Jakarta. A blind date is a fascinating affair — this doesn’t just ring true for those who are searching for their potential soul mate, but also when meeting a future working partner set up by a third party.
The feeling of excitement, paired with a touch of anxiety, was an experience shared by Elia Nurvista and Josh Johnson as well as Fitri Setyaningsih and Nicola Mascia, when they were brought together by Goethe-Institut Indonesian and the Mousonturm, an art house based in Frankfurt that serves as a theater, production and communication site for international artists of various disciplines, for this unique project called “Choreographers’LAB.”
The “Choreographers’LAB” was part of Indonesia LAB, a cooperation platform by six renowned cultural institutes from Frankfurt, Germany, that initiated artistic collaborations in music, dance, performance and art by inviting outstanding artists from Indonesia and Germany to work together.
The pieces by Fitri Setyaningsih and Nicola Mascia as well as Elia Nurvista and Josh Johnson were first presented in Frankfurt in October, shortly before the Frankfurt Book Fair, where Indonesia became the first Southeast Asian Guest of Honor country.
Prior to the first performance, the two pairs spent some time together in Indonesia and Germany to get to know each other better, discuss their visions and work and to build a solid foundation to create artistic ideas together.
As part of the German Season, a festival celebrating the Indonesian-German friendship through cultural, economic and political discussion events, the “Choreographers’LAB” was presented in Jakarta last Friday and in Solo on Monday.
“The first time I met Josh was via Skype,” Elia, who initially studied interior design and has been working as a food researcher visual artist since 2010, recalls. “Afterwards, I saw one of his performances in Tokyo and then he came to Yogyakarta in August.”
They instantly had a good chemistry, yet when Josh spent three weeks in Yogyakarta, they didn’t start working on their project immediately. Instead, they began their artistic encounter by talking more about their lives, hanging out and simply having a good time together. In return, Elia traveled to Frankfurt in mid-September and became part of Josh’s daily life – until they finally presented their work within the framework of Indonesia LAB.
“I liked working with Josh, even though he constantly changes his mind,” Elia says with a laugh. “But I mean that in a good way. Since Josh also works as a DJ, I went to all kinds of different clubs when I spent time with him in Frankfurt. But in the meantime, he has become a really good friend.”
Josh, who originally hails from Los Angeles but has been based in Frankfurt for five years, still vividly remembers his visit in Yogyakarta.
“I had been to Bali before, but this was my first time in Yogyakarta,” says Josh, who is a former dancer of the renowned Forsythe Company. “It was cool because Elia knows a lot of people and has great friends and family.”
They both insist that the result of their collaboration must still be regarded as a work in progress. Since they both share a passion about food, they have incorporated eating habits of Indonesia, Germany and the US into their creative concept.
“We are speaking about social class and capitalism through food,” Josh explains.
The second couple that met for a blind date, Fitri and Nicola, also found common ground quickly during their exchange phases: Fitri, who in her works often blurs the line between choreography, visual arts and other cultural practices, develops choreographic structures out of batik techniques and costumes out of plastic bottles that envelope the dancers like sculptures.
Together with Nicola, who is based in Berlin, they created a piece in which they explore the human body with all its possibilities. The costume that Fitri made for “Choreographers’LAB” is an intricate work on which she worked for several weeks.
“Nicola came to Yogyakarta, and then I went to Berlin, before we traveled together to Frankfurt,” Fitri says, adding that the time they spent together was more about exchanging ideas rather than coming up with a fixed concept. “We never really spoke about the setting or the actual performance.”
The result was an intriguing artistic path that led the audience from a “sugar bed” interspersed with video art to a path covered with flower petals to the final dance act in the spacious courtyard.
Both couples feel that their collaboration has been a fruitful one.
“I want Elia to come to LA,” Josh says with a smile.
Even though sometimes blind dates don’t work out and are quickly dismissed as an uncomfortable incident one never wants to mention again, in the case of “Choreographers’LAB” it turned out to be an approach that brought forth extensive artistic output.