Even from the outside, dance seems to be one of the world’s least secure career paths. Christoph Winkler’s Taking Steps extrapolates from this initial instinct and provides an insight into the everyday routine behind the curtains – the part of the dancer’s life that usually remains invisible to the audience. In this case, lifelong learning is not just a popular piece of propaganda from the European Union, it can also be the key to survival.
Luke Garwood, Christine Joy Alpuerto Ritter and Martin Hansen are three currently unemployed dancers. Even though they compete with each other for the few opportunities in the contemporary dance world, they also decide to continue learning from one another. The informal classes eventually sink into the monotonous dance moves “cut the grass and pick the mango” and pas de bourrées. Amid jealous outbursts, intimate confessions and ridicule, the viewer sometimes feels uncomfortable disturbing their work through his presence.
So what’s next? HR experts say that in order to sell oneself, it is essential to know one’s strengths and weaknesses. Luke is tall and can perform a 110 percent kick, Christine Joy, the “more exotic type”, has done 20 thousand pops, and Martin, the “winner”, claims to have done 68,000 sit-ups. We know that numbers are important in the world of marketing. A job interview followed by a recognized dancers unsuccessful salary negotiation is even more disillusioning. Yet, we are still aware that Martin belongs to the lucky few.
The dancers articulate many of their questions during the one hour performance. They don’t understand why they always have to explain contemporary dance – as being different from striptease – and why they don’t have a minimum wage. The almost complete lack of music makes the dialogues even stronger, and the reliance on English texts makes the play particularly suited to English speakers.
Taking Steps also turns the pressure of the intensely competitive job market on the audience by drawing us into the heartless, often boring, routine behind the scenes. Dance is just turned into a product that needs to be sold. The three artists keep glancing at us with hope in their eyes, while we get to decide if we will hire them or not.