Going for gold. Breaking records at the seventh Tanzplattform Deutschland in Stuttgart

In: tanzjournal 2-06

Katja Schneider

(...) Another high point occurred at the beginning of the “Plattform” with the first of two premières (in itself another first for the festival). In “Subtitles”, their first work together, Christina Ciupke and Nik Haffner lead the spectator from the buzz and chatter of the foyer onto a carpet in a bedroom, where an intimate story is about to be played out. “Can you put your hand on your throat?” he asks, repeatedly. “Can we start again?” she will demand later. The communication between them functions through bargaining, via deferrals, null positions and refusals, yet still the pair are able to grow closer to each other. The audience is witness to a love story which ends tenderly yet very clearly in the balance. Realistically, one might say. (…)



Between the lines. Subtitles by Christina Ciupke and Nik Haffner

In: Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 16.02.2006

Gwendolyn Julia Sebald

Two people meet. They communicate, using the language of the face and the body, and through movement and speech. They understand each other, and they don’t.

Dancer Christina Ciupke is convinced that communication is always translation, “from my thoughts into my speech, from my speech into your understanding”. It is inevitable that misunderstandings should arise, but not (necessarily) a bad thing. Together with Nik Haffner she investigates communication and its different levels. Where do distortions, gaps, even blank spaces come from, and why?

Ciupke and Haffner’s interest in exploring communication was awakened in 2003 when they met for the first time at a seminar in Vienna’s Tanzquartier. Some time later they came across each other again during their stays as artists in residence at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe. Both Christina Ciupke, the Berlin-based dancer and choreographer who is represented at major festivals both in Germany and abroad, and Nik Haffner, who danced under the direction of Forsythe for years and is now involved in freelance projects, including the “commerce” collective, actually work in the border zone between dance and other arts such as photography and multimedia. Both, then, were entering new ground when they decided to produce a piece together exploring the interaction between speech and movement. The result was “Subtitles”.

The idea of embarking on a joint project to continue the dialogue that had begun by coincidence was for both artists innovative, interesting and difficult at the same time. How should they proceed (artistically) with the new medium of speech? Although dance itself is a reflection on movement, first steps towards bringing the two together produced astonishing results. Ciupke and Haffner had decided at the beginning of the creation process that they would give each other concrete instructions regarding movement. The method makes clear how very much the body, even the dancer’s body, is ruled by mundane, everyday movements as much as by dance-like ones. “What is clear to one person is also clear to the other person, but in a totally, totally different way”, observes Ciupke. The achievement of “Subtitles” is that it makes this difference felt by building up a growing awareness and understanding of communication (mechanisms).

The encounters that take place between Ciupke and Haffner in “Subtitles” are consciously very neutral. The dancers enact the most diverse of communication situations. One effect of this is that it leads to the abolition of any kind of definition in the relationship between the two. On the other hand though, it is only through this kind of openness that the communication levels of speech and movement can be presented in such a reduced and nuanced way.

There will always be misunderstandings and gaps, but these are not just unavoidable but actually valuable, bringing dynamics into Ciupke and Haffner’s speech-movement study. After all, part of communication is about understanding oneself through the other – a reading between the lines.



Tanzplattform Deutschland

In: SWR Journal am Mittag, 25.02.2006

Gabriele Wittmann

Ex-Forsythe dancer Nik Haffner and Christina Ciupke, renowned for her photographic co-operations, are branching out. Both have long experience of working with new media, but they have now set about exploring the relationship between speech and dance. They stand opposite each other on a Persian carpet and give each other instructions. “Can you cross your right leg over your left leg and hold your head with your right hand?” asks Nik Haffner, and his partner does what he says. Or doesn’t do it. Or does it differently. Or later. The communication at the centre of this piece is full of gaps. What happens in the silence? In the time when nothing seems to be happening, when the bodies on the stage are just THERE, without the audience being able to decipher them, understand them, interpret them? The question which the two have decided to tackle is an exciting one. And they manage, too, to shed some light on the matter of physical presence.



