Doris Uhlich studied “Contemporary Dance Education” at Vienna’s Music and Arts University and has been developing her own projects since 2006. In her productions she often challenges conventional formats and body images: She works with people with varying backgrounds and physical inscriptions, among others, exploring the possibility of translating classical ballet into contemporary contexts, opening the dance stage for people with physical disabilities, demonstrating the potentials of nakedness beyond eroticism and provocation, investigating the relationship between human being and machine at different levels, or exploring the future of the human body in the age of its surgical and genetic perfection.
The choreographer’s work frequently focuses on examining everyday gestures but also artificial ones, such as the strict code of movement of classical ballet in SPITZE (2008) and Come Back (2012). All her performances are investigations into beauty ideals and standards of body image, as in her piece mehr als genug (2009). Since her performance more than naked (2013), Doris Uhlich has also been working on the depiction of nudity free from ideology and provocation. Music – particularly electronic dance music, from new wave to techno – plays an important part in her explorations. In her Habitat-series, she performed together with a naked company at the Dominican Church in Krems, in front of the facade of the Vienna Secession and at the former Winter Riding School of the Habsburg Monarchy (Hall E in the Museumsquartier), among other venues, in her biggest performance involving 120 performers. Together with dancer Michael Turinsky, Doris Uhlich won the Nestroy Special Prize for the performance Ravemachine (2016) for “inclusion on an equal footing”. Premiering at Tanzquartier Wien in 2018, the production Every Body Electric was invited to the Venice Dance Biennale and the Bienal Sesc de Dança in São Paulo in 2019, among others.
Other prizes, awards and nominations: “outstanding young choreographer” in the 2008 Ballettanz year-book, Dance Prize of the bm:ukk (Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture) for SPITZE 2008, Nomination for “Dancer of the Year” in tanz magazine 2011 and 2015, “award outstanding artist 2013” for performing arts of the bm:ukk (Federal Ministry of Education, Art and Culture), Nomination for “Choreographer of the Year” in tanz magazine 2018 and 2019, Audience Prize for Every Body Electric at Our Stage – 4th European Festival of Bürgerbühne in Dresden 2019, Nestroy Theatre Prize nomination for Habitat / Halle E in the category “Best Off-Production” 2020
My works are defined by a collaboration with performers with different biographies. The projects range in format, taking place on stage, in museums, at specific locations and vary in duration (from three minutes to several hours) and in the choice of perspective (from head-on to open spaces in which the audience can move freely). In some works I myself am the interpreter of my ideas, in others I am not. There are works that are dedicated to dance and thus focus on research into movement and others that operate at the intersection of dance and performance.
For me, choreography means embodying my interest in people, to be precise: in people and the orders and systems which they construct, operate, to which they are exposed, and that become inscribed in them.
I understand the body as a “travelling body archive” in which one’s own biography and the biography of the world are incorporated. To me, the skin is a permeable structure, and therefore inside and outside of the body are designations of place that need to be questioned. Events of a political, social, economic and cultural nature inscribe themselves. The body is in the world, the world is in the body. What do we incorporate, what do we disincorporate? We go through the infinitely complex choreography of our biographies, sometimes autonomous, sometimes directed by others.
An eighty-eight-year-old performer once said during rehearsals for und (2007): “I am everything today. I am the eight-year-old, I am the twenty-year-old, I am the eighty-eight-year-old. Everything coincides in the present moment.” I have been interested in the complex intermeshing of past, present and future in the body every since.
Space is also a body with incorporations. In the space surrounding the body the present sits, stands, flies, rests and pulsates along with its past and its projected future. I try to find physical outlets, with the aim of understanding the complex present as a moving body that I can help to shape.
Sound and music are acoustic bodies that become incorporated into molecules of air and spread. Sound is hard to constrain, it expands as far as its sound-waves spread. In theatre, this means that it does not draw a boundary between stage and auditorium but rather has the capability to unite these two spaces. In working with electronic music, that Kraftwerk once referred to as “electronic body music” in order to describe the bodily effect of electronic sounds, I am interested in the diversity of sounds, their energy volume, and the possibility of mixing sounds endlessly.
Movement has the potential to be seismic. It can spread and its energy can be infectious. I body you, you body me.
Everyone can dance. Dance should not be subject to any normative rules, regulations, dogmas, or to the necessity of conforming bodies. I believe in the emancipatory power of dance, emancipation through dance that is accessible to everyone. The stage should be an open world in which different people exist.
Life is not a solo, life is an ensemble piece. I search for ways to share, transfer and transform energies, trying to find questions that allow us to open up and soften ossified views and opinions, both as a soloist and as a group.
For me education and art form a network woven of encounters from different (dance) biographies and social interaction. I translate my artistic strategies specifically for people with and without any dance experience, from amateurs to professional dancers. In my lessons I try to create spaces free of anxiety. When the energy of a movement becomes more important than its form, this is probably the best way to discover which driving forces are waiting in the body’s cells to be triggered into action.