Sasha Waltz
Photo: Herlinde Koelbl

Choreographer Sasha Waltz on In C

29 February 2024

What began as a way to keep working during the grey days of Covid lockdowns turned into an international movement that continues to grow. Since its digital premiere in 2021, Sasha Waltz’s In C has been performed by dancers and non-dancers all over the world. And in the 2024 – 2025 season, the dance spectacle will reach Amsterdam as well.

Sasha Waltz originally created In C for her Berlin dance company Sasha Waltz & Guests. “During lockdown, when you couldn’t even breathe in the same room as other people, it was primarily a way to still bring the dancers together. As the work consists of separate fragments of choreography, the dancers could rehearse it individually and at a distance.” However, Waltz soon realised that In C could not only bring together her own dancers, but that it also had the potential to bring together people all around the world. “Through the 53 choreographic figures and rules, you invent a language that can be learnt by people of all different ages and cultures, which creates a great sense of belonging. When the music starts, you hear a clear beat, like a heartbeat that connects everyone – performers and audiences alike. And that’s the message: In C connects us all.”

Sustainable staging

In recent years, with the first-cast dancers acting as ambassadors, the ‘language’ of In C has been learnt by people all over the world, from Georgia to India, and from Norway to Mexico. The original online tutorials proved very useful once again. “Last year, for example, In C was danced at the KharkivMusicFest in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Two groups of dancers from Kharkiv and Kiev rehearsed it through Zoom, while we were in Berlin ourselves. Then they came together on stage in Kharkiv. It’s wonderful that things like that are possible.”

Sasha Waltz

“Everyone can dance In C

According to Waltz, this way of working also serves the purpose of sustainability. “As we’re in the middle of a climate crisis, right from the start we were concerned with whether we should travel, and how. For instance, we minimised the stage designs, so that no scenery would have to be transported. But our rehearsal process is also part of this ethos. By sending ambassadors or rehearsing the work online, the movement can grow without a whole group of dancers continually having to travel around.”

Community project

The movement that In C has now grown into comprises professional dancers, as well as amateur groups, youth groups and even non-dancers. “The youth groups dance simplified variants of the original choreographic figures. And amateurs and non-dancers learn a special version of the choreography, whereby they only perform part of the figures”, explains Waltz. “Exactly which version of the work is used is determined by the ambassadors teaching it to the groups. They look at the extent to which a group can perform the figures and rules. This means that In C can be danced by anyone.”

In the coming season, the ambassadors of In C will be rehearsing the work with Dutch National Ballet, the Junior Company and people of all ages and backgrounds (dancing or otherwise) from the seven districts of Amsterdam. These seven groups will eventually come together to dance In C at a special performance, followed by three performances by Dutch National Ballet and the Junior Company. Waltz says, “It’ll be a big community project. In my experience to date, In C knits communities closer together wherever it’s performed, so I’m hoping that will happen in Amsterdam as well!”

Following the rules of the music

In the choreography for In C, Sasha Waltz follows the structure of the music of the same name by Terry Riley, from 1964, which consists of 53 short musical ‘figures’. All the musicians who perform the composition start with figure 1 and end with figure 53, but they can repeat any figure as often as they like, provided they never get more than a few figures apart. Using these rules, Waltz created 53 choreographic figures for the dancers. She also added 53 rules for the way in which the dancers could interact with each other and the space. Keeping to these set figures and rules, they could then improvise on them. Waltz says, “This makes each performance different, and every dancer is also a choreographer at the same time.”

Text: Rosalie Overing