Chester Workshop

The role of touch in the participatory sense-making process of both play and dance improvisation

Workshop by Carolien Hermans
March 2019, Chester University, Dance Department

Participants: Hannah Kelly, Malaika Sarco-Thomas, Richard Sarco-Thomas, Ha Young, Eva Bru, Pierre Alexandre Bouvery, Annika Lübbert, Sean Fitton, Sofie Hub, Bettina Carpi

This project is part of an artistic research that explores the relationship between (group) dance improvisation and the aesthetics of play through an embodied analysis of De Jaegher’s and Di Paoli’s concept of participatory sense-making (2007).  In this project we explore the notion of touch and its constitutive role in the participatory sense-making process of dance improvisation. 

Starting point are concepts uch as the touch field, intercorporality, co-agency and Paxton’s third entity (in Pallant, 2006), also referred to as the rolling point of contact between two or more movers(Dey and Sarco-Thomas, 2014). The third space in contact improvisation is a space where materiality is contested. It is a place of negotiation, in which selfness and otherness are explored through the sharing of weight, energy, strength and balance. The third space is a zone of proximity, a moving point of contact, a vitalizing site. 

In this project we intermingle the dancing, with the writing and  reflecting. There are two stages: First, we explore the notion of touch individually by making contact with the floor, the walls, ceilings and other things or materials that can be found in the studio. Then we  work in small groups and shift to the notion of touch as a form of intercorporality (Fuchs, 2016) and co-agency. 


  • Be aware of the micro adjustments in the touching.
  • Stick to one touch, repeat it, over and again and find something new in the repetition.
  • Absorb proximity. Take it in, spit it out.
  • Shift from a continuous touch to a sudden or unexpected touch. And the other way around.
  • How much weight can you take in?
  • What is a fugitive touch?
  • Shift from local to global touch, and from global to local touch.
  • Can you be in a tactile nowhere? Try it.
  • How does touch travel through you?
  • How many layers or textures can you distinguish in the touch?
  • Return together to the first touch. And the second touch. Revisit it.
  • Use the river as a metaphor for touch. Remember: you never step in the same river twice.
  • Find gaps and holes in the bodies or in the space. Fill it with touch.
  • Touch without touching.
  • Decompose the touch: bring it back to its essence or to its most basic ‘form’.
  • Shift awareness from surface to depth in the touching (and the other way around).
  • Sense the elasticity of the touch.
  • What is the absolute minimum of touch (where you can hardly sense it anymore)?
  • What is the absolute maximum of touch (where you can hardly sense it anymore or take in)?
  • Draw the contours of touch. Stay vague.
In this artistic project I developed a Touch Game. 


  1. Give the floor a big hug. Alone.
  2. Try to touch as much of the floor as possible. Cover the floor with your touch. Work together. Do it systematically: start from the left corner behind and end up in the right corner in the front.
  3. Make a pile of bodies. Move into a pile and move out it again. Repeat.
  4. Work together in a whole group. Bring one person to the other side without him/her touching the floor. No-one is allowed to stand on his feet.
  5. Pushing and pulling game: wrestle with another partner.
  6. Whisper-game: some-one starts with a touch, and hands it over to the person next to him, who hands it over to the person next to him/her – so that a chain of touch starts to evolve. In a circle or a line.
  7. In-between the other scores: Try to touch some-one without the person noticing it.
  8. Return tot the floor. Alone. Let the floor hug you.

Also read:Traces of touch




Dance Archive

Dance Archive

Solo: Stem (1999)
Choreography and performance: Carolien Hermans
Photography: Jo Grabowski
Go Solo festival, Amsterdam; Internationales Solo Tanz Theater Festival Stuttgart

Warner & Consorten (1996-2001)
Photography: Peer Reede
Touring in Europe (Denmark, England, France, Spain, The Netherlands) and South America (Colombia)

Plastic Torso and Artificial Limb Project (2002)
Choreography: Carolien Hermans
Dancers: Ailed Izurieta, Jane van Fraasen. Stefania Ammirata and Nicola Hepp
International Dance Festival, Caracas, Venezuela, July 2002

Photography: Martijn Gallenkamp

Photography: Miguel Gracia

Frozen (2001)
Choreography: Carolien Hermans
Dancers: Ailed Izurieta, Manuel Perez
International Dance Festival, Terpsichore, Belgium
Concours Chorégraphique, Sense, France
Festival voor Nieuwe Dans, Provadja, Alkmaar, The Netherlands
International Dance Festival, Caracas, Venezuela

Photography: Miguel Gracia

Germany Project
Photography: Claus Langer


Saturday 26th of January 2019, Amsterdam

Indoor Hockey: Hurley, boys B5, Luuk Scheers and team

The hockey stick

In hockey, the stick becomes an extension of the self. The stick has “ceased to be an object for the player, and is no longer perceived for itself; its point has become an area of sensitivity, extending the scope and active radius of touch” (Merleau-Ponty, 1968, 143).  Rather than thinking about the  stick , “it is more accurate to suggest that the players think from the point of view of the stick, and consequently also perceive our environment in a different way” (Reynolds 2004, 17).

