In an effort to safeguard movements from extinction, choreographer Katja Heitmann founded the Motus Mori Institute.
It is dedicated to ‘the collection, preservation, display and transfer of the movement-heritage’. In 2020, she received an ‘impulse grant’ from Dioraphte. This funding provides her with the opportunity to work with more dancers over a longer period of time, so that she can build up a larger movement archive and show it to a wider audience at national and international festivals as well as in museums.
‘The idea of creating an archive dedicated to the heritage of movement that is inevitably becoming extinct started after the death of my father,’ says Heitmann. ‘He left nothing tangible after his death. I searched for something that I would be able to keep. Then I remembered how he sat at the table scratching his nose deep in thought. It made me think: perhaps you can focus attention on those aspects too, before a person disappears. Then you start to view people in a very different way.’
‘This is how it works,’ explains Heitmann. ‘We travel into the cities and invite people to donate their movements to us. Then dancers store those movements in their bodies, like a kinetic portrait. In other words, the archive works through body, to body, to body and so forth.’ The donated motions form the basis of movement exhibitions, in which the dancers present these movements to the public, of each city, for several weeks, five hours a day.
As Motus Mori spends several weeks in one place, ‘the movement of Utrecht’ will come into being, or ‘the movement of The Hague’ or ‘the movement of Tilburg’.
Heitmann believes that the bond between the dancer and public that have donated is something very special. ‘In a one-hour interview, the dancer completely immerses themselves in the donor. And then they will perform the motion in slow motion. This makes it both abstract and universal. People recognise some kind of intangible core of themselves. That is powerful.’ To give an example: Motus Mori interviewed seven of the remaining one hundred Sisters of Charity in the city of Tilburg. One of the nuns offered up her evening ritual for donation. Heitmann: ‘Before retiring to bed, she would light a candle, kneel and pray. When she carries out this evening ritual now, she explained, she imagines the dancer who archived her movements in her body. That is comforting and healing.’