In: ballet tanz international 04-06

Hartmut Regitz

The piece lasts just under an hour, but in that time a relationship develops which overcomes its limitations in speech. Christina Ciupke, Berlin-based choreographer, has never been content with stating the obvious, and the view she has presented in the past of her own body has called into question more than personal perception. This is true of “Subtitles”, too, a choreographic dialogue with one-time Forsythe dancer Nick Haffner. One of the few premières at the Tanzplattform in Stuttgart, “Subtitles” seems at first just to be a double solo: over and over again they kneel down in the same starting position, take pleasure in the sameness of feeling. But difference cannot be held off for ever. The longer the sensory game between the two lasts, the harder they attempt to understand each other through speech, the more clearly they distance themselves from each other, even as their physical closeness increases. Questions are asked such as “Can you blow on me?” and touched to the core by Nik Haffner, Christina Ciupke almost lets herself plummet to the ground. At the same time, this act of devotion has something challenging about it. The wordless understanding of the beginning increasingly gives way to a level of communication which doesn’t just rely on physicality. Misunderstandings and refusals are all part of the game, especially when the pair whisper their wishes into each other’s ears, shyly withdrawing from the audience, which is left until the end without knowing who is dominating whom (too “academic” in the eyes of one critic…).



Borderline dance

The comments of a jury member on the choice of pieces presented at the Tanzplattform 2006 in Stuttgart

In: Die Deutsche Bühne Online Schwerpunkt 04-06

Gerald Siegmund

(...) What concepts of human identity come into being when the form changes, moves over into the fields of the adjacent arts or even, as in Thomas Lehmen (“Lehmen lernt”), Nik Haffner and Christina Ciupke (“Subtitles”) or Jochen Roller and Martin Nachbar (“mnemonic nonstop”), seems to turn into social action?

There are two things at stake here: firstly, the unity of form, and secondly the meaning connected with it. What connects the pieces, over and above a common dance technique, which isn’t present here, is their connection to the audience. The choreographers are no longer producing rounded, self-sufficient works of art which formulate transcendent truths, but attempting, using different means and techniques from piece to piece, to involve the audience and together to take action, so that questions may be asked. Identity, it seems, is only created at all by action, through the joint, often unnoticed practising of forms, through framings and namings in language. (...)



Relaxed professionalism. The 7th Tanzplattform at Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus.

In: Theater der Zeit April 2006

Constanze Klementz.

(…) The decision to include premières in the programme was controversial from the outset. Is it right to expose artists to the risk of presenting a piece which is perhaps not quite ready, under the hothouse conditions of the Tanzplattform, thus felling at one swoop the work’s chances internationally? The question remains, but in Stuttgart both premières rose to the demands of the occasion, bringing an attractive haziness to the Berlin-dominated and generally unsurprising overall selection. “Subtitles” by Christina Ciupke and Nik Haffner is a piece whose strength lies in its understatement. “Can you blow on me?” she whispers to him, and then rushes to his aid as he falls backwards as if she had just blown him over. The two characters explore the relationship between speech and movement, examining which is the trigger, which the consequence of the other. They demand simple actions of each other which they then perform, varying them until the causal chain of requests, blowing and falling gets irreparably confused. The more harmless-seeming the instruction, the more vividly sculptural Ciupke and Haffner become. Their cautious crossing of swords is a relationship study in the truest sense – and not just of the relationship between word and dance.




“Can you blow on me?” Christina Ciupke & Nik Haffner’s “Subtitles” at Tanzwerkstatt Europa

In: http://www.tanznetz.de/ 05.08.2006

Katja Schneider

“Can you blow on me?” she asks. He blows, after a woman in the front row has translated the question into English, and later wants his partner, as a reaction to his blowing, to say “I’m falling” and to fall. He will catch her, he says. He blows, she says “I’m falling” and simultaneously falls. He catches her.