Look at the next quote of Gregory Bateson (who used the example of a blind man’s stick) in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, how this is as much true for the hockey player:  
‘ Consider a man with a stick. Where does the self begin? At the tip of the stick? At the handle of the stick? Or at some point halfway up the stick? These questions are nonsense, because the stick is a pathway along which differences are transmitted under transformation, so that to draw a delimiting line across this pathway is to cut off a part of the systemic circuit which determines the blind man’s locomotion’.

Malafouris adds to this: ‘I believe this example provides one of the best diachronic exemplars of what I call the gray zone of material engagement, i.e., the zone in which brains, bodies, and things conflate, mutually catalyzing and constituting one another. Mind, as the anthropologist Gregory Bateson pointed out, “is not limited by the skin,” and that is why Bateson was able to recognize the stick as a “pathway” instead of a boundary’ (



  • the players ‘on the bench’ are physically engaged in the game, see  their shared attention
  • synchronisation of body movements – specifically in duo’s (attacker and defender)- sometimes mirrored, sometimes not. At some moments an almost perfect synchronisation is reached, at other moments it is more chaotic and less synchronised. 
  • mirrored synchronisation: this specifically happens when the ball is in-between two players
  • point of attention is located at the ball (as a moving target); the players adapt their bodies accordingly (an example of triadic attention)
  • even the referee is synchronising his movements with the hockey players

Volleyball: KvA, boys A1, Jochem van der Valk and team


  • synchronisation of blocking the ball in duo’s;
  • full bodily engagement;
  • ball is the locus of attention;
  • preparatory movements (anticipation of the body, bring ing the body in the right position with respect to the moving ball and the other players in the field);
  • example of smashing: body is completely aligned with the ball;
  • expression of faces (controlled or non-controlled?);
  •  the local participatory sense-making is dynamically created;
  • team coordination depends on the team’s collective attunement to shared affordances (Araújo and Bourbousson, 2016)

‘Through practice, players become perceptually attuned to affordances of others and affordances for others during competitive performance, and re ne their actions by adjusting behaviours to functionally adapt to those of other teammates and opponents.This process enables them to act synergistically with respect to specific teamgoals. An important feature of a synergy is the ability of one of its components (e.g. a player) to lead changes in others. The decisions and actions of players forming a synergy should not be viewed as independent, and can explain how multiple players act in accordance with dynamic performance environments in fractions of a second’ (Araújo and Bourbousson, 2016, p.134).

Volleyball: KvA, girls KVA7, Lisa Scheers and team


This for me is more of a dramatic performance. It reminds me of theatre, not only in the expressiveness of the body, but also in its messiness and chaos.  Every-one is engaged, in their own way, and independently of one another. However, they still form a group, they belong together, they share the same goal. 

Playing with Snow II

Playing with Snow II

16th of December 2018
Luuk Scheers, Lisa Scheers, Lotte van der Valk, Jona Claveaux
WG terrein, Amsterdam

Snowball Fight

A snowball fight is a physical game in which balls of snow are thrown with the intention of hitting somebody else. The game is similar to dodgeball in its major factors, though typically less organized. This activity is primarily played during winter when there is sufficient snowfall.

A snowball fight played for fun often has the following characteristics (Wikipedia, n.d.):

  • There is crude formation of “teams”, usually two groups of opponents throwing at each other.
  • Those in a fight often do not behave malevolently; a target is usually not viciously assaulted by snowballs.
  • There is minimal physical contact, aside from perhaps wrestling.
  • In contrast to other forms of fighting, there is usually no intention of bodily harm.
  • Construction and use of snow forts is usually permitted. 

Luuk, Lisa, Jona and Lotte have additional rules: you should not throw the snowball too close to the other person and you should not unexpectedly attack someone else from behind. The boys behave more aggressively towards each other then to the girls  and the oldest guy is not using all his force/power (in other words, he takes the others into account

Sometimes they play individually, sometimes in pairs (boys against  girls). The game consists of: making good snowballs, hiding behind a tree, bush or car, tracking the other, dodging when a snowball is coming at you and attacking at the right moment.  Thus: attack, retreat and prepare for another attack. .


