Why would two men in white shorts need a ball, rackets or a net to play tennis? They take wide swings and strike in slow motion and, sure enough, something is projected to and fro. It is the audience’s gaze, because they know what’s happening. Or think they do. Just as this noble sport is based on repeated alternation – from one side to the other – so is another human passion: sex. In “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, a joint work by Ben J. Riepe and his colleague Navtej S. Johar, all five men sink slowly to the floor, nestle into its surface, get up. Up and down and up. Something or someone is missing here too, but because this is theatre it is there nevertheless, in our imaginations.
Riepe’s choreographies, which are always for at least three dancers, play with such expectations. They throw balls. The images on their surfaces are warped and distorted. They are well-known motifs, illustrations of feelings: excruciating boredom, roaring pride, giggling embarrassment, wailing loneliness, feverish desire. Riepe distends these with his dancers so that they appear as masquerades and frustrate our notions of good old natural presence. The ringmaster’s top hat, the frilly cocktail dress, the high heels, the checked full body suits and cheap animal masks the dancers wear accentuate this artificiality even more. A strange mechanism seems to drive these figures. To and fro, up and down. In essence, all too human.
HAPPY TOGETHER (2013)
4 performers, stage 11 x 11 m, 90 min
THE WHITE VOID_SERIES (2013)
installation performance, several performers, seniors, children’s choir, sheep, objects, site-specific, 60-240 min
Don´t Ask, Don´t Tell (2012)
6 performers, stage 12 x 12 m, 65 min
Untitled: Natura ( 2011 )
7 performers, stage 12 x 12 m, 75 min
Ben J. Riepe studied dance and choreography at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen. He worked with VA Wölfl/NEUER TANZ and was a guest dancer for Pina Bausch. In 2004, Riepe founded his own company and has since developed a large number of performances and pieces for the stage, which tour throughout Germany as well as internationally (e.g. in Poland, France, India, Bangladesh and Canada). His group has been receiving the NRW Grant for Excellence in Dance since 2009 and operates its own studio in Düsseldorf. Ben J. Riepe has developed an idiosyncratic artistic style that bridges dance, performance and visual art, which resulted e.g. in 2013 also in the production of sculptures and photo series that were shown in galleries. The Ben J. Riepe company have a longstanding and ongoing partnership with tanzhaus nrw and co-produce with various German theatres, such as PACT Zollverein and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm. Ben J. Riepe has been an affiliated artist of PACT Zollverein in Essen since 2013.