CONVERSION / AFTER AFGHANISTAN
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STORY OF CONVERSION
(A documentary by Julika Bickel)

DATES

14 June 2017 | 8 pm

Ballhaus Ost Berlin

Performing Arts Festival – Tickets

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24 / 25 / 26 November 2016 | 8:30 pm
Kampnagel Hamburg

Tickets

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05 October 2016
Installation / Lecture Performance
Goethe Institut New York, NY, USA

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30 September and 01 October 2016 | 7 pm
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA
Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater

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23 / 24  June 2016 | 19:30 h
Impulse Festival
FFT Juta, Düsseldorf

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 08/09 April 2016

Graz, Theater am Lend

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30/31 January 2016

Berlin, Ballhaus Ost

„Everyday we leave the house, we are aware that we may die.“

The COSTA COMPAGNIE conducted research in the Hindu Kush for three weeks at the end of ISAF’s mission and spoke with Afghan activists, journalists, scientists and students, as well as with German and American soldiers and diplomats about their experiences within the region’s complex situation. CONVERSION translates the multiple voices and contradictions of the material into a powerful performance that blends contemporary dance, research-based theater, soundscapes and multimedia installation to create a new form of the messenger’s report, while pursuing questions such as: How did the ISAF-mission affect the situation in Afghanistan? And by which interdisciplinary means can we approach war?

Afghanistan-Research-Blog: http://costacompagnie.tumblr.com/

She wrote that all the material she had collected could not provide “documentation”. Documentation always aspired to completeness, to truth. But even if everything was based on documentary material, what it reflected was more an emotional state.

She wrote that it was impossible to create a representation of reality. Every individual had a different system of personal values and ideas which orders the world for them – and the challenge of a place like Afghanistan is that the sheer number of complex contradictions and mutually exclusive moral situations is so overwhelming that one has no alternative than to abandon everything one ever thought before. You have to open up a new area where you try to think of reality. Because in Afghanistan you are permanently and offensively confronted with the positive and negative actions of the West.

From: “CONVERSION / AFTER AFGHANISTAN”

“The Costa Compagnie does not try to explain the world to the audience. Instead they very effectively and powerfully document the kaleidoscope of an heterogeneous Afghan present on the way to an uncertain future. A remarkable achievement. “
Mannheimer Morgen Nov. 05, 2015

“Critics of the conventional image of women in Afghanistan come to speak as well as advocates of the Taliban and the Sharia, soldiers of the ISAF troops as well as Afghan civilians. In passionate dance sequences one suspects traumatic experiences. ”
Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, 05.11.2015

“In striking image, sound and dance compositions, arranged with intelligent mounted text from documentary and essayist shares, the performance group” Costa Compagnie” manages to appropriate experiences of a complex Afghan presence by artistic means, and translates them into a political as well as emotional context and besides all dismay, flashes a glimmer of hope.”
www.Theaterpur.net, June 30, 2016

“One Afghan woman says that only one newly established girls’ school would have been enough to justify the mission. But then someone objects her immediatly. The strength of this piece is that it shows the disintegration of the country while strongly integrating the causes and the historical developmen.. (…) “Conversion 2″ has become a very compelling documentary play for the stage. ”
SWR 2 (Southwest Broadcasting), May 09, 2015

“… The company at last makes their own role the topic. Can and should Western artists speak for the people of Afghanistan, without doing harm to their voices or sliding into moral kitsch or art-colonialism? In a fantastic and smart, when also partially escalating manner, the polyphony and inconsistency in dealing with so-called crisis regions can be experienced directly! ”
Kronen Zeitung, Austria, April 09, 2016

»Start Cooking … Recipe will follow”. This motto-of-the-year the “Impulse Theater Festival 2016”-Director Florian Malzacher has proclaimed for his festival. Which seem to also has been the motto of the mission of the Americans and Germans in Afghanistan. Shortly before the end of the ISAF mission, the artists of the Costa-Compagnie led by Felix Meyer-Christian traveled to the Hindukush, to look at what freedom precisely has been defended. They spoke with soldiers, with civilians, with Taliban supporters and emancipated women. The result from that research became the intelligent performance “Conversion / After Afghanistan”. A mix of video impressions, dance passages and documentary theater. In one sentence by an interviewed officer, after which the “friend-foe-identification” had been lost on site, the status-quo of the military-moral disorientation is being summarized pretty accurately. Another war piece that convinces without didactics. ”
www.kulturwest.de, June 15, 2016

