In a discussion with Josep Caballero Garcia about the production No ['rait] of Spring, the performer and journalist Margarita Tsomou asks him about the male desire for female roles in dance and the value of subjective experience for dance heritage.

No [’rait] of spring

Based on his own experience as a dancer in Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre du Printemps as well as his fascination with the solo of the Chosen One, in No [’rait] of spring Josep Caballero García looked at four more classical female roles in German dance history from the perspective and memory of male dancers. These roles were Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, from Marius Petipa’s Giselle, Die Kameliendame from John Neumeier’s ballet of the same name, Lady Macbeth from Johann Kresnik’s Macbeth and Beatrice Cenci from Gerhard Bohner’s Die Folterungen der Beatrice Cenci.

Interviews with former ensemble dancers as well as music excerpts provided the historical material and memories that were first deconstructed and then staged like a collage using a mix of dance sketches and spatial design.

The result was a type of subjective reconstruction of the selected roles from the viewpoint of the men interviewed. Meanwhile, as part of his own dance work with the above mentioned women’s roles, Luis Rodriguez went looking for a physicality of choreography beyond gender.

Copyright restrictions had a considerable impact on the work with historical material and the use of original extracts on video and in movement material and music. No [’rait] of spring points to these gaps but at the same time used them as an opportunity to discover new reconstruction methods. In the composition made up of the material collected, a crossover point between dance performance and image/sound installation, the piece invited spectators to take part in an associative as well as emotional journey through memory shreds, movement fragments as well as echoes and sounds that made it possible for everyone to access the historical material in their own way.


Film recording

Recording of the performance from 13 April 2013 at the Uferstudios Berlin

With – Luis Rodriguez, Daniela Toebelmann and Josep Caballero García
Artistic director/choreography – Josep Caballero García
Dance – Luis Rodriguez
Co-dramaturgy – Prof. Dr. Claudia Jeschke
Video/image/sound installation – Daniela Toebelmann
Sound – Horst Petersen
Assistance – K3 Hamburg Ann-Kathrin Reimers
Production director – Mira Moschallski
Mentoring – Joao da Silva

A production by K3 | Tanzplan Hamburg as part of the residency programme, funded by the Hamburg Cultural Foundation and TANZFONDS ERBE – an initiative of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (EN: Federal Cultural Foundation).

Josep García Caballero would like to thank: the Dance Film Institute in Bremen, the Performing Arts Archive at the Academy of Arts Berlinand Eric Miot, Jo Siska, Frank Frey and Martin Meng for their generous co-operation in the interviews and for sharing their memories!

Evening Programme

Interview with Luis Rodriguez

‘I really wanted to experience the different physicalities of the roles.’

Interview with Luis Rodriguez, the dancer in No [‘rait] of spring, about his involvement in the choreographic process, working with historic material and creating silence.

Were you already familiar with Petipa’s Giselle, Neumeier’s Die Kameliendame, Bohner’s Die Folterung der Beatrice Cenci, Kresnik’s Macbeth and Bausch’s Le Sacre du Printemps before working with Josep?
Having trained in classical ballet from an early age and later studied other dance forms, I was familiar with some of these works. Most familiar to me were Giselle and Le Sacre du Printemps. I have seen Giselle danced in its entirety by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. I’ve seen Pina’s Le Sacre on video only. I was familiar with the play Macbeth but never with the ballet. I hadn’t heard of Die Folterung der Beatrice Cenci and I wasn’t familiar with Neumeier’s Die Kameliendame.

Did you carry out some research by yourself?
During the process, I was able to watch both Bohner’s and Kresnik’s works to try to have a well-rounded understanding of the all material we were working with.

Did you ever have the wish to dance a female role? If so, which one and why?
I didn’t have a particular female role I wanted to dance. During my training, although very formal, gender roles were less defined than during the periods referred to in most of the works in No [‘rait] of spring. If anything, there were particular qualities I admired in many female roles in Balanchine’s works, for example. The traditional, ethereal qualities of a ballerina were somehow brought up to date while still remaining in the classical vocabulary. Precious and beautiful. Above the earth. Expensive and untouchable.

How would you describe the difference between working on/with historical material and working on an entirely new creation?
With historical material, one has a very clear platform on which to start. I’m not sure there is a huge difference. One has to treat both with great integrity, care and respect for authenticity. When working with historical material, one is constantly referring to concrete, pre-existing information that often contains certain ideas from a different time period. An entirely new creation starts from where the creator is today, but which will also be historical in a week from now. We all carry our history with us, so in essence we’re always working with historical material.

