Residentie Juan Onofri

The motion of a dancer is the result of the contraction and relaxation of his muscles, which are in turn controlled by his brain. How this process works exactly, is a subject of neuroscience. But it can also serve as an inspiration for a new dance language, proves Argentinian choreographer Juan Onofri Barbato.

At the invitation of Het Huis Utrecht, Onofri came to Utrecht from February 9th untill February 26th 2016 for a residency on this theme. He brought with him from Argentina dancer Amparo González Sola. Part of the residency were two public activities: a panel discussion on February 18th and a final presentation on February 25th.

Together with González, Onofri taught young dancers of Dox, a group of artists who train the youth of Utrecht in the performing arts , his method during a workshop.

Foto’s: ©Herre Vermeer

Panel discussion
On Thursday February 18th Het Huis Utrecht hosted a panel discussion led by Jonathan Offereins about the relationship between dance and neuroscience and above all, about the relationship between body, brains and mind. Many philosophers and scientists state that the mind is located in the brain and from there controls the body, emotions and movements. “Just look at the recent Pixar film ‘Inside Out’,” said Isis Germano of Utrecht University. “The movie suggests that in our brain a computer system is situated that governs the rest of the body.” Germano on the other hand has a different notion of our mind and thinks it is scattered over our body.  “Our brain is embodied and embedded”.

Foto’s: ©Anna van Kooij

Onofri and González agreed with Germanos decentralised hypotheses of the mind. ” We do not only receive information through our eyes”, said Onofri. “Our entire body consists of sensors and therefor our entire body stores memories.  Cultural, social and political factors determine our movements. It is difficult to part from these factors. But we can discuss it, for instance in how we dance.” Onofri and González believe that the body as a concept is not a fixed notion, but can be shared.”When we work with a group of 28 dancers, we work with 28 individuals, but also and above all with one great body. The movement of one dancer affects the movements of the others, and thereby makes the dancers part of the same unity. At least, if the dancers succeed in entering a common state”, said Onofri.

González adds: “Our body can feel, but our emotions are social and cultural constructions. If we let go of these fixed structures, we can change our idea of the body and thus change the experience of our body. When I dance, I seek connection with other dancers; I establish a relationship with them. My mind stays in my own body, but in my entire body.” Dancer Sam, who participated in the workshop of Onofri and González at DOX, was delighted to learn about this new way of dancing. “At one point, when I was crawling over the floor, I was no longer aware of the exact location of energy in my body. I forgot my neck and my spine, and therefore anything was possible.”

Open Doors
During their stay in Utrecht Onofri and González searched for inspiring ideas for their new performance called ‘BANG’.  On Thursday February 25th, at the end of the Residence, they presented a first draft of their work in progress, after which the audience asked questions. The duo didn’t present a complete performance, but mainly showed what BANG could look like when it’s finished. In the middle of Het Huis Utrecht, Onofri and González demarcated a dance floor of less than four square meters with four fluorescent lights. The presentation consisted of three parts, whereby the first part was entirely without music. During the performance Onofri and Gonzalez explored how working together could bring them to form a single body.

About the Residency by Juan Onofri
At the invitation of het Huis Utrecht Juan Onofri came to Utrecht in February 2016 for a period of three weeks. He was accompanied by dancer Amparo González Sola. At the University of Utrecht Onofri and González attended the course ‘The Thinking Body “, of the minor ‘Brains and Bodies’ of the studies Psychology, Philosophy and Theatre Studies, . They gave workshops at De Dansopleiding | Creative College van ROC Midden-Nederland at the research group Performatieve Maakprocessen of the HKU and at DOX (an educational establishment for young stage talent). In the rehearsal studio of het Huis Utrecht Onofri and González were working on new material for their performance BANG, for which they entered into an active dialogue with Dutch dancers, choreographers and professionals like Robert Groenewald, Arno Schuitemaker and Jasper van Luijk.

Foto’s: ©Anna van Kooij

About Juan Onofri

Juan Onofri Barbato (1983) is an Argentinean dancer and choreographer. He attended dance schools in Neuquén and Buenos Aires and founded several dance companies, including KM29. In his work Onofri uses dance moves that are inspired by research results from neuroscience. For his performance ‘Duramadre’ he explored “the tissue that covers us on the inside”. In the meninges (the ‘dura mater’) are our muscles and bones are held into place by the ‘myofascial tissue “, also known as connective tissue. In his work Onofri uses dance moves that are inspired by research results into this tissue. Onofri adopts a definition of architecture: Tensegrity, a combination of the concepts of tension and integrity.

“Duramadre” was seen last year in the Dutch theatres. “Twitching dance moves in a crystal clear concept,” the Theaterkrant wrote about this performance in which the physical sensation of muscle and fascia (connective tissue) was explored. This resulted in movements unlike we’ve ever seen before.

About Amparo González Sola
Juan Onofri was accompanied by the Argentine dancer Amparo González Sola. She was born in 1984 and lives and works in Buenos Aires. González is a dancer, teacher and researcher. She graduated in 2008 with a Gold Medal on the Taller de Danza del Teatro San Martin in Buenos Aires. She specialized in contemporary dance, and worked with national and international choreographers in her own country but also abroad. González danced with Grupo KM29 in the performances ‘Dura Madre’. She has been working for some time now with Juan Onofri Barbato.

Los Posibles Film. Dirección Santiago Mitre y Juan Onofri Barbato from KM29 on Vimeo.

The Residency of Juan Onofri was a collaboration with Het Huis Utrecht, DOX, Performatieve Maakprocessen of the HKU, the minor Brains & Bodies of the Universiteit Utrecht and De Dansopleiding | Creative College of ROC Midden-Nederland and SPRING performing arts festival.