think we need this third agent in the space to remain together somehow.
LR: I like the multi-functional side of it, that we can play with it, and that every scene has a different vibe.
What would you like people to take away from She Legend?
LR: That they are entertained, that they are allowed to laugh, to take space and enjoy two bodies that are moving theatrically through the space. It’s also about empowering a group of people that don’t feel like they are allowed to take space.
CJ: It would be nice if people reflect on hero stories and the dominant narratives of that world. And, of course, appreciating us being expressive, enjoying us working with imagination and fantasy. I think it’s important for us, this childishness. It’s okay to play, and it’s a lot of fun to work with fantasy.
You do a lot of work with audio description and accessibility. What drives your interest in this area?
CJ: To create accessibility is amazing because you start to talk very differently about your work. I like all the political questions connected to audio description, because we have this power question of another person describing a show that is very multi-layered. Also, how do you describe the body, what kind of words do you pick, how do you expose the gaze, and everything which is in the gaze? When I do an audio description it’s almost like a meditation, you feel really attached to the bodies, to the choreography, you understand the rhythm of it, the music. You look at it differently than as a passive spectator, and I really appreciate this activeness.
LR: There are many ways of making the work exciting for a blind and visually impaired audience, ways of integrating an audio description that can feel very good for the work. There are so many different ways to integrate access in the work, and to get in contact with groups of people that would otherwise never be in touch with dance. People don’t have to fear this big term “access”, it can be very joyful and very playful.
CJ: I think it’s very important that we form a bigger and bigger group, because it’s a very radical act to change the aesthetics we are used to. We have to get to know each other, to have these different perspectives to eventually change it.
In what way do you think being a woman affects your work and how it is received?
LR: Maybe it’s about how we are taken seriously by people that are more used to the long, long line of male choreographers. Sometimes I feel that male choreographers are taken more seriously in a different way than the bodies that identify as female.
CJ: Coming from a specific background, there’s a certain fight already. But I think this creates an empathy to not to reproduce a certain behaviour. Not just in the work and what it presents, or the aesthetics of it, but somehow a whole process of working, of caring for each other. It’s about finding good structures to work and to be together, and also to find spaces to listen to other people and have this intersectionality in mind. We can all come together and practice this. And this is for me a big part of our feminist perspective.
Text: Vikki Weston
- Artistic direction, Choreography and Performance Carolin Jüngst Lisa Rykena
- DramaturgyHelen Schröder
- Stage DesignLea Kissing
- Sound DesignKonstantin Bessonov
- Costume DesignHanna Scherwinski
- Lighting Design Ricarda Schnoor Joanna Ossilinska
- Creative ProductionSTÜCKLIESEL
Touring ProductionCarolina Brinkmann (LEAD Productions)
- PR Munich Katharina Wolfrum (Rat & Tat Kulturbüro) Martina Missel (Rat & Tat Kulturbüro)
- Press Photography Jonas Fischer
- Set Photography Daniel Dömölky
- Promotional video footage and trailer Martin Prinoth Dan Caetano & Natasha Vergilio
- Audio Description (German version) Ursina Tossi
- Audio Description (Cantonese version) Arts With the Disabled Association Hong Kong
- Comic booklet drawings Larissa Bertonasco, Jul Gordon, marialuisa (SPRING Magazin)
- Comic booklet graphics Beate Pietrek, Philip Schultz (Raum für Illustration)
About the Artists
Photo: Jonas Fischer
Artistic Direction, Choreography and Performance
Carolin Jüngst and Lisa Rykena work as an artistic duo between the cities of Munich and Hamburg, engaging with queerfeminist, intersectional and anti-ableist body discourses. Drawing on classical, mythological, and pop cultural materials, they create characters that defy the stereotypes and clichés of heteronormative attributions. Since 2020, as part of the research project SPOKEN DANCE (together with choreographer Ursina Tossi), they have been intensively exploring the artistic and political potential of audio description and work as audio describers. Their works have been invited to various festivals, including Outnow Festival Bremen and imagetanz Festival brut Wien and SPECTRUM! Festival, Austria. She Legend was also performed at Tanzplattform 2022, Berlin.