Practicing Empathy #1

For several years the Yasmeen Godder Company has been developing various performances, programs and approaches to build more direct connections with the community they are working in, as well as the audiences they encounter while touring and working abroad. Since 2019 they have framed that interest inside of a research project titled Practicing Empathy, of which three distinct performative encounters have been created. Each of those performances question what allows us to connect more deeply with ourselves and others, as well as what opens up our ability to take in complexities and process what challenges us. The project focuses on the act of practicing empathy in a performative context, which exists outside our daily habits, to discover new ways to better open and connect with those around us.

The first outcome of the project is Practicing Empathy #1, which is a group exploration into forms of support and collective courage to explore and expose one’s emotions. Through physical formations, songs and chants, the group searches for ways to bolster one another and respond to individual and communal expressions, as they manage sensations that consume and overtake them. They play with creating an environment where empathy is explored not only for comfort and relief, but also in its more fragile, as well as energizing moments, which are amplified by the group’s commitment and contagious vulnerability.

There were numerous reasons Yasmeen Godder created the Practicing Empathy project, ranging from the personal to the political. One reason came from a personal need Godder had to more directly respond to the conflictual atmosphere in Israel, as well as the polarization and disconnect experienced globally. The project is a response to that discord and apparent loss of people’s capacity to feel for another’s experience, especially if another’s worldview appears far from their own. Another reason for the project came via audience feedback received from previous Godder works that dealt with various forms of participation (Climax 2014, Common Emotions 2016, Simple Action 2016). Following several performances of those works, people used the word empathy to describe their experiences, inspiring Godder to further engage with dance and performative encounters to spark alternative ways of being together in society. Another reason and resource for the project exists in Moving Communities, a project of the Yasmeen Godder studio, which hosts ongoing dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s Disease since 2016, as well as workshops for Arab and Jewish women to meet and dance together in the studio.

Co-production: Tanzhaus nrw, Düsseldorf | Supported by: Rabinovich Foundation and the Israel Lottery Council for the Culture and Arts.