Making a Snowman

How to make a snowman:
1. Pack a snowball with your hands  for te bottom section.
2. Roll the ball along the ground
3. Form the middle section.
4. Lift the middle section onto the bottom section.
5. Make the head.
6. Pack some snow between the different sections.
7. Find materials such as twigs, leafs and berries to make arms, nose, eyes, mouth and buttons of the imaginary jacket (for some strange reason snow men do have buttons on their belly). 

Interesting enough, the four teenagers want to destroy the snow man as soon as it is finished. In fact, the destroying of the snowman is as much fun as the making of it. 

Making a snowman is a good example of participatory sense-making. In many ways it  reminds me of dance improvisation: every-one is involved in the task but not in an identical way. Every body contributes to the making of the snowman, however each in a slightly different role. Solo’s, duets and  group work interchange with each other.

I notice the following things:

  • coordination of movements;
  • rhythmically adjusting the movements to each other and the objects (snow balls): synchronising body postures and movements;
  • sharing same momentum;
  • clear compositional structures (working for example with distance and proximity; 
  • individual acts that  contribute to the group;
  • shared attention and shared focus;
  • serious attention to having fun;
  • physical problem-solving (the four teenagers hardly speak to each other);
  • an opening of attention: both to the work space/environment and the others
  • ‘each person is at once responsive to others and independent of them, ready to be changed by, but not absorbed into, another person’s activity. The skill lies in being able to include what another person is doing while not losing one’s own momentum of though’ (Tufnell and Crickmay, 1990, p.72)
  • each participant is an autonomous agent
  • the movements are attuned to  the making of the snowman: the bodies unfold and shape themselves around this third entity (the snowman)
  • it’s a self-structuring process.





Drawings – Some Exercises

Drawing In Three

The players all have a piece of drawing paper in front of them. At the top of the paper everyone draws a head with eyes, nose, mouth and everything that one likes about it. The more the better. A neck is drawn underneath. Now the paper is folded so that there is just a piece of neck to see, but nothing more of the head. The paper is then passed on to the neighbour.  Everyone has drawn a paper with a head of someone else on it, but the others don’t know what it looks like. Only the small piece of neck indicates where the body should be drawn. It is now time to draw the torso. This can be the torso  a man, a woman or a child, an animal or even an alien. There must be indicated with a few lines where the legs should come. After this the player folds the paper so that the only the outer lines are visible. Now the paper is passed on again and on the last piece finally comes the bottom, the legs or whatever supports the creature.  Everyone who is ready folds his paper and passes it on for the last time. Now it is time to open up the papers.


Creativity test: Incomplete Figure

You have three minutes to add lines to the figures below to make pictures out of them. Try to tell a story with your pictures.



Self-Made Objects

Self-made objects: the Post Box
November 2018

You can put small messages in it. I posted two messages:

Message 1: Dear Lisa, how are you? I’m doing well. I would like to tell you something special, a secret or something, but unfortunately I do not have secrets. Are you coming to eat an apple pie? Love, Carolien

Message 2: Did you know that if you eat two or more pink cakes a day, your teeth turn pink? This is probably something you like to know. Love, Carolien


Self-made objects: the Golden Egg
Date unknown.
The object has no function, it is not eatable.


Children love to engage in bushcraft and wildcraft ,it often forms an intrinsic part of their play motives. 
Pictures taken in Azores (1st of August 2014), Lisseuil/France (23 April 2017, 16 August 2017).
Lisa Scheers, Luuk Scheers
Bushcraft is a popular term for wilderness survival skills, in other words, skills that are necessary to go into the wilderness and draw all of our needs from nature. Through a deeper understanding of the natural world we gain a sense of our place within it and can develop a very real sense of belonging.

Bushcraft is about thriving in the natural environment, and the acquisition of the skills and knowledge to do so. Bushcraft skills include firecraft, tracking, hunting, fishing, shelter-building, navigation by natural means, the use of tools such as knives and axes, foraging, water sourcing, hand-carving wood, container construction from natural materials, and rope and twine-making, among others.

Wildcraft (also known as foraging) is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or ‘wild’ habitat, primarily for food or medicinal purposes. It applies to uncultivated plants wherever they may be found, and is not necessarily limited to wilderness areas.



Self-made weapons:



Totem: A totem is a natural or supernatural object, being or animal that has personal symbolic meaning to an individual and with whose phenomena and energy one feels strongly connected.








Playing with Sand

Playing with sand

Sand is a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles. It is defined by size, being finer than graveland coarser than silt.

