Design And Performance Lab


New ChoreoDesign Project 2006-2008

Suna No Onna

Laban Centre Theatre is delighted to announce the world premiere of Suna no Onna, the new piece from Dans Sans Joux, in the Laban Theatre Studio on Saturday 8 December at 1930hrs.


Dans Sans Joux has been commissioned to create a new movement-design performance for the INTIMACY festival organized by Goldsmiths College on the weekend of December 7-9, 2007. Suna no Onna ( "Woman in the Dunes"), adapted from Hiroshi Teshigahara's mysterious 1960s cult movie, is a dance installation that merges virtual and real images of a life of existential entrapment in an inhospitable habitat. The ominous sand dunes of Teshigahara's desert are transformed into virtual realities that shape the unconscious ground where the Woman (Katsura Isobe) meets a scientist-foreigner who stumbles into her life to become a captive. The work combines dance, interactive video and animation, fashion design, and computer music created by an ensemble of artists from diverse creative backgrounds. The integration of the various elements of this performance follows an experimental fashion concept for the development of sensorial clothes (built with intelligent fabrics) which respond to human emotions and environmental pressures.

Conceived and directed by Johannes Birringer and Michele Danjoux, the stage production features new fashion concepts by Danjoux and digital designs by a group of collaborating artists including Paul Verity Smith, Doros Polydorou, Maria Wiener, and Jonathan Hamilton. Original music is composed by Oded Ben-Tal, and the scenography is by Hsueh-Pei Wang. Lighting design by Miguel Alonso. Suna no Onna is performed by an international cast of three : Japanese dancer Katsura Isobe, British dancer Olu Taiwo, and Chinese dancer Helenna Ren.


Dans Sans Joux is a new company founded in 2004 by Johannes Birringer and Michle Danjoux when they started a telematic performance and design laboratory in Nottingham and began to develop wearable prototypes for performance in networked dance environments and fashion contexts. They were joined by Helenna Ren, whose performances were featured at the 2005 Digital Cultures festival (in telepresence with partners in Arizona). As a result of their shared vision to expand the boundaries of digital performance and design, real-time music and virtual environments, the company has been collaborating with a group of dedicated interface designers and motion graphics artists, and released a film (KlŸver) in 2006 which has been shown in the USA, Czech Republic (Prague Quadrennial), and the UK. Suna no Onna was developed during a residency at the Interaktionslabor in Germany in the summer of 2007.


Notes from the script

Notes from movement

Begin our journey from inside landscape, imagined as it is. Sand earth the home or the disposition of porous living.

Folded crevices of existence. The performance will be staged in a gallery or theatre allowing great flexibility of scenography. Audience on three sides. performer in centre, on two angles/side of the performance space are dark curved screens. a rope ladder hangs from the ceiling.

Our distance to a darker underworld (coal mine and tunnels underneath) informs irony of the archaic in the digital world. Its dark underside. In my home region, all the green landscape is under-tunneled. Earth underneath exploited, and brought upward as black gold, as they sometimes say. There is destruction of the environment, and return to primeval states (forest, the rewilding near Göttelborn). The state is a large patch of woods they will no longer "care for", care-take.

The woman protagonist in our new performance (inspired by Kobo Abe's 1962 novel Suna no Onna) is caretaker of the sand. Movement starts from dreaming sand and being in it. Each intruder will be captured. Only one intruder will come, in the course of the performeance, an entomologist looking for a rare sand beetle, an insect that likes the particular habitat.

He will be forced to shoveling sand upwards, into a special pulley system that transports the sandbags to the late capitalist world where a company is selling the brittle sand so that housing can be built. Sometimes the sandbags are also needed as dam material against water, floods and social dissolutions.

Architects like Oscar Niemeyer have built whole cities to look like airplanes that can escape the floods of dissolution.



Diante do nada



In Act I, after the sunrise scene, we see the airplanes for the first time, on the screens. they look like strange birds, from a distance. When they spread the wings, they look like kites or flamenco dresses.


The village corporation sells the sand to be used as building material, but it is brittle, these buildings may not last. Brittle bricks will also make their appearance in this physical / digital dance. The woman wears a garment that appears to be a worker outfit. But it also can look like a ritual garment, the kind one wears to an ancient ritual taking place in an imaginary place. the garment is worn and digitally transformed. It has a second virtual existence, as if it had flown into a samurai movie where it enacts the principles of the samurai code.

At the end of Act, the entomologist arrives. He had gotten lost in the sand dunes, night arrives, and he needs a place to stay over. This changes the psychological situation. The woman becomes host to a stranger.

The woman, who so far was one with the sand, gradually begins to manipulate the habitat. The environment is seen on the screens, as it is being subtly changed or transformed. Birdairplanes are coming still and fly over it. Water trickles down, and there is wind.

We hear the chorus of the village corporation. In the dance, we see how the environment is also becoming the body and its skins, garments and accesories. The digital images move through the garment, the woman's body senses all, her sensors embrace the space invisibly.

The invisible embrace is a virtual ritual of distorted landscapes, geo-morphoses, broken sediments. The garment is also flesh, the gestures working themselves down into the fabrics. It is dangerous to wear down. A warrior suit for battle against demons of the air needs to be strong. Airbirds and poisonous beetles that can kill. Under the earth flamingos can poison the water one drinks. The ladder rope from ceiling has been raised in Act II, it is not possible to leave. The scientist is now also a captive. Drinking or washing oneself becomes more difficult. Act III show magical moment of "digital" washing and drinking, the man is a captive of the woman's power of suggestions. She teases the science.

The right shoulder is ripped. there is something wrong with the right shoulder. the garments become more asymmetric. There are also rifts in the images, and slowly an emotional tension is built up as we know to anticipate the torture of the captive. all captives are normally tortured. the village is watching the embrace.


In ACT IV, we cannot be sure what happens to the man and how he adjusts to his failed escape plans. Initially he hopes one will remember him. It was rumored that he had disappeared, one day in August. He had simply set out for th seashore, and nothing more was ever heard of him. [Many disappearances may be described as simple escape.]

Yet the traces of labor and of love and violence are everywhere. The habitat is under 'erosion'. Existence cringes. The garments are eroding, and all our wearables gaining a distressed feel. The sound has become very minimal, and ominously repetitive. In the distance, a tiny ring of a bell. But the rhythms are changing, and in the repetition the sounds have an effect on what we see. This is a beautiful and familiar world, fully eroding right there in front of our eyes. The man and the woman hope to have a radio one day.


(Katsura Isobe in rehearsal, samurai defense against airbirds, November 2-3, 2006)






Text and Film credits: Johannes Birringer, Adaptions from Kobo Abe.

For conceptual reflections on the project, also presented at DRHA Dartington, see

"The Emergent Dress: Transformation and Intimacy in Streaming Media and Fashion Performance" by Johannes Birringer & Michele Danjoux,

in the forthcoming issue of Performance Research. See also M. Hansen's "Embodiment: The Machinic and the Human".


For the film exhibition of "Intimate Klüver" at Dartington College of Arts in September 2006, click here.

(c) dap 2006


Project directors: Johannes Birringer & Michèle Danjoux

Brunel University, West London