To what extent and in what way were you involved in the choreographic process for No [‘rait] of spring? What artistic approach did you adopt to translate the interviews with dancers into movement?
I would say I was very involved in the choreographic process. Josep was extremely open, very clear in his concept and his idea regarding the work. This made it easy to weed out, in a way, anything that didn’t necessarily pertain to the work. Personally, I did a lot of youtubing to study what I could get from different females who have performed some of the roles. Due to copyright limitations, viewing on some of the roles was very limited. We went to the archives in Bremen to study some videos. It was important for me to try to find genuine qualities and my truth in interpreting each of the roles. All of them were very different to each other. I practised the idea of what I like to call “creating silence”. I worked with a Budo artist named Akiro Hina in Stockholm. We worked on finding global awareness of the body and the space around you – a heightened state of concentration so that the characters emerge from listening to my body with all the information I have from them rather than trying to create the characters from a sense of what I think she might have looked like. I really wanted to experience the different physicalities of the roles. It was no small feat.

Which interview was the most difficult to translate into dance and why?
I think Myrtha was particularly hard due to the subtleness I felt the role had. I was not trying to be a ballerina in the romantic era. Rather, I was interested in the way she commands her environment with her eyes and how weightless she seemed. It was hard to find a physicality that expressed that without becoming a man trying to do a ballet variation or a parody of Myrtha, which is not at all what we were going for. Lady Macbeth was also difficult because we didn’t have so much information on Susana Ibanez, the lady who danced it. We had a very small piece of footage of her in the work and I had to get inspired by that video. Watching youtube videos of Judy Dench playing Lady Macbeth saved my life!

What were your main challenges (intellectual and physical)?
My main challenge was maintaining a high state of concentration so that I didn’t create unnecessary physicalities. Staying quiet in my mind, a certain meditation, perhaps.

Do you see yourself as someone who interprets or rather creates material?
I enjoy working in collaboration. I’m not a fan of interpreting, even though I’ve done quite a lot of that in the past. In a way we’re always interpreting information. Improvisation is what I enjoy most.

Has the project changed your view of the original dance pieces investigated in No [‘rait] of spring?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it changed my view of the pieces per se. It just gave me a clearer focus on the roles. It brought up questions of gender, time and trying to understand how these choreographers – for lack of a better word – assigned these women personalities or traits that were considered to be the norm for women in a specific era.

Pina Bausch once said: “If you think about your heritage, you die.” What about you? Why do you think it is important to involve yourself with dance heritage/historical works?
I think it’s necessary and essential to keep archiving and documenting historical works. They provide a mirror for creation today. As far as dancing historical works myself in their entirety is concerned, although I have a tremendous appreciation and respect for them, I would not say it’s my primary interest.

Where does dealing with history restrict one’s own creativity? Where does it provide key impulses for one’s own work?
Well if you don’t know where you come from, you can’t know where you’re going. Knowledge of history provides maps and references to where and why we are today. Without it, I feel we’re lost. I don’t think it limits your creativity. Rather it informs and allows you to make choices and understand the choices you’re making and referencing.

What will you be taking from this project into your future work?
A sense of trust in my body, which is something I don’t think I really had a grasp of before this project.

Interview with Daniela Toebelmann

“Anyone looking at the now lets yetserday flow into it”

For No [’rait] of spring, the graphic artist Daniela Toebelmann was responsible for the stage objects and the broadcasting of contemporary witness interviews in the space.

As a graphic artist, what attracted you to work on a dance production looking at historical material?
The attraction for working with historical material was the interviews with contemporary witnesses, which gave me a very personal insight into dance history. It is the intensity of subjective narration that stays in our memories. In No [‘rait] of spring, the challenge seemed to be transporting this intensity to the stage area.

What was your role in the project?
Together with Josep and Luis, I brought the various layers of the interviews into the space – of course alongside wholly practical work such as purchasing and producing the individual stage objects. Josep gave our ideas lots of space. It was a highly focused and enriching working atmosphere for all of us.

Before working with Josep, what did you know about 19th and 20th dance generally, and about Pina Bausch, John Neumeier, Johann Kresnik, Gerhard Bohner and Marius Petipa in particular?
I only really have a layperson’s knowledge of dance history. My interest in dance is the relationship between body and space, disciplining one’s own body and understanding one’s body as material. I worked on a sound piece in Norway with a dancer, and in the course of which started to look at dance. I have never obtained an overview of dance history, but instead read through the texts that were in front of me.

Did you research the pieces involved in the project yourself or looked at video recordings of them? Or did you base your work on what you learned from the interviews?
The first time I went to the dance archive with Josep and Luis was towards the end of the work. I wanted to keep my naïve view during the work with the interviews so that the interviews were part of an independent world of images inside me. Similar to when you’re reading a book and the images you have of the people and places in the story become solidified in the inner eye. It was in Bremen that my inner image world was confronted with the original recordings, which was really a very interesting experience.

What was your artistic approach to transporting the dancer interviews into the stage space?
We worked in a very associative fashion. We created atmospheres by shifting and continuously re-arranging body/image/lighting/music – created space beyond the four walls.

What was the greatest challenge in translating the memories of the contemporary witnesses into a contemporary work of art?
The complexity of conflating the wealth of information and transferring it to media formats that in turn could be adapted to deal with this complexity effectively.

