Dance watchers take the stage

For more than 10 years, choreographers Kattrin Deufert and Thomas Plischke have been inventing theater spaces.

Choreography by Kattrin Deufert and Thomas Plischke (photo credit: DEUFERT & PLISCHKE)
Choreography by Kattrin Deufert and Thomas Plischke
(photo credit: DEUFERT & PLISCHKE)
When viewing a dance performance, one rarely considers the movement of the audience. Spectators are wowed by the unison of dance companies, attributing this synchronicity to hours of practice, while their own synced movements with fellow crowd members go unnoticed. To choreographers and creative team Kattrin Deufert and Thomas Plischke, the dance of the audience is more intriguing than the dance on stage. Currently in Israel as guests of Arkadi Zaides’ Moves Without Borders and the Goethe Institute, Deufert and Plischke will present The Entropic Institute Tel Aviv this Saturday as part of Tmuna Theater’s A Genre Festival.
Deufert and Plischke hail from Berlin, where they are senior lecturers in the bachelor’s program of the Interuniversity Centre for Dance Berlin (HZT). The two have been working together since 2001, almost immediately after meeting in a workshop.
“We knew right away that we wanted to work together,” said Plischke over breakfast at a café in central Tel Aviv. While he spoke, Deufert was exploring a local playground with their one-year-old son Mauritz. “We knew that we didn’t want to work from consensus. We didn’t want to sit and discuss an idea until we agreed on something.”
Two months after they decided to cease all individual work and move forward together, they were invited to lecture about their process. “We had been working together for so little time, we didn’t know exactly what to present. We began by writing down our childhood memories.
We then exchanged our writings and edited them, adding bits and pieces where we felt necessary.
We continued to exchange and edit in this way several times, initiating what we call reformulation or circular writing. Today, this is the beginning of most of our works.
We have done it many times, whether just the two of us or with 40 others. The writing becomes a resource for our work,” explained Plischke.
Deufert and Plischke have since solidified a clear stand on choreography, one that involves breaking down the divide between audience and artist. Their work has been presented around Europe, in theaters as well as museums.
The word “entropy” is taken from thermodynamics. “When water turns to steam, its density gets less while its complexity gets larger,” said Plischke. “Elements drift apart creating space between them. That is what we want to do, to create openings in the world around us,” he said.
The Entropic Institute is more of a philosophic approach to performance than a show. In the words of the artists, “the Entropic Institute is a temporal choreographic environment.
It is a workshop, choreography, parade and masquerade.” The performance will span four hours and will include activities on stage, in the theater hall and outside.
“We believe that opening up choreography means opening up space and time so that the audience can experience the work. When we started, Kattrin and I both felt that the artist often uses the audience.
We hated that. We wanted to create a welcoming gesture for the audience so that if they wanted to join they could. We wanted to avoid the us/them approach that is so present in our world.
“Entropy as a statement says that the world is more complex than that. It means that we can’t apply the number two to the world any more. The Entropic Institute touches people on a personal level. It becomes an interesting story to tell, one that is specific to each participant.”
Mask-making is one activity that Plischke gets a real kick out of.
“People are much more free to participate with masks on. It’s great to see what kind of mask everybody makes. At first we worried that people would think it was childish but it really adds to the experience.”
For those who cringe at the words “audience participation,” Deufert and Plischke’s performance should not be feared. No one is forced or even nudged toward doing anything they don’t want to do, rather guests are presented with the option to execute simple tasks, which contribute to the greater choreography. “You get three cards,” said Plischke. “You can choose whether you want to do what they say or not. You’re already on stage so taking part means taking one small step. You don’t have to cross the entire space or anything.
Watching can also be participatory.
Even if people decide just to observe, they are inherently part of the work. It creates a sense of ‘you and me’ rather than ‘us and them’.”
Deufert and Plischke are currently teaching a four-day workshop at the Kelim Choreography Program in Bat Yam entitled Arachnophobia. The myth of Arachne is central to the duo’s approach to art. A young weaver, Arachne was challenged by the Goddess of Craft, Pallas Athena, to a contest. Arachne’s carpet depiction of the gods’ abuse of power infuriated Athena, who turned Arachne into a spider doomed to weave forever. “The tale of Arachne is so important today. I believe that art can unveil symbolic powers at work,” said Plischke.
The Entropic Institute Tel Aviv will take place on March 22 from 4-8 p.m. For more information about Deufert and Plischke, visit
For tickets to the performance, visit or