Maresa von Stockert, artistic director of Tilted, speaks about her company, career and the genesis of \<em>Trapped</em>.

Feature by Gareth K Vile | 15 Jul 2009

"Imagine a place where thoughts are overheard and dreams are monitored; where intimate letters are scanned and a warped sense of reality rules over reason. Unfolding like a film, TrAPPED tells the story of five characters who become caught up in a nightmarish, Kafkaesque world."

As our communications are defined by technology and government surveillance takes on a presence that the medieval church would be hard-pressed to match, TrAPPED draws parallels with the communist German Democratic Republic and the modern CCTV state. Using text, mime, dance and video, TrAPPED is an audio-visual, high impact work of sincere political engagement.

Maresa von Stockert, artistic director of Tilted, speaks about her company, her career and the genesis of TrAPPED.

What route did you take to arrive at contemporary choreography- was it through classical ballet or another form?

I did ballet as a child and as a teenager I started exploring contemporary dance. After my Abitur (A-levels in Germany), I decided to study contemporary dance at university and went to LABAN in London. I continued my studies later in the US, when I received a scholarship to go to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. I graduated there with an MFA in Dance and Choreography in 1996. It was really then when I decided to become a choreographer.

What choreographers and directors inspired and inspire your work?
There are many artists (not just choreographers and directors) whose work I find inspiring. Choreographers and directors that I particularly like are: Pina Bausch, Heiner Goebbels, Lloyd Newson, Josef Nadj, John Jasperse, Robert Lepage, Xavier Le Roy.

What is your choreographic process – is it collaborative or directorial, for example? Where does sound and music come in?

I like working collaboratively. When I work with the dancers I ask questions, throw in the ideas and then direct what has evolved from their responses. I am not interested in giving them movements to copy, but in developing and exploring their individual reactions, their responses in movement to my ideas.
I work in a similar way with the other collaborators, such as composers and designers.
The set always plays an integral and intrinsic role in the creation process and we work with it and from the beginning of rehearsals.
The music composition for TrAPPED was developed in tandem with rehearsals. Throughout the process, composer Jeremy Cox and I experimented with the sounds of props and set that are used in the piece. We integrated the sound of quarter inch tape machines, tape reels, expansion files and steel cages, amongst other things, into the score, turning them into musical keys that make up the whole composition.

You've talked about the parallels between the GDR and CCTV – what led you to draw these parallels and why did you decide to explore them at this time?

I am quite amazed by the amount of CCTV in the UK today. One can hardly escape being on camera at all times in big cities. Often we are not even aware that we are being watched and most of the time we don’t even question the necessity of camera lenses pointing our way.

When the former GDR came into existence, they set out to create a country that was governed by the people; that would never allow the horrors of the past to repeat. Slowly but surely it turned into a surveillance state. Most of its inhabitants would have never thought that was possible.
Of course Germany after the war can by no means be compared with the UK today. The surveillance in the UK is meant to be used in a completely different way to that in the GDR – but is it always? What exactly is all this CCTV for? How is the footage being used? Have we signed up to what can sometimes be perceived as an invasion of privacy? Maybe once in a while we should ask these questions…

I have wanted to make a piece inspired by the GDR for several years now. I was born in former West Germany but my mother fled as a small child together with my grandmother and her sister across the border from the East to the West. I wanted to explore more about this part of my family’s history and my German identity. I felt ready to start working on this last year and it is a great coincidence that the piece is being performed throughout 2009, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.

However I want to point out, that although inspired by it, TrAPPED is not literally a piece about the GDR. TrAPPED is set in an imaginary state and tells the fictional stories of five characters as we watch them unfold.

How do you feel your work fits with Zoo's overall programme?
Zoo is offering a great variety of different shows and has become a prominent dance venue. I believe that TrAPPED, with its combination of contemporary dance, spoken text and specially-composed music, will add to the diversity and hopefully attract both dance lovers and those new to the art form.

Is there anything that you are looking forward to seeing in the fringe this year?
There are quite a few shows by people I have never seen before I’d love to catch. The Dance Forum at Zoo – The 48th International Choreographers Showcase – I am particularly looking forward to that. I’m of course going to see the other Escalator East to Edinburgh companies of which we are part. I am especially looking forward to Gecko’s The Overcoat and Hoipolloi’s The Doubtful Guest. Other shows are New Art Club’s The Visible Men and The Wayside/Riff by Laila Diallo/Matthias Sperling.

...and the inevitable – anything else you'd like to add?
TrAPPED is full of dark humour as well being thought-provoking. Expect the unexpected – tragicomedy alongside emotionally charged drama; people’s stories told through spoken text merged with dance.

Zoo Southside, 23rd-31st August, 10:55am