“(…) Among all the listed proposals for theater visits was one production, which pursued the very question of art, politics and political action in a profound, courageous and at the same refreshingly open and highly conrete way, as it has not previously been seen before: ” Conversion – After Afghanistan” in an overcrowded Ballhaus Ost by the independent group Costa Compagnie (…).
The group itself stays not neutral and refers in its final text on the invalidity of a Western capitalist cost-benefit analysis in a war zone, after a clear naming of the problems in the country and the contradictions of the West. Instead the group calls on all utopian “polyphonic principles” and a reorientation of thinking within your own assessment while at the same time demanding the end of violence on a practical and political level – “with whatever means”. For the ones who want to see something urgent of the world and favor “Art” over “Artivism” this performance is a must. ”
www.nachtkritik.de / leserkritiken, January 30, 2016

TEAM

Artistic Director / Text / Performance
Felix Meyer-Christian

Choreography & Dance
Jascha Viehstädt

Dance & Performance
Hauke Heumann, Toni Jessen, Frank Koenen, Akemi Nagao, Maria Walser
Jorge Rodolfo de Hoyos, Paolo Amerio (Tour)

Audio
Katharina Kellermann
Marcus Thomas (Tour)

Video
Miguel Murrieta Vásquez

Video-Support
Jonas Pluemke

Stage Design & Costume
Anika Marquardt, Lani Tran Duc
Betti Pommer (Tour)

Light Desgin & Tech
Fabian Eichner

Dramaturgy
Stawrula Panagiotaki

Assistance
Nicole Nowak
Zahava Rodrigo (Tour)

Subtitles
Anna-Lena Pappe

Research in Afghanistan
Stefan Haehnel (Video), Felix Meyer-Christian, Jascha Viehstädt

Translator in Afghanistan
Ahmad Nasir Formuli

During the shows of CONVERSION_2 / AFTER AFGHANISTAN at the Theater und Orchester Heidelberg from 08 – 10 May 2015 as the final work of the two-year-cooperation, following members of the theater participated:

Performance
Hans Fleischmann, Florian Mania, Nanette Waidmann

Dramaturgy & Coordination
Sonja Winkel

Production Management
Marlies Kink

Also
Children‘s choir of the Theater and Orchester Heidelberg under direction of Anna Töller

Information on the Doppelpass-Cooperation and on the shows at the theater:
http://www.theaterheidelberg.de/?events=conversion_2-nach-afghanistan-08-05-2015-1930

PRESS REVIEWS

Mannheimer Morgen, 11.05.2015
http://www.morgenweb.de/nachrichten/kultur/regionale-kultur/wirkungsmachtiges-kaleidoskop-der-widerspruche-1.2238544

Performance: With “Conversion_2”. After Afghanistan.” the Theater Heidelberg presents a remarkable theatrical experience.

Powerful Kaleidoscope of Contradictions

By Martin Vögele
At one moment, the actor Hauke Heuman reflects the writing of an unknown author: „She wrote, the challenging part in a place like Afghanistan would be, that the sheer abundance of complex contrariness and of mutually excluding moral situations is so overwhelming, that nothing would remain, but to abandon everything one thought before, in order to open up a new field of thinking.“
The Hamburg based costa compagnie sets foot on the traces of these contrarieties, hopes, experiences and fears of the Afghan population and interim-occupants in their performance „Conversion_2. After Afghanistan.“. A dance-performance within the overall project „Conversion. A German-American Chogeography.“ in cooperation with the Theater and Orchestra of Heidelberg, where the piece premiered.
Shortly before the international military mission in Afghanistan „ISAF“ ended in December 2014, artistic director Felix Meyer-Christian, choreograph Jascha Viehstaedt and cameraman Stefan Haehnel set out to research on-site: In the cities of Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif and within two NATO-camps they spoke with over 30 Afghans as well as German, Dutch and American soldiers and collected video- and audio recordings all around. Documentary and essayistic texts, video-tableaus, dance and sound composition now merge within CONVERSION_2 into a theatrical reflection of this trip. The many-voiced texts are mostly brought forward by the performers (Hauke Heumann, Hans Fleischmann, Florian Mania, Nanette Waidmann) and sometimes directly delivered from the videos.
No easy way
But also the dance is multi-formed: Frank Koenen, Akemi Nagao, Jascha Viehstädt and Maria Walser change between impulsive shows of strength, subtle physical seclusion, rhythmic-eruptive chaos and a harmony searching synchronicity. One of the strongest moments might also be the most disturbing one: The dancers perform a boygroup-choreography while the theater’s children’s choir (which also took part in the earlier performance installation around the theater) sings „Colors of the Wind“ alongside the actors, a song which was written for Disney’s „Pocahontas“.
„Conversion_2“ does not choose an easy path – not for the group nor for the audience, as the spectator is confronted with a surge of opinions and images (at the end of part 1 a gigantic, inflated plastic tube overgrows the entire stage). Meanwhile the costa compagnie does not try to explain the world to the audience. Instead, they very effectively and powerfully document the kaleidoscope of an heterogeneous Afghan present on the way to an uncertain future by artistic means. A remarkable achievement.

