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research towards the performance Katharsis

Road to Katharsis is a research about time and identity. How does time effect an identity and what events change one’s personality or one’s way of presenting themselves?

Road to Katharsis started with a physical research in the form of various workshops led by Steffi Mennen where she explores the body with elderly. They investigate whether one can let go through movement and dance. The aim is for it to be a deeply personal process, for both the participants and Steffi herself. Through movement, documenting and reflecting they figure out how and when one is able to surrender oneself fully to the moment. The attempt is to make each participant experience at least one moment of complete surrender.

EDIT 15 July 2022
Steffi Mennen

During the workshops we were looking for ways to improvise without feeling shame or judgement. How can we create a clear task where the participant broadens their movement language without putting the focus on the fact that they have to invent it themselves?

Art is a language, I want to research whether it is possible to speak the same language through different bodies. Every one can create their own dialect in order to understand each other and to have the freedom to speak the language in their own way and capacities.

During the movement workshops of I find that people are able to explore their own movement language when I create a side entrance. A specific task that is clear and simple but will be done differently by everyone. The participants experience freedom because they can use the exercise as a starting point.

Drawing and moving works calming and relaxing. The participants share that it calms them down when they focus on their drawing or on a specific instrument in the music because they stop thinking about performing as a dancer.

The effect of music is enormous, a song without a beat gives the participants a hard time because they have to create their own rhythm. Every dance has a cadans, often that cadans seems to be led by the music. When the music doesn’t have a clear rhythm the mover gets more freedom to play with the rhythm. I am not stating that music with a clear beat means that one cannot take the freedom to play, but when we place that idea within a first encounter with dance it is difficult to create ones own rhythm. How can we make that easier?

The words: articulation, research, joints, weight, direction,… are effective words to make the participants explore without thinking about aesthetics and performance. It makes them explore the possibilities of their anatomy. Without realizing they are already improvising and creating their own dance, starting from listening to their bodies and exploring the possibilities of their bodies. During the warm up we pass through our body, articulating our joints, after which we use them in relation to gravity and their weight. The arms and upper body were easier to relax and they made us move into space.


Because of the different bodies I have to discover how every single body uses weight in its own way. If one can not bend their knee, how can they use their weight to move their legs through space? The use of different levels? On which body part is the bodyweight? The placement of the weight is crucial.

The moment the participants started to enjoy and stop thinking was the moment in which they got into “the zone”. A moment in which I could see glimpses of their personalities coming out of their movement language. A next step I would like to achieve is for them to open up their zone towards the other participants. How can we work on encounters during their dance?

EDIT 19 July 2022
Steffi Mennen

Something the participants repeated several times was their urge to dance in public spaces. They enjoy dancing and want to move during a concert or when there’s music playing in the background. Often they experience reluctance from their younger family members and friends. Their kids or grandkids tell them to act normal and stop being silly. They shouldn’t dance in a public space. Why do people feel the need to restrain an elderly to open up in a public space? How can we provide them the space to feel the freedom to dance and enjoy?

From October 2022 onwards I will continue this research with a fixed group of elderly. Starting from the same intention of surrendering while moving, I want to deepen the research by questioning in which moments the participants experienced complete surrender during their lifetime. What moments take the inhibitions away?


Daria Halprin, a somatic-expressive arts therapist and dance teacher, said that our bodies are like containers. They store our life stories, but we are not aware in what way they contain our experience, trauma and memories. People of a certain age have had many experiences, trauma and memories, all kept in storage within their body. Can we find a (movement)language to speak about these experiences and their effect on the body? I don't want to only use movement to investigate the effect of time on personalities but will also guide the elderly into using other media such as painting, photography and writing. The artistic proces of Road to Katharsis will create a collective identity in which overarching themes will be shared with a viewer.

EDIT 3 August 2022
Steffi Mennen
Screenshot 2022-08-05 at 21.43.52.png

Geneviève Cadieux, Marfa, 2012, diptyque, épreuves photographiques, 304 x 366 cm

Courtesy Photo synthese

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