Playing with sand I
Lisa Scheers, 9 of April 2017, Wijk aan Zee


Playing with sand II 
Bayonne, France, 10th of August, 2018
Philippine Voskuil, Olivier Voskuil, Lisa Scheers


Jumping of a sand dune
Basque Country, August 2018, Luuk Scheers



Blowing Bubbles

Blowing bubbles is a child’s play.

Bowing bubbles is a question of how a liquid film—typically soapy water—interacts with an imposed flow of an external fluid, which is air in the case of bubble blowing.The shape of the bubbles is determined by surface tension. This is what holds the bubble together. It’s also what allows you to fill a cup with water over the brim without spilling. The bubble always tries to make the shape with the minimal surface area. In the free air, this is always a sphere.

Lisa Scheers, Lotte van der Valk

1st of December 2018, Amsterdam


And on 29th of December 2018:

Lisa and Blanket

Transformations with a blanket: Lisa uses two blankets to transform in different animals.

The first transformation is a bird. ‘Birds are free’ she says, ‘so I can do what I want’.

Second transformation
Question: What happens when I touch the water (= the blue carpet in our living room)? 
Answer: I become a fish

Third transformation
Question: What happens when I touch the earth (= the floor of our living room)? 
Answer: I become a mole

Fourth transformation:
Question: What happens when I touch wood (= the wood the small table)? 
Answer: I become a beaver

Lisa Scheers, 18 November 2018, Amsterdam


Blog 1

Week 45: 5-11 November 2018

Resting Places for Potential Body Parts

It was a strange experience to be in a dance studio again (it has been a while). My first idea was to explore the notion of touch while being alone. So how the floor and walls make contact with my body: how they support my body. How I can rest in the floor, in the walls, to find comfort. So after I installed myself in the studio, the first thing I did was to lie on the floor. This was in fact too comfortable since I relaxed entirely and felt no need to move any more. The comfort of the floor resulted in my body entirely surrending to stillness.

I forced myself out of this comfortable stillness (it felt as if I was not spending my time in fruitful way). But maybe it would have been good to sustain and nurture the stillness a bit more. To completely surrender to the floor, giving over entirely, for as long as possible. Would it be possible to surrender to the floor for a couple of hours? For a day? For a week? In between I would probably fall asleep, or move between different states of consciousness. A few hours, yes, but a whole day would already become problematic. First because too much stillness would create discomfort too. Second, because all kind of other bodily needs would come to my attention too (feeling hungry, thirsty, needing to go the toilet). And most importantly, the stillness would require a great deal of mental effort and I guess I am too restless and impatient for that.

Another strategy: to remove myself as much as possible from the floor by using objects that support my weight and guide me into gravity. The studio was full of chairs so I decided to use them. First, very comfortably. Using different chairs for different body parts; which was still an easy job to do. Then I slowly started to remove chairs and I ended up with two chairs: one to support my head, the other one to support my feet. I put the chairs closely to each other and then I slowly created more distance between the chairs by using my arms and legs, until I reached the point where only my head and my feet (and a bit of my legs) were supported by chairs. It was no longer comfortable. My feet were still providing me quite some support since I used the friction between the back of the chair and my feet to keep my body stable. I felt a growing pain in my upper back and also I was afraid that the chairs would be pushed outside by my weight and I would collapse to the floor. 


I used the resistance between the chair and my feet as a way to stabilize my point. Contact point = (also) a point through which one can resist forces (such as gravity and weight).

Also here I had the idea that I could have pushed it a bit more. To remain longer in the pose: to feel which body parts were craving for support the most.  If I would have to say it now, I would say that my upper body needed the most support.

Week 46 (12-18 November 2018) and Week 47 (19-25 november 2018)


Every time I am in the studio I feel so restless, due to the felt necessity to produce something. Even in the studio I am a slave of my own machine, movements should always produce something…a new movement, an idea, an insight, so that I can go home and say ‘I really had a fruitful day’.

It is difficult to enjoy. I find it difficult to surrender myself over to time.

Okay, so what did I do? I worked on some material that I collected last week, specifically on the assignment to remove myself as much as possible from the floor by using objects that support my weight and guide me into gravity. Again I used chairs. This time I felt a bit more control, I was able to suspend the movements, to hold myself longer in positions where I felt hardly any support from the chairs. At some point (when my feet was supported by one chair and my head by another chair) I felt that I could go on for ages. Different from last week was also my attention. I was much more aware of my focus, first on the wall, then on my feet, then the ceiling and eventually the floor. Was it because the touch with the chairs felt more comfortable? Did I have more ‘space’ to guide my attention outside, to the environment?

After a few rounds, I was quite satisfied with this experiment and I felt no need to explore it any further.

