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ecotopia dance productions: repertoire Helena Waldmann - Made in Bangladesh
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HELENA WALDMANN

MADE IN BANGLADESH

DANCE DIRECTORHELENA WALDMANN
CO-CHOREOGRAPHERVIKRAM IYENGAR
VIDEO DANCER BRIT RODEMUND
COMPOSITION AND MUSIC PRODUCTIONDANIEL DORSCH
MUSICAL DIRECTOR AND COMPOSITIONHANS NARVA
VIDEO ANNA SAUP
COSTUME DESIGNHANIF KAISER UND JUDITH ADAM
LIGHTINGHERBERT CYBULSKA
VODEO POST PRODUCTIONMICHAEL SAUP
CREATIVE PATTERNCUTTINGTINA LUTHER
REHEARSAL DIRECTORANIKA BENDEL
ASSISTANT IN DHAKAHASNAT BIN KASHEM
DRANTURGICAL CONSULTANTDUNJA FUNKE
ON STAGE12 DANCERS FROM BANGLADESH MUNMUN AHMED, SHAMMY AKTER, SHAREEN FERDOUS, MASUM HOSSAIN, URME IRIN, MELA LAMIYA, TRINA MEHNAZ, HANIF MOHAMMAD, TUMTUMI NUZABA, BISHWAZIT SARKAR, SHOMA SHARMIN, LABONNO SULTANA
LENGTH OF PERFORMANCE70 MIN
WORLD PREMIERE26 NOVEMBER 2014 THEATER IM PFALZBAU LUDWIGSHAFEN (D)

What lies behind the words “Made in Bangladesh”? Helena Waldmann, with twelve Bangladeshi Kathak dancers, investigated Bangladesh’s infamous textile factories and translated into dance the working conditions that she found there. Waldmann stripped all the ornamentation from the north Indian Kathak dance, in which the colourfully clothed dancers’ feet hammer the floor. The kicking feet in competition with the stitching of clattering sewing machines, their pirouettes with the yarn bobbins. The quick rhythms of the Kathak make the exhaustion physically palpable. “I’m not physically strong enough for this work. I go through exploitation and abuse.” Statements like these and others from seamstresses appear at intervals projected on the backdrop. But the dancers proclaim into the microphone: “I am proud to be a part of the fashion industry – proud to be independent.” These too are sentences from the seamstresses and it is exactly these unresolved and irresolvable ambivalences that Helena Waldmann distilled in her researches and has put next to one another on the stage. What for one seamstress represents exploitation, for another means a first step to financial independence. The analogy with the European cultural sector and its self-exploitative structures is further sharpened in the second half of the piece. Quotes like: “Last year I danced 60 performances – this year 100. For the same money”, demonstrate clearly that European dancers too earn their money under precarious circumstances. “Made in Bangladesh” is a strong uncomfortable work, and in its consistency and physicality exactly the correct means to give artistic expression to the breakneck working conditions of the contemporary world.

Twelve dancers from Bangladesh standing silently in line, 80 per cent women, 20 per cent men, just as in the world of work behind the sewing machine. Needles go up and down on the video wall, ever more, ever faster. Their upper bodies are stretched out, their feet racing. They are not factory workers, rather performers committed to the Kathak, which through its fast footwork and rhythmic syncopation is characteristic for dance in Bangladesh.

Because Helena Waldmann and co-choreographer Vikram Iyangar don’t employ the customary ankle bells, the dance obtains a completely new impact that the well-travelled dance devotee is able to translate into impressive tableaux. The uniformity of the workers’ movements, heightened tempo, optimization, piecework. In the background run tables showing the required quantities per day, hour and minute.

Again and again, silence descends upon the frantic machine and traffic noise: above a dancer suddenly left alone on the stage a written “don’t boycott our products.”

And Waldmann goes still further on this impressive and intelligent evening. Alongside the lunacy of the global textile industry, her attention falls upon the everyday conditions of an industry that is seldom the focus of reports – the professional world of the artists themselves: two months rehearsal without payment, forty five Euros per show, whoever is ill or pregnant gets the sack, and to earn the same amount of money for 60 performances in the previous year, one must – just like in a factory – dance 100 times this year …Smile and optimize. The merry-go-round turns ever faster: “we are proud to be a part of the capitalist world order”. Another sentence that strikes like thunder.

Waldmann raises the tempo, turns the screw further. A Line Manager oversees sewing machines and dance positions alike standing in numbered rows. A shirt originating at one, a commercial flamenco or chorus line show rehearsal at the other. Keep on smiling, “We have visitors”, informs the manager. Only seldom does someone break or lose it: you can because you want what you must do. When he or she actually does so, come the most powerful moments of the evening; because the people know that they are ruining their health: “But I’m working as hard as I can.”

Tables of required quantities per worker cause us to shudder, as do the dancers grasping their own throat – and the conversion of people’s functioning into time and money. In the 77 minutes of the show’s length a textile worker earns 28 Cents, the German textile industry 1.4 Million Euros - shaming knowledge – followed by furious applause.

Mannheimer Morgen, Ralf-Carl Langhals


Helena Waldmann
The globetrotter of dance: Even by the standards of a thoroughly international scene, her sphere of action could scarcely be wider. Working at the interface between stage direction, choreography and sociological field research, Helena Waldmann produces, tours and commits herself on a global scale – from the Middle East and Latin America to Asia and Africa. Her sure sense of the ever-existing contradictions of our lives and the fragility of our good fortune acts as her artistic compass. This is why Helena Waldmann's pieces are so touching. They aim at changing the audience and regularly address social and political issues. Waldmann's desire to fully immerse herself in different cultures and still maintain a critical distance is tangible in all her works. Her subjects range from the frightening, anarchic freedom of Alzheimer's (revolver besorgen) and the sensual game of dependency (BurkaBondage) to women in islamic countries, apparently so restricted but so free inwardly (Letters from Tentland). The project ensembles she tends to cast on site give an authenticity and intensity to her pieces which has become the trademark of her work. However, producing and directing do not seem to be sufficient to fully absorb Helena Waldmann. Workshops and teaching assignments lead this extraordinary cultural activist to institutions and universities all over the world.


Made in Bangladesh
is a production by Helena Waldmann and ecotopia dance productions

In collaboration with
SHADHONA – A Center for the Advancement of Southasian Culture (BD) and Goethe-Institut Bangladesh

co-produced with
Theater im Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen (D)
Les Théâtres de La Ville de Luxembourg (L)
Goethe-Institut Bangladesh (BD)
Burghof Lörrach (D)
Forum Freies Theater Düsseldorf (D)
Tollhaus Karlsruhe (D)
Kurtheater Baden (CH)

funded by the
German Federal Cultural Foundation

Special thanks to Nazma Akhter, to the 13 workers as mentors of the dancers and to Green Ink from Dhaka

the book of the piece: leesmagazijn.nl

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