TAMAMU is an ensemble combining dance, painting and music on stage - and in its name, as it is an acronym composed of the initial letters of Tanz, Malerei and Musik, the German words for those three disciplines. The origins of TAMAMU date back to the early 80s when Roman Scheidl met dancer Bettina Nisoli in Switzerland. At that time, she would often perform in museums, establishing a link between museum and theatre work. Roman took care of the lighting and started to develop an interest in what he describes as figures moving in light. Originally, he had become acquainted with the stage as a musician playing in a band, which had made him aware of the group experience that is an essential feature in dance theatre as well: “Every member contributes to making the whole thing work.”

Bettina and Roman got to know each other at a time when boths of them began to feel attracted by the Far East: while she had an Asian teacher, he took an interest in Japanese drawing. What he found particularly titillating about it was that, contrary to the European style of working on the basis of preliminary drawings, Chinese drawing stood unamendable.

The idea of using a projector to add pictures to the stage arose from a purely practical consideration: it was easier and cheaper than taking full stage equipment on tour. In 1988, the first night of Suite for six, the first piece featuring drawing in light, took place in Vienna.

Upon Bettina’s death in 1996, Roman took charge of the ensemble who perform at a rate of once or twice a year.

Together with Katharina Puschnig the NEW TAMAMU Ensemble was founded 1997.Contrary to what they used to do, the members of the ensemble now are more independent and enjoy more room to express their individual talents. A great deal of what they perform is the result of coincidental combinations of dance, painting and music on stage.

Their performances basically are choreographed rather than impromptu pieces, with the drawing providing the scores. Roman supplies the picture, i.e. brush drawings reduced to bare essentials, to go with lyrics, music and motion.

Usually, Roman joins the ensemble in the final third of their rehearsal period to produce hundred of drawings. “Repeating the figures and strokes hundreds of times is the only way of getting a rhythm and making them reproducible.” Pictures are generated not only to mirror the dancing motion but also to accompany music in intermediate pieces.

Coincidence is a great helper invariably unfathomable in its pattern of appearing. Music comes in late in the progress of rehearsing, which is a means to maintain a higher level of concentration among the artist.

“We need to keep the channels open for energy to flow through. The artists’ minds ought not to be driven by clear objectives. As in art, the rule goes: intention spoils more often than not. You have to muster up the courage to unleash form the way it comes and to consider yourself a tool. This equally true for painters, dancers and musicians.”

When asked about what the ensemble would like to be perceived as, Roman readily responds by paraphrasing Peter Brook:” We perform for a larger, universal cause. And the audience have an opportunity of looking on.” – And he smiles. In his own words: friends meet to play together.

Text: Daniela Kaminek

Point of balance

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