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Salva Sanchis / Kunst/Werk

When Salva Sanchis arrived at P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels in 1995, he had already completed a course in physical theatre, acrobatics and martial art techniques in Barcelona. He considered himself to be an actor who still had something to learn about dance, mainly because he didn't dare hope he would ever become a dancer. During his development at the Brussels school it soon became clear that he also needed freedom as a creator. Throughout the years he has more than proven his qualities as a dancer and choreographer of around twenty productions. He has also revealed himself to be a talented teacher, and joined the team of P.A.R.T.S. as a coach, teacher and coordinator.

Between 2003 and 2007, Sanchis was attached to Rosas as a dancer and primarily as co-choreographer with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker in, for example, Desh (2005) and Raga for the Rainy Season/A Love Supreme (2005). During this period Rosas also produced Sanchis' own work: Double Trio Live (2005), Ten Variations in G (2006) and Still Live (2007). Since 2009, Salva Sanchis has been part of Kunst/Werk, a company structure shared by a number of artists to which the choreographer Marc Vanrunxt also belongs.

Researching improvisation forms the core in Salva Sanchis' choreographic practice, while he uses the relationship between music and dance - or the lack of it - in his productions, to highlight the value of pure movement. The way in which jazz musicians improvise serves as his main reference point. In 2008, he even had the opportunity to improvise next to jazz legend Archie Shepp on stage. And when he gave a series of workshops about improvisation along with the composer and jazz pianist Kris Defoort to students from P.A.R.T.S., it led to a joint performance Action (2010), in which dance and musical improvisation steered each other. In dance it was mainly Set and Reset, the iconic piece by Trisha Brown, and the practices of William Forsythe and choreographer-teacher David Zambrano, that shaped his view on improvisation. Outside of jazz, since 2008, Salva Sanchis has worked with the organist Bernard Foccroulle on The Organ Project, a collaboration of eight episodes on the intersection between music, dance and improvisation, at extraordinary locations such as abbeys and churches.

Researching improvisation forms the core in Salva Sanchis' choreographic practice, while he uses the relationship between music and dance - or the lack of it - in his productions, to highlight the value of pure movement. The way in which jazz musicians improvise serves as his main reference point.

In Sanchis' creations improvisation is not about absolute freedom, or not knowing the next step. In the work process the dancers take pre-established parameters as the starting point. These could be shapes (circle, square), the dynamics (flowing, explosive), expression, speed or duration. Thus the dancers engage in interaction, without knowing in advance how that will be translated into a specific movement or phrase. This methodology requires great concentration and alertness from the performers on stage, which - if everything goes right - totally captivates the spectator.

In Sanchis' creations improvisation is not about absolute freedom, or not knowing the next step. In the work process the dancers take pre-established parameters as the starting point. These could be shapes (circle, square), the dynamics (flowing, explosive), expression, speed or duration.

The Phantom Layer (2013), from which this clip originates, is a fine example of the almost uncompromising integrity with which Salva Sanchis transposes his choreographic basics on stage. At the beginning of The Phantom Layer Salva Sanchis explains to the audience how long the performance will last, and that there will be no music, to do justice to the musicality of the movements and bodies. Just as he does with improvisation parameters for the dancers, he creates a framework for the spectator in which the latter can subsequently observe at will. After his short speech, the stage remains empty for minutes on end. In a theatre full of spectators this creates a combination of expectation and tension that automatically heightens the senses. Very little happens even when the dancers emerge on stage: they sit down, fix the spectators with a neutral gaze, check out the floor, and when they later concentrate their gaze on each other while in a triangle, they still do not start to move. Openness is the goal; a shared space of possibilities becomes tangible. As soon as this is installed, the dancers begin to interact; they lead and allow themselves to be led. In the clip the second, projected space is visible on the rear wall of the hall where Sanchis adds layer after layer of projections, until the dancers are layered on top of each other several times and move around, finally the whole room begins to change. The projection in this production can be seen as a space of multiple possibilities, a flood of escape routes for the choices made on the stage.

Openness is the goal; a shared space of possibilities becomes tangible. As soon as this is installed, the dancers begin to interact; they lead and allow themselves to be led.

The next clip comes from Sanchis’ recent production Radical Light (2016).

In Radical Light Salva Sanchis harks back to his first project Reckless Reckoning from 1999, a collaboration with Florence Augendre. Here he works with the same minimal techno music by Joris Vermeiren and Senjan Jansen, a consistent 120 beats per minute. In contrast to his previous work almost all the movement material in Radical Light is established. At the same time the dance looks as though it has discovered a new freedom and provides pure dance pleasure. Following a long exploratory build up during which the five dancers repeatedly break off a movement in Sanchis' typical stop-motion style, and listen - to each other, to the space, to the rhythm - in the clip they merge in a rare unison. It is wonderful how this simple step to the same rhythm brings out each dancer’s individual movement quality. They shift their weight each in their own way, let the energy flow through the neck and torso and the rhythm spread through their body. From this scene the performance breaks into full motion, to the beat, and in complex patterns of interaction between the dancers. The central square adds an extra rhythm to the game of relationships between who enters, exits or crosses the boundary. Salva Sanchis also designed the lighting plan. It effortlessly transforms the orange square from battle floor to a land of silent abstraction.

Author:
Lieve Dierckx

Lieve Dierckx is a theatre scientist. She writes about dance for various media, theatres and choreographers.