Reviews Creating Joy

Creating Joy

As I get my online ticket for Creating Joy by Ann Van den Broek, I receive an email from associate producers Theater Rotterdam explaining that there will be two versions on display: one version with two dancers on stage and two dancers at home, and the other with the roles reversed. I watch the version with Gabriel Maury and Carla Guerra on stage and Marion Bosetti and Louis Combeaud on screen.

The stage design, by Niek Kortekaas, is sleek. An all metallic and white set that looks like a laboratory or an industrial kitchen. A big double-sided screen on a movable platform is in the centre, and underneath, a disco ball. On stage: two dancers, a master of ceremony (Gregory Frateur), a filming crew and the two “home-working” performers on Zoom.

Creating Joy is an online presentation, a registration of a performance-to-be that mixes real-time and pre-recorded videos. The performers, who maintain their distance at all times except during a massage scene between Maury and Frateur, mimic joyful moments here and there, such as salsa dancing or the politely distanced dance when passing a stranger on the street. Intercutting the stage action is a series of video intermezzos: different testimonies by the artistic team about what joy is to them. When do they feel it, what actions bring it, what other emotions come paired with it. Notably, Ann Van den Broek herself talks about finding joy in sadness or the great pleasure of baking bread. Bosetti and Combeaud respectively embroider and bake bread whilst sometimes joining in with the movements happening on the other side of the screen.

Frateur introduces the videos, stating if they were recorded or not. He shares parts of the creation process, as well as sings at times. The song A Part of us All by his band Dez Mona is a leitmotiv throughout the film; we see videos of different solo interpretations by the musicians on the team, on harp, lute, double bass, electric guitar or loop station, taking the song in a variety of directions.

Zoom calls, social distancing, bread making, embroidery, a stage, a home… all sprinkled with Van den Broek’s emblematic sharp gestural language, well-dressed performers, and songs visualized through sign language. Although the concept of this piece was in the making before the pandemic, the current situation gives it a more urgent layer.

The cocktail of elements in Creating Joy is a playful testament to what we can already safely consider “covid trends”. It is perhaps a commentary on what the performing arts have had to juggle with since March 2020, too. The technical precision behind this film is impeccable, although 90 minutes of this patchwork of images, movements, and songs, was a little too long. Rather than a performance, it’s a very well-documented process, an archive of well-constructed thoughts with relatable everyday bits, full of potential.

Lucia Fernandez Santoro,, April 7, 2021

A polished kinetic, aural and videographic walk around joy

Creating Joy is an online repurposing of a planned performance by Flemish choreographer Ann Van den Broek. Joy, Enjoy Joy. What’s in the name? On stage, master of ceremonies Gregory Frateur guides us through a clinical trial. Around him are lab-like trolleys bearing objects such as shiny shoes or a disco ball. On one, a double-sided flatscreen opens windows to recorded interviews, or to relays of dancers Louis Combeaud and Marion Bosett, at home baking bread or practising embroidery while they watch.

Frateur is dressed as a doctor, as are the two on-stage dancers, Gabriel Maury and Carla Guerra. Followed up-close by two mobile cameras, they physically translate possible answers to the main question: the cordial greetings of strangers passing at corona-proof distances, the movement of the hip in a salsa pattern. They explore these elements as if testing their percentage of joyness. It is aseptic to the point of ironic, Marie Kondo-worthy with a smile. That kind of joy.

Frateur introduces each videoclip with its ‘metadata’: recorded or live, film process, take number. He also discloses information about the creative process. The song A Part of Us All by Dez Mona, so we learn, is one of Van den Broek’s inspirations, and we get to see solo versions of it by every musician in the band. The soothing tune and the lyrics thus become the reddest of threads: ‘these are times to cherish, things to live for’. Are they? Like the flatscreens, the whole set-up is a calmly portrayed patchwork of double-sided features. On one of the screens, Van den Broek herself reveals the point: pain and joy coexist, but here she wants to give the latter the focus it deserves.

Van den Broek is best known for her way of enriching the choreographic manipulation of space and time through videographic means. So it is no surprise that Creating Joy, work-in-progress or not, feels more like a polished walk in the park of online streaming than a first step into uncharted terrain. The lab results look promising.

The bottom line: A work-in-progress, Creating Joy is as much the vulnerable fruit of an unfinished concept as a masterclass in media-saviness applied to performance .

Jordi Ribot Thunnissen,, April 11, 2021

Reviews Creating Joy
« Back