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Performing Arts

Dance Theater “The Pursuit of Happiness”


Date: June 13, 2023, 19:30, performance;
June 14, 2023, 19:30, performance
Venue: Experimental Theater @ SIDC

Date: June 17-18, 2023, workshop
Venue: Liangzhu Village Cultural Art Center

Choreographer: Joshua Monten
Duration: Approximately 60 mins

Supported by Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council
Funded by: Pro Helvetia, SWISSLOS / Kultur Kanton Bern, Kultur Stadt Bern, Burgergemeinde Bern, Migros Kulturprozent, GB Kulturstiftung, Stanley Thomas Johnson Stiftung, Ernst Göhner Stiftung, Bürgi-Willert-Stiftung, Gwärtler Stiftung, Stiftung Anne-Marie Schindler, SSA-FARS, Else v. Sick Stiftung

The U.S. Declaration of Independence famously insists on the rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But is it really possible to hunt for happiness? Where does this strange beast reside? And how does our quest depend on the people around us?

A guiding principle of the “Pursuit of Happiness” is that we do not hunt alone. Both the performers and the audience members search for happiness within each other, examining one another’s moods, unspoken needs, trigger points and ticklish spots. They find new ways to communicate at the intersection of spoken language, sign language and movement. Some feelings prove to be contagious, spreading in infectious chain reactions around the room.

The