As free and as wild as possible

by Serge Honegger

Marco Goecke created «All Long Dem Day» 2015 for the Berlin State Ballet School. He was only commissioned for a two-person piece, but then decided to work with a whole group of students. Marco Goecke explains the fact that his choreographic language has been included in the repertoire of classical ballet schools over the past thirty years with the intention of opening up these these institutions to experience other styles and themes : “The good dancers of today have to be able to dance everything. The profession of dancer would not make sense if you did what you already knew you could do each day.”

For some members of the audience, it may only become clear at second glance that Marco Goecke’s dance language has a strong foundation in classical structure. This reference runs through his complex sequences of movements like a countermelody fed from very different reservoirs and reflects the realities of life today. In addition, «All Long Dem Day» was strongly influenced by the possibilities, skills and interests of the students in Berlin at the time, who were able to contribute to the artistic process. When asked if he had to overcome resistance, Goecke said: “No, not at all. Of course, you also have to do some convincing with such students to make them perform the movements. But that’s the case with every piece. Some want to give more, others less. I find out about this in my work with the companies. I quickly notice that this person needs this and the other needs something else. So when choreographing that whist is shaped by the respective situations, duets and solos follow each other. Coming back into the piece today and thinking back to «All Long Dem Day»’s original cast, I can very well relate to why it all came the way it did. It has to do with empathy. When I’m doing a piece, I feel what someone can do. I would never let people do something they can’t do. In that cast, a piece usually goes wrong.”

Marco Goecke is surprised that so many young people still want to become dancers and when considering a company like the Bavarian Junior Ballet in Munich inspires great respect. It is an activity “of which nothing remains, nothing tangible, nothing material”, as he puts it in an interview. “You only dance if you want it 100 percent. Perhaps it is also the greatest happiness of these young people that they know very early on what they want, that they don’t just hang out on the street and see no future for themselves, but that they have this dream and this passion. So there really can’t be a happier life.”

When he looks back on his choreography «All Long Dem Day» today, Marco Goecke particularly likes the simple and straightforward style, which for him combines particularly well with Nina Simone’s energetic music. The Spiritual «Sinnerman», heard in the performance of «All Long Dem Day», was often placed by the famous jazz singer at the end of her concerts. In this song, it’s the beat, the tempo and the increasing structure that evoke the dance for Goecke. In terms of content, the Spiritual (a genre of Christian music that is associated with African Americans) depicts the light and darkness contained within a life path. It is such categories associated with human existence that can be ideally expressed on a theater stage: “Because the stage, the light and all the other ingredients, such as the music, create something magical, many pieces, if you would look at them in daylight, have no meaning at all. The light is an incredible means to deepen an event, without which I would be lost as a choreographer. My art has always had a lot to do with darkness and light.” For Marco Goecke, the fact that a piece like «All Long Dem Day» works has ultimately to do with the desire to dance: “I always tell the dancers, that they should feel as free and as wild as possible.”

Article by Serge Honegger, based on a conversation with Marco Goecke in May 2023

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