At home I already thought of other things to work on – in relation to touch. One is to explore the notion of ‘leaving traces of touch’.  I realized that I had been working in the studio, but no traces of my body-in-touch (well except on a microscopic level) would be found there. I touch the floor, the walls, with my whole body, with parts of my body, but all of that remains invisible. There are no traces. I want to think of a strategy where the traces of my body touching the space become visible. The work of Nancy Spero might be a source here. Using paint or another substance that make the movements of touch visible. (I am not interested in something static, but something that can capture the dynamics of touch, to build up layers of touch, preferably whole body touch, not only using the hands because that seems the most obvious thing to do).  I don’t yet have a solution, so I will do some small experiments at home. To be continued.

I have the idea to make a short ‘touch lecture’, a studio performance and talk on touch.

Another idea: to make a connection map between my body and the space (to visualize possible contact points). For example, to attach a rope to different body parts and to connect them to the space. I am not sure yet about this idea.

Finally, I worked on ‘the floor is lava’, this game where you are not allowed to touch the floor. I placed all kinds of objects in space and then I moved through space without touching the floor. I felt clumsy and old to be honest, and stupid too. Maybe you also need the excitement of other people, in outside/daily environments, doing it alone seemed a bit awkward.


Week 50 (10-16th of December 2018)

Transformation I
In the Theatre of the Conservatory of Amsterdam

A slight change of plan, because of several reasons but mainly time pressure and the fact that I am working alone, I put ‘the touch experiment’ aside for a moment and concentrate on intensity and vitality affects.

So I want to work on transformations, I specifically want to re-enact three dance play events of my daughter: the hotel dance, the dance with a blanket, and the spontaneous dance in our living room.  The aim is to return to the initially felt intensities/affects that were once present in these three dance play events, in a few improvisational sessions. I want to examine concepts such as energy, affects, intensities and aliveness that I find evident in the three play dance events. I believe these affects and intensities give rise to transformative powers, ways of becoming that create openings and passages through which I re-engage and re-connect with once felt intensities.  The photographs serve  as an entrance point. I take the material to the studio and try to re-enact the playful dance event. The aim is to capture the intensities/forces/energies/affects that were once produced and felt by my daughter.

This week I take the dance with blankets as a starting point. In this dance, Lisa uses two blankets to transform in different animals: a bird, a fish, a beaver and a mole (see the post on blanket). I use these different animals as a framework.

The blankets help me in  becoming animal. I guess the space works too. I am not in a studio but in a theatre space and the light, black curtains help me to create a black box in which the animal can be released. As a result, I am more expressive, at some point I even feel that I return to dance pioneers such as Isobar Duncan, Martha Graham and Kurt Jooss through this expressive powers – so that I do not only re-enact the play dance of Lisa but also some part of history. I exaggerate my gestures, sometimes even ritual movements take over, so that energy fills the space and the animal 

I notice that it is important that my head (read: face) is covered by the blanket. It makes me less human, less of a personality, and more an organism. 

Steve Paxton refers to the animal body as the presence being underlying the socialised self. “Ones animal” is a physical intelligence composed of movement patterns and reflexes, both inherited and learned, that form our ability to energetically meet the environment (in Lepkoff, 1998). 

To become, writes Deleuze, ―is not to attain a form (identification, imitation, mimesis) but to find the zone of proximity, indiscernibility, or indifferentiation where one can no longer be distinguished from the animal (Beaulieu, 2011, p.74). he becoming animal is a process that is fueled by desire, by a longing for proximity and sharing (Brown, 2007). It’s the ability to participate in the other. In otherness. Becoming animal is a bodily experience: we sense the presence of the animal, we use our embodied sensitivity to creatively engage with the animal. We enter into a relationship that consists of movements and rests. Becoming animal is not a thinking of the animal, but a sensing of the animal.



On the 20th of October we have  a dinner with our neighbours. Our children  spontaneously start to engage with a game in the hallway: they sit on the ripstiks, using it as  a vehicle instead of an object you can skate with. One of the rules is that they have  to move around obstacles that are placed in the hallway (such as a blanket). They also  try to push each other off the ripstik.

Amsterdam, 20th of October 2018
Lotte van der Valk (13 years), Lisa Scheers (12 years), Luuk Scheers (14 years), Jona Claveaux (17 years).



Shapeshifting in between land and sea: the butterfly-man and the gorilla- girl

Shapeshifting is the ability of a being or creature to transform its physical form or shape.

The most common form of shapeshifting  is that of therianthropy, which is the transformation of a human being into an animal or conversely, of an animal into human form.

Strange things happen in the space where land meets sea. This tiny in-between space is a transformative space. New organisms are born in this in-between space. And not only that. Human bodies need to adapt  in order to survive in this zone that is no longer land but not yet water either.