“Subtitles”, the joint work of Berlin-based choreograph and dancer Christina Ciupke and long-time Forsythe dancer Nik Haffner, revolves around this kind of parallel and around misalignments in spoken and physical performance. As the title suggests, things are kept subtle in this intricate and delicate piece. It’s all about nuances, about the feedback between words, sentences, gestures and series of movements. Ciupke’s tenacity and meticulous precision in her previous light-body-shadow works is present in a new guise in this duet. Who is subtitling what? What does the subtitle convey? What does the “image” convey - two performers, seemingly fond of each other but whose facial play hardly expresses anything, in brown clothes on a beige-brown Persian carpet? And what does the room in Cologne bring to it all, the room described in the digital caption on the monitor?

Clear instructions, economy of movement, repetition, breaks, new beginnings. “Can you imagine what movement I’m going to make next?” he asks. A film seems to start in her head of all the movements that have been made in the piece, she talks and talks, schreibt ihm zu (WAS schreibt sie ihm zu??), her head turned away from him. When she looks towards him, she sees that he has long stopped moving and is standing still. Along with the fascinating play of word and movement, it is these delicate, even tender moments that make “Subtitles” so successful.



Knowledge in motion. Munich: Tanzwerkstatt Europa with some surprises

In: Augsburger Allgemeine, 05.08.2006

Nora Abdel Rahman

(...) “Subtitles” by Christina Ciupke and Nik Haffner could not have been a better contrast to the opening (Frank von Nigel Charnock). The atmosphere in the I-Camp, the smaller, more intimate dance venue in Munich, was that of a living room. A carpet, a table with two glasses of water on it, and a television – all the props that the two dancers needed for their performance, a performance itself reduced to simple sentences. How does speech shape our bodily movements? How do our movements influence the spoken word? Short spoken instructions such as “Can you touch my hair with your hands” are turned into complex choreography by the dancer carrying them out. The piece strips down dance and language to their most basic components, allowing them in turn, thanks precisely to this process of reduction, to reveal the structure of simple human actions And both pieces prove that the object of contemporary dance is introspection.



Speak to her. Christina Ciupke and Nik Haffner’s “subtitles” opens the “fabrikationen 06” series in the tanzfabrik

In: Tanzraum10-06

Sandra Luzina

“Again!” As soon as the first words are spoken, we are plunged right into the middle of a story. A man and a woman. A story told innumerable times before. However, in “Subtitles”, Christina Ciupke and Nik Haffner manage to hold the relationship between the pair artistically in the balance right up to the end.

The Berlin-based choreographer and the one-time Forsythe dancer and expert on new media are investigating the relationship between speech and movement, new ground for both of them. Ciupke and Haffner have developed a choreography based on language – yet at the same time, “Subtitles” is a subtle study of intimacy.

“Can you touch your throat? Can you touch your hands?” At first, he instructs, she performs. The communication is made up of gaps, delays, translations. Time and again the two whisper their wishes to each other, thus withdrawing from the audience and simultaneously stimulating its imagination. The spectator soon begins to provide his own subtitles for the action. The story of a man and a woman (a love story?) is thus actually created in the head of the observer.

“Can you blow on me?” he asks, introducing a new game which brings the two closer together. She blows, then lets herself fall as if she had been blown down, announcing as she falls “I’m falling”. Soon one doesn’t know what the trigger was and what the reaction. What is speech able to bring about? What triggers acts of speech?

The speech in this piece is calm and undramatic; the movements are performed neutrally, almost technically. Although the emotions in the piece are bracketed out, they are a constant, resonating presence.

It is possible to watch these interactions for a long time without thinking of male dominance and female subordination. But communication is not non-hierarchical territory, which Ciupke and Haffner make clear without slipping into the superficial and placatory. They explore when an instruction becomes manipulation, when desire becomes control.

Towards the end, she says to him: “Can you make your hand disappear slowly under your shirt? Then with your left hand touch the skin on your chest.” He refuses, hesitates, and she works herself up into an explosion of speech. As time goes on, an almost imperceptible intimacy is created between the two protagonists - intimacy which is not just understanding without words, but very much a product of speech.