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung Heidelberg, 11.05.2015
http://www.rnz.de/kultur-tipps/kultur-regional_artikel,-Conversion_2-im-Heidelberger-Theater-Afghanistan-quo-vadis-_arid,96878.html
“Conversion_2” at the Theater of Heidelberg: Afghanistan, quo vadis?
Dance-Performance about the complex of problems of an oppressed country

By Arndt Krödel
“Nothing is good in Afghanistan.” In 2010, this brave sentence by Margot Kaessmann stirred up a lot of criticism in the public debate, as she as was the chairman of the Protestant Church in Germany. But maybe this statement helped to question complex matters and to break free from habitual patterns. The same approach is tested by a joint production of the Hamburg based costa compagnie and the Theatre of Heidelberg, which runs under the title “Conversion_2. After Afghanistan” and which just premiered on the theater’s big stage. The dance-performance is the second product by the collaboration of the two companies, who already have released “Conversion_1” in 2014, a performance which deals with the drawdown of the US-forces from Heidelberg.
Before the international military mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, three artists of the costa compagnie traveled to the Hindukush. They conducted interviews with the locals, but also with soldiers and asked for their experiences and feelings regarding the past and the present. A present, which has to acknowledge, that its coordinates are changing without anyone being able to tell how it is all going to end one day. With the intention to develop new forms of documentary and choreographic working, a dance-performance out of the collected material was created, as a subjectively observed snap-shot of Afghanistan.
The performance, for whose text and artistic direction Felix Meyer-Christian is responsible, therefore does not seek to – and cannot be – a documentation in its narrower sense. As the performance understands itself as “interdisciplinary”, it works with the artistic means of contemporary dance (choreography: Jascha Viehstädt), video on different surfaces and presents a sometimes quiet abstract sound environment of everyday-sounds, of military environments, as well as composed music. Even the “Alte Saal” (smaller, traditional stage) and the foyers are integrated, with installations and appearances of the children’s choir singing “Im Früh taut zu Berge”.
On stage, actors take the parts of the interview partners and present themselves as messengers of an unknown world that displays itself as multi-faceted and contradicting and often as diffuse. Critics of the conventional image of women in Afghanistan come to speak as well as advocates of the Taliban and the Sharia, soldiers of the ISAF troops as well as Afghan civilians. In passionate dance sequences one senses traumatic experiences, when the performers in distressed movements appear as to be running against an invisible wall.
The performance leaves one stunned and a little overwhelmed, as during the dense construct of breathlessly changing scenes and fragments one sometimes loses orientation. Still: The sorrowful question is articulated very clearly and impressively towards the end: Afghanistan, quo vadis? The group succeeds with enthralling images and haunting situations, especially within the dance parts, for which the Hamburg-Heidelberg ensemble is to be praised. The audience appeared to be also taken with the presentation with a long and affectionate applause.

FUNDED THROUGH THE FONDS DOPPELPASS BY THE

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IN COOPERATION WITH

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Guest-Performances at the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater / Vassar College, NY, USA are supported by the Nationales Performance Netz (NPN) International Guest Performance Fund for Dance, which is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag.

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