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Echoic Choir

Text / Press / Video

Stine Janvin & Ula Sickle
Performance 45 min

Online Première: Dampfzentrale - Bern, April 10th 2021
Live premiere: Wiener Festwochen - Vienna, June 3rd, 4th, 5th 2021

"Nothing left to dream. Climax, anti-climax. Repetition, endless repetition. A thousand plateaus of crescendo."
From the novella Last Utopia, by Persis Bekkering.

A collaboration between vocalist Stine Janvin (NO) and choreographer Ula Sickle (CA/PL/BE), Echoic Choir evokes the ritual of coming together on a dance floor around music in the late hours of the night. Relying on the power of acoustic voices and spatial resonance, with minimal amplification and effects, the project aims to create a collective and immersive sensorial event. Placing the performers and the audience in a shared space, such as a rave or nightclub, sound, choreography and the visual aspects of the work, such as light, create a strong synesthetic experience for the audience.

Echoic Choir was developed during Covid with strict parameters and physical distancing in mind, but the performance and set-up has shifted with each presentation of the work. In its minimalism, Echoic Choir breaks down the club experience to its essentials. In an immersive light setting, voice and body are at the center. The music is a patchwork of interlocking rhythms, hockets and words coming from the performers' voices and bodies as they breathe, sing and move. Worn like a second skin, their collective sweat drips from their latex outfits. The spectators presence adds a level of density to the space, blending together with the performers, they embody a new kind of communal ritual.

Concept, composition Stine Janvin
Concept, choreography Ula Sickle
Performance Michelle Cheung, Stine Janvin, Cara Tolmie, Sidney Barnes, Ula Sickle & Annalise Van Even (originally with Roman Ole, Rishin Singh)
Research Amanda Barrio Charmelo, Lisa Vereertbrugghen
Light Ofer Smilansky (originally with Marcel Webber/MFO)
Sound Raphaël Hénard (originally with Olivia Oyama)
Libretto, dramaturgy Persis Bekkering
Costumes Wang Consulting
Shuffle Steps inspired by Harrison and Hlyan
Graphic design D-E-A-L
Coproduction Wiener Festwochen, MUNCH (Oslo), STUK House for Dance, Image and Sound (Leuven), Dampfzentrale Bern
With the support of the Flemish Community, the Flemish Community Commission, DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program
Residencies Kunstenwerkplaats (Brussels),
DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, Dampfzentrale Bern
Tour management Joëlle Laederach
Production, diffusion Future Works (Brussels)

Echoic Choir‘s Berlin debut recently took place as part of this year’s Club Transmediale Festival (CTM)–a natural fit for the festival’s “Transformation” theme. Within the roughly hour-long show, an ensemble of six performers transformed the space into a re-interpretation of the club environment. The interdisciplinary show asked the audience to take part in their “collective ritual” in which the performers moved around the space, creating club-like beats and rhythms with their voices. A highly interdisciplinary piece, Echoic Choir includes poetry written by the Dutch writer Persis Bekkering, and custom costumes designed by Joelle Läderach and Sabrina Seifried (Wang Consulting).

How 'Echoic Choir' brought the club back to CTM festival Caroline Whiteley for Electronic Beats, September 2021

“I must have more mirror neurons than other people”, I repeated to myself several times during the performance. While the viewers around me had no problem with sitting absolutely still as composer Stine Janvin’s “fake synthetic music” produced by human voices got more intense, I could hardly keep myself from starting to dance on my chair. It was quite a strange piece, of a kind unfamiliar to me, where six dancers, including choreographer Ula Sickle, were raving, breathing, raving, speaking or vocalising, as they simultaneously performed between groups of roughly ten audience members, each sitting on a high chair.

There is something quite generous in letting other people watch you breathe and get exhausted. And it felt great to get so close without the mediation of a screen or stage. Paradoxically – given that there were still strict rules for physical distancing in place – Echoic Choir achieved a more intimate relationship between audience and performers than most typical theatre or dance pieces. Retrospectively, I think that Sickle might have consciously aimed to answer the question, How can we get as close to the public as possible given that we need to respect all these rules? And sitting as close as you could legally be at that moment in time turned out to bring us much closer than we usually get to performers on stage.

Dancing with Death Klaus Spiedel for Spike Art Quarterly #69, Autumn 2021