First example: the butter fly man



Here below you will find examples of transitionary states: wings are not yet closely attached to the body, they are still separated. The pictures provide clear examples of bodies that are  in an early stage of transformation.

Second example: the gorilla girl

I also discovered another type of transformation, that again takes place in the space in between land and sea. This time, the hair of the girls starts to grow over the face, as a form of protection against the strong wind and the salty water.




Sea Dance

On the 24th of October 2018 I went with Lisa to the beach of Ijmuiden. It was a windy day, and as a result many kitesurfers were challenging the sea.  It was a beautiful day, with a bit of sun shining through the dark clouds. 

Lisa performed several sea dances, all improvised.

Photography/video: Carolien Hermans
Performer: Lisa Scheers


Under Water

The girl that lived under water….(and that was later joined by an underwater boy). 

(The pictures below provide preliminary evidence for the existence of under water people.)

(I spotted the underwater girl somewhere far away from here, in crystal blue water, in an undiscovered area in the Atlantic Ocean. First she seemed a bit shy, but then I triggered her curiosity (I guess because of my camera). The underwater girl swam towards me. Some interesting details: she had arms and legs, no sharp features in the face except for eye brows and a thin vertical line that might possibly be a nose, long hair and strangely enough she wore a bikini (I expected her to be naked). After a while a boy joined her.)


Fortnite (produced by gamestudio Epic) is an immense popular shooting game, with 50 million gamers worldwide, mainly in the age of 13 to 17 years old. It’s free to play, it’s a battle royal game (a multi-player game that can handle many players in a confined map), it’s got humour, it combines elements of shooter games with building games, it’s very youth friendly and has a wide social media scene.

The objective is to be the last one left standing at the end of the match. However, the victory dances have become one of the most favourite parts of the game. They have even reached the status of a cult phenomenon.  The dances of Fortnite are fun because they refer to almost a century of pop culture and make connections between hip-hop and street dance, horror films and old TV-comedies. The Basic Dance for example comes from an episode of Scrubs during Season 5 of the show. Ride the Pony is inspired by the Gangnam Style. Take the L is taken from the movie IT which was  an adaptation of a Stephen King book. The Floss mimicks the Backpack Kid (Russell Horning) when he appeared on stage with Katy Perry during an American TV show.

Luuk (14 years) is a fan of the Fortnite games and knows pretty much all the moves. In the video beneath he performs several Fortnite dances.

Video and editing: Carolien Hermans
Performer: Luuk Scheers
27th of June, 2018, Amsterdam


Auvergne/France, 6th of August 2018
Lisa and Luuk Scheers






Affect Resonance 3

Dance improvisation of Paula Ferreira, July 2018, Dublin/Ireland. 

In Affect Resonance 2 you see how I ordered the material in terms of transposition of energy, intensities and affective resonance – still using the material from the first dance improv of Paula. In ordering the material from the second improv, I decided again to focus on affects and intensities (and not on shape/form). During the second impro, Paula used her voice, probably to give way to affective melodies that emerged, and I believe the sounds that were produced  resonate quite well with Lisa’s Hotel Dance. So I extracted only the audio from the video file. You can listen to it below…


Affect Resonance 2

Dance improvisation of Paula Ferreira, July 2018, Dublin/Ireland. 

In Affect Resonance 1 you see how I ordered the material in terms of similarities between Lisa’s hotel dance and Paula’s dance improv in terms of shape, form and outer appearance. However, this didn’t feel right. Foremost, because I was still thinking too much in form, in outer shape while in fact I was interested in the transposition of energy, intensities and affective resonance.

Underneath you find two selected movement fragments, one of Lisa’s hotel dance, and the other of Paula’s dance impro. Although there is no (identical) resemblance in form/shape, I do believe that intensity, energy and affects are transposed or passed on from Lisa to Paula.

First you  see a fragment of Paula’s dance, and then a fragment of Lisa’s hotel dance.


Affect Resonance 1

Dance improvisation of Paula Ferreira, July 2018, Dublin/Ireland.

 I met Paula in Stockholm and Chichester at the ADiE research intensives. I asked her to re-enact the hotel-dance of my daughter (Lisa).

I only used the photographs (and not the video) of the hotel-dance as source material for the dance improvisation.

The assignment was like this: ‘look at the pictures first, choose 3 to 4 images that resonate or appeal to you (in whatever way, you don’t have to explain this, the resonance can be entirely on an affective non-linguistic level) and then you try to recapture the energy, the vitality affects, or just something that grabs you and takes you along. It’s quite important that you don’t think to much about it, so that the body and the affects it produces guide you. The comment can/should be quite short, since I am mostly interested in your initial embodied response’. 

