Sunday, December 17, 2023

'Motus Mori: Corpus' at Leeds Art Gallery

A literal translation of Motus Mori could be 'Movement that is dying (out)' and is the name of an institute formed by choreographer Katja Heitmann.

The stated aim of the institute is 'an attempt to archive human movement before it disappears. Propulsed by the desire to find what connects us, we are embarking on a long-term process to collect, preserve and share this most elusive part of our humanity. This is an archive for everybody, everywhere, to investigate the body as a repository or memories and emotions. What moves you?


'Corpus' (the body) is a new version of the Motus Mori archive, the premiere of which was held at Leeds Art Gallery from Friday 8th to Sunday 10th December 2023. 

The performance-ritual was created with a group of people in Leeds aged from 20 to 86. 

Concept and choreography by Katja Heitmann, music and creative production by Sander van Der Schaaf, artistic assistants and performance by Eleni Ploumi, Julia Drittij, Ornella Prieto and Ida Osten.

The Leeds performers were: Sonja Miller, Lara Woodhouse, Philip Harvey, Marion Small, Kath Morgan-Thompson, Tamsin Spain, Helen Thompson, Mike Thompson, Janetta Maxwell, Debra Lane, David Hutchinson, Irandokht Monfared and Lewis Anderson.

The duration of the performance was approx. 30 minutes.

I attended the 2:00pm performance on the first day instead of the premiere at 11:00am as previously planned due to unforeseen reasons. Before the performance itself began, there was a brief session of preparation which seemed to be aimed at encouraging relaxation and preparedness in the performers.

The performance began by introducing each performer's method of relaxing, a particular pose or stance that is adopted whenever the individual is resting or deep in thought. Each pose was introduced verbally as all the performers sat in a line at one end of the performance space and collectively adopted and experienced each of the poses in turn one by one. Once this had been completed, the performers rose and moved to previously marked locations within the performance space. Now, two or more performers joined together, partnering to remake those poses, sharing them so that a particular pose now was adopted by the input of two or three performers instead of one, the way that was demonstrated at the beginning. 

After a while, some participants moved away to join together with others to share and participate in their poses too. This sometimes left poses half completed so that the audience could compare the two states of being. Once several combinations had been tried out, many of the performers moved out to draw the audience into the performance. A lady sat next to me and shared her pose with me: a way of relaxing that she inherited from her mother. She placed her elbow onto her thigh, with her other hand wrapped around the elbow for support and rested her face onto her palm. Then she suggested that we could attempt to share the pose. She placed her elbow on my thigh while my hand supported it. I then rested my face in her palm. She asked me if it was comfortable and it was.

During the entire performance, besides the initial verbal descriptions of the poses, rhythmic music seemed to link all the sections of movements together, including the pauses, it acted like a pulse or heartbeat. 

I enjoyed this performance and it physically worked well, flowing comfortably and logically. Some parts made me think of the work of Tino Seghal, as his work is also about making connections, team work, sharing...

This was a great event organised by Motus Mori, Yorkshire Dance and Leeds Art Gallery and formed part of the Leeds 2023 Year of Culture. 

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