Go Deeper

Jan Fabre Teaching Workshop

Posted April 10th, 2008

Last week, Marina Kaptijn and Tamara Beudeker, teaching artists from Fabre’s company, came to Philadelphia and taught a five-day workshop for a select group of Philly dancers. Fabre has a formulaic approach to choreography in which his primary aim is to create severe structures in which his dancers otherwise have complete freedom. He is interested in building situations in which chaos can be contained.


This message was originally posted on 1/31/08.What I saw in the workshop clearly evidenced Fabre’s method. During a series of movements in unison, someone shouted “types!” and the dancers exploded into different character portraits of cranky old men, Bush-loving patriots, and super saucy Latinas—suddenly the studio felt strangely akin to a sanatorium on the lunar eclipse. After this brief adventure in crazy land, the dancers sprinted to the back of the room, formed rows, and began a very clean, simple ballet combination to The Doors’ “Love Me Two Times.” I wanted very much to join them.

In a later section, several dancers laid on the floor, slowly carrying their arms through the air above. Miro artistic director Tobin Rothlein entered the space and began a monologue: “Hi, my name is John. I’m working on a better me. This is my book on aggression.” He continued, first reading from a text, then ad libbing, riffing on different ways that humans can inflict pain on each other. The dancers gradually rise and begin a careful improvisation.

Kaptijn and Beudeker later described to me Fabre’s various approaches to structure. They also told me about his fascination with creating motifs of metamorphoses. “When Jan was a child,” Beudeker told me, “he used to take dead insects, like a fly and a beetle, and then cut off the fly’s wings and attach them to the beetle.” It had never occurred to me to try this.

Jan Fabre will create a world premiere solo on dancer Ivana Jozic for this year’s Festival. The piece has a working title of Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day, a line from Bobbie’s Gentry’s 1967 hit, “Ode to Billie Joe.” If this workshop gives any indication of what his structures can produce, you won’t want to miss Fabre’s Philly debut. Keep visiting our blog for updates on this and other works for the 2008 Festival. Think of it like porch-sitting in the summertime—come often and stay as long as you like.

For more information on the Festival, visit us at