How importance is the stage area and staging in this translation process?
It was important for Josep to offer spectators a different relationship with the stage and thereby integrate them more closely into the events on it, although he wasn’t aiming for any kind of interaction. The regular crescendos of tension of the individual parts and the proximity of the spectators to the events take the intensity level to the limits of tolerability – I think for both the spectators and the performer. During the piece, you’re really looking for moments when you can break this tension down again.

How would you describe the relationship between music, performance and video image in the piece? Is there a set hierarchy or are the different media formats on an equal footing?
I wouldn’t talk about hierarchy in this case, as it was important for Josep during the entire development phase that the media formats were equal. But from my point of view, the performative aspect has the strongest presence because of its indispensability. Although the various media formats have a strong presence on the stage, they are dependant on performative activity. It is only through performative action that the music sounds and the image and positions of the objects on stage change. The body rules the space and objects. At some points, the movements performed by Luis and Josep seem very minimal in relation to the weighty presence of the technology, but thanks to the constant tension that both of them maintain during the entire piece, it is the performative aspect that dominates the stage area. I was swept away by this tension at every rehearsal and every performance.

Has the project changed your views on how artistic heritage is handled?
It’s more the case that the work made me think more about the fact that the heritage of an era, regardless of the art form, is rewarding and enriching outside of theoretical analyses when we see it with different pairs of eyes.

What are the differences between dealing with heritage in dance as opposed to graphic art?
There is certainly interaction with ‘heritage’ in all art forms without it always being discussed in any concrete fashion. I think the differences are more between different artists than between dance and graphic art. Anyone looking at the now lets yesterday flow into it, either consciously or unconsciously – anyone describing the future, or who records and illustrates, cannot avoid including the now and yesterday in it.

Interviews with contemporary witnesses (German)

Contemporary witness interviews

These discussions with former dancers served as the basis for the development of No [‘rait] of spring.

Interview with Frank Frey

Frank Frey trained at the school of the Bavarian State Opera. He then worked in Wuppertal, Basel, Zurich and Berlin. In addition to lead roles in classical works, Frey also distinguished himself in new creations, working with pioneers such as Gerhard Bohner or Johann Kresnik.

Interview with Martin J. Meng

Martin J. Meng trained at the Amsterdam School of the Arts, including with Prof. Heinz Manniegel. His career as a dancer (Het Nationale Ballet (Amsterdam), the National Ballet of Canada (Toronto) and Deutsche Oper Berlin), numerous courses as well as participation in Kirov Ballet training gave Meng the opportunity to learn with some of the best teachers. For additional information, go to

Interview with Josep Caballerio García

Josep Caballerio García studied contemporary dance in Barcelona andat CNDC d’Angers (France) and completed his training at the Folkwang University Essen. Since 1994, he has been a dancer with Pina Bausch, Roxane Huilmand, Toula Limnaios, Urs Dietrich and Doris Stelzer, among others. He choreographed his first pieces at Bremer Tanztheater. He has been living in Berlin 2006, where he works as a freelance dancer and choreographer.

Interview with Jo Siska

Jo Siska trained as a dancer at the John Cranko Ballet Academy in Stuttgart from 1977–82, graduating as a nationally certified dancer. He continued his studies at the Victorian Arts College in Melbourne and with David Howard in New York. His first job as a dancer took him to the Scapino Ballet in Amsterdam. A 10-year symbiosis then followed with Hans Kresnik and the Choreographic Theatrewhere he danced almost all of the male lead roles. At the same time, he started developing his own choreographic works. In 1999, he staged his first commissioned piece at the Landestheater in Linz and became a permanent guest lecturer in the Dance department at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts. For additional information, go to

Interview with Eric Miot

Eric Miot was born in France and graduated in dance at the École du Ballets de Paris. In 1981, he became a dancer at the Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin Strasbourg where he danced in choreographies by Georges Balanchine, Maurice Béjart, Germinal Cassado, Roland Petit and Jean Sarréli. In 1983, he joined the ballet company of the Hamburg State Opera ballet company, under John Neumeier, where he became a soloist in 1987. In addition to numerous works by John Neumeier, he also danced in ballets by Maurice Béjart, Rudi van Danzig, Mats Ek, José Limon and Antony Tudor. Since 1995, he has been a freelance dancer, teacher and consultant.

Performance Dates
  • 26 March 2013 | K3 – Tanzplan Hamburg – premiere
  • 27 & 28 March | K3 – Tanzplan Hamburg
  • 12 & 13 April 2013 | Uferstudios Berlin
  • 1 September 2013 | Uferstudios Berlin –  as part of the Ausufern Festival
  • 4 & 5 October | Musterzimmer, Berlin – lecture performance
  • 4 May 2014 | Schwankhalle Bremen – as part of the Baila Espana 2014 festival



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