Janet Rühl / Arnd Müller


Dance production for a female and a male dancer. Examination of variations with costumes in dance.

Choreography and Dance: Janet Rühl, Arnd Müller, Costume: Midori Kawamura, Composition: Edu Gur, Lightdesign: Maik Blaum, Creative Coach: Andrea K. Schlehwein, Photos: Mirko Milovanovic


Proceeding from the physical experience that each piece of clothing has its particular impact on movement, our approach to this project has been unusual, since all costumes were completed before rehearsals began. In dance productions, the meaning of costume usually is reduced to its practicality, but plays a minor role in respect to transporting their message. In modern dance, the popular costume for women is a short dress, for men a shirt and pleated trousers. This is true for dance theatre as well as abstract contemporary dance or modern ballet.

Costume is completely disconnected from the theme of a dance production. Costume must, in the first place, enable the dancers’ movements which were developed in sports wear. Costume designers have to work with a pair of scissors at hand, sacrificing their concepts for stretchy cloth and short flimsy dresses. The standard argument put forward by dancers runs that in dance, movement is telling the story, not the fabric swathing it. ‘How am I supposed to do this or that movement or lift my leg in a long dress...’ the female dancer cries out. We agree. This is the approach to our project: ‘Which movements cannot possibly be performed in certain clothes? Which are the movements emerging in clothing that is unsuitable for dancing?’
In conjunction with our costume designer, we chose three "every-day costumes" which represent different areas: One costume is the track-suit: wide, tough, soft, robust, cosy, comfortable.The other represents the elegant evening dress: precious, figure-hugging, tight, delicate.The third is no costume at all, it's bare skin: sensitive, intimate, personal, direct, unprotected, naked.

Several weeks we spent in the studio, exploring and improvising with these three costumes and thus created a fund of movements for solo and duo dance which correspond to these clothes. This material forms the basis for three duos and six solo choreographies, namely: Tough, Elegant and Naked. The nine dances, each of a length between three to five minutes, constitute the foundation of our production.

In appropriate dressing one can justify this choreography, although it has a rather stiff and rigid appearance due to the elegant evening dress and suit. But it becomes abstract and gives room to new perception and interpretation, when the costume is exchanged and the movements are performed without dress – naked - or in wide, hard-wearing clothes.


Naturally, when the movements developed in tough costume are performed naked, they become provocative and vulnerable. In elegant dress, this choreography which depends on free movement of Tough cannot be performed without tearing up the elegant costume.

At this point, we take another step in our work. Besides the development of suitable movements for each of the costumes, we want to treat ourselves and our costumes with care. The intention is not to recklessly trespass limits that either seam or our sense of shame set and tear apart a dress or our naked selves in front of the audience. Here, we have to check our fund of material again: What can be danced and how? How can Tough, characterised by floor-work, lifts and jumps, be performed in an elegant and delicate costume? What character does the delicate movement study that emphasises the body-line get when performed in ‘work clothes’ that wrap the body completely?

In order to develop a story from the idea that started off with exploration, we additionally changed costume in our duos – the two dancers are not wearing the same style of clothes.

Thus, a variety of combinations emerge: The female dancer performing Elegant in her track-suit while the male dances naked; or, while she is wearing an evening dress, he is dressed in a track-suit; or, Naked is danced by a nude female dancer while he performs in an evening suit; or, she dances in an evening dress, he in track-suit.

All in all, there are 27 variations on the theme to which another 18 solo variations are added. This sums up to a material for about three hours. From this abundance, we developed our dance production. It tells the story of a couple in various situations: crazy, appropriate, clumsy, harmonic, funny, touching.

For us, the fascination lies in the magic that the stories develop out of the respective combination. Absurd and beautiful moments arise, supported by the idiosyncratic choreographies and the change of the costumes: a naked man dancing an elegant

solo with a woman in an evening dress – this is our starting picture. Towards the end, both dance Naked in their track-suits, get out of their clothes and continue nakedly. We might proceed with Tough, danced without clothes, or she dancing Naked as a solo in her track-suit, while he dances his Naked solo in a suit. The stories develop from this miraculously by themselves.

Premiere: Projekttheater Dresden, November 2001, Duration: 60 min