Underneath you see footage of the first dance improvisation. I first looked into physical similarities, in terms of shape and outer appearance. 

First you see the image, then you see Paula’s response.


To shelter: a place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger.

David Sobel writes about special places (shelters). In his research he found that children have a universal tendency to create or find their own private places, specifically children in the age of seven to twelve. Children like to find and create places where they can hide away and retreat into their own found or constructed spaces. These places can be built or found inside but also outside (such as a fort, den, tree house, a hidden corner in the house, a shelter). 

Lisa’s (12 years) shelter, Amsterdam, 17 July 2018 

Luuk’s shelter (13 years) shelter, Lisseuil, May 2017

Lisa’s shelter (11 years) shelter, Lisseuil, May 2017




Writing as Play

Here’s a workshop exercise I did together with Claire French, Paula Guzzanti and Alex Hoare, at the Chichester intensive research week, 25-29 of June, 2018.

When you tired of writing, tired of fixing words and meanings, tired of being smart, then maybe it’s time to try out this exercise.

  1. Take a paper and a pencil.
  2. Get yourself into a writing position (e.g. put the paper on a table or other surface, take up the pencil, bring pencil to the paper)
  3. Start writing. However, the aim is not to produce letters, words or sentences. You write without the purpose to reveal linguistic meaning, instead you write, and you engage with the act of writing  through rhythm, repetition, variation and melody. (You imagine to write a letter to some-one, to yourself, to an object but without using the alphabet, since you will be inventing your own…)

4. Hand your letter over to another person.  This person now engages in the act of reading. You try (very hard) to read this letter, which can be quite difficult since no semiotics evolve out of the text. Read it, taste it, feel it (with the eyes, but you can also use other senses).

5. You write a comment, a short review (something that is suggested…)

6. You hand over this comment to the other person (the one you received the letter from).

7. Read the comment you received. Read it out loud. What kind of sounds, melodies, noise does it produce? Does it produce words? Does it produce language? Is it loud or gentle? Does it produce rhythm? Silence?

7. Take back your original letter. Zoom in and take one graphic that appeals to you (without maybe knowing why since it is most probably…a vitality affect….. a desire….)

8. Bring the graphic into the space: draw it in space, use  your own body or use objects to compose the graphic in space. Question: Suppose it is a living being, how would it move, how would it behave? How would it resonate with the space? Where would it find shelter? What would it eat? How would it communicate?



Beach Dance

The 12th of May, 2018, Wijk aan Zee.

We are at the sea and Lisa starts to spontaneously move and play with the sand. First she does a handstand, a cartwheel and an Arabic. After that she throws sand in the air and finally she plays and dances with the waves and the sea water.

Photography: Carolien Hermans
Performer: Lisa Scheers(12 years)

Experiment with coloured sand: Ijmuiden, 24 October 2018

Seagulls dance: Ijmuiden, 24 October 2018

Sand dance: Ijmuiden, 24 October 2018



Dance Impro Group 3 (MTD)


Dance improvisation with first year students Modern Theatre Dance, University of the Arts in Amsterdam. I used the photo and video material of the work with the four boys as a starting point. The dance students worked in three groups and were asked to revisit play by choosing three/four pictures of the boys and to make a dance improvisation around these pictures. If they choose for a picture with only two boys, they could fill in the  third person.

March 2018, Amsterdam
Group 3: Lucie Rutten, Oriane Gidron, Jente Witvrouwen, Oscar Valenza 

Photography and Video: Carolien Hermans







































Associated material:

See below a video of the dance footage:



Dance Impro Group 2 (MTD)

Dance improvisation with first year students Modern Theatre Dance, University of the Arts in Amsterdam. I used the photo and video material of the work with the four boys as a starting point. The dance students worked in three groups and were asked to revisit play by choosing three/four pictures of the boys and to make a dance improvisation around these pictures. If they choose for a picture with only two boys, they could fill in the  third person.

March 2018, Amsterdam

Group 1: Simon Lelièvre, Fons Dhossche, Laura Costa, Catarina Paiva 

Photography and Video: Carolien Hermans

See below a video of the dance footage:

Dance Impro Group 1 (MTD)

Dance improvisation with first year students Modern Theatre Dance, University of the Arts in Amsterdam. I used the photo and video material of the work with the four boys as a starting point. The dance students worked in three groups and were asked to revisit play by choosing three/four pictures of the boys and to make a dance improvisation around these pictures. If they choose for a picture with only two boys, they could fill in the  third person.

March 2018
Dancers:  Alberto Quirico, Björn Bakker, Lian Frank, Lucie Rutten, Oriane Gidron, Jente Witvrouwen, Simon Lelièvre, Fons Dhossche, Catarina Paiva, Laura Costa, Oscar Valenza 

Group 1: Björn Bakker, Alberto Quirico, Lian Frank

Photography and Video: Carolien Hermans





See below a video of the dance footage:


Play of Four Boys

In the following series of photographs and video you see four boys engaged in play. The photographs are taken at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, 17th of December. Photography and video: Carolien Hermans. Performers: Teun van der Grinten, Michel van de Linden, Luuk Scheers and Maas Theuwkens, all in the age of 13 years.

Three themes can be distinguished in their play: Fight Play, Instant Composition and Touch

Often the physical play of children (specifically boys) is a way to challenge and test each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This kind of physical play restricts itself  to the rehearsal of locomotor activity that serves no instrumental purpose. Fagen (1981) describes the distinctive characteristics of fight play as repetition, reversal, fragmentation, exaggeration, inhibition, and unpredictability. 



Instant Composition:
Instant composition is an awareness of space  in both physical play and dance improvisation:

  • using different levels & subspaces and considering other people as part of space
  •  entering space, finding a specific position, positioning oneself in space
  • each improvisation and each play  happen in a distinct context
  • there are always tacit agreements in a social context

In the following series of photographs  four boys engage in physical play. I photographed the momens where the boys seem to be particularly aware of the space.


Touch and physical contact are crucial to both play and dance improvisation. Both physical play and contact improvisation can be seen a conversation in movements, in which physical potentialities are explored in the in-between space between two or more bodies. In the following series of photographs  four boys engage in physical play. I photographed the momens where the boys are related to each other through touch.



Physical play is often stimulated by the use of materials/objects. Materials/object provide affordances for play.  Gibson’s(1979) theory of affordances states that the physical environment  and the materials/objects in it afford different actions and different types of play. These materials can be seen as an invitation for a certain action. A mattress for example affords activities such as ‘jump-on’, ‘hide-under’ or ‘glide with’.

Mattress I: 
During the 13th birthday party of my son, the children spontaneously took the mattress to the stairs and used it as a tool to glide form the stairs.

Photography: Carolien Hermans.
Performers: Teun van der Grinten, Michel van der Linden, Luuk Scheers, Maas Theuwkens, Otto Plasmeijer. 

March 2017, Amsterdam


Mattress II:
In this research study with four boys I reserved the Theatre at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. Except for a grand piano, black curtains and a blue mattress the space was empty. One boy commented: ‘But we need material to play with’. They immediately went to the mattress and out of that physical play evolved. 

Photography: Carolien Hermans.
Performers: Teun van der Grinten, Michel van der Linden, Luuk Scheers, Maas Theuwkens.

17th of December, Conservatory of Amsterdam

Mattress III:



Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a popular children’s game in which any number of players conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more seekers. The game is played by one player chosen (designated as being “it”) closing their eyes and counting to a predetermined number while the other players hide. After reaching this number, the player who is “it” calls “Ready or not, here I come!” and then attempts to locate all concealed players.[2]

Photo series: Hidden
Concept & Photography: Carolien Hermans
Performers: Lune Tourvieille, Lisa Scheers

Video: Hidden
Concept: Carolien Hermans
Performers: Lune Tourvieille, Lisa Scheers
Camera: Louise Oeben

Hide and seek I: a series of photographs
Photography: Carolien Hermans.
Performer: Lisa Scheers (11 years).
WG, Amsterdam, May 2017

Hide and seek II: a series of photographs
Photography: Carolien Hermans.
Performer: Lisa Scheers (11 years).
Amsterdam, 3 of July 2017

Hide and seek III: a series of photographs
Photography: Carolien Hermans.
Performer: Lisa Scheers (11 years).
Brittania Hotel in Coventry, July 2017. 

For more reading: HideSeek


Hide and Seek IV: a series of photographs
Photography: Carolien Hermans.
Performer: Carolien Hermans
Berlin/Schmockwitzwerder, 6 of July 2018

During the holidays I discovered that you can also hide under water.
Aubazine/France, 17th of August, 2018
Performer: Luuk Scheers, Lisa Scheers
Photography: Carolien Hermans


Hotel Dance Play

In this study I photographed my daughter, Lisa  (11 years), at the Brittania Hotel in Coventry. We were visiting  the Dance and Somatic Practices Conference, 7-9th of July,  at the Coventry University. In Coventry, I made three series of photographs: curtain dance, seek and hide game, and play dance. In this post you see photographs of the dance play event. While I was making tea, my daughter put on some music and started to dance spontaneously. I recorded this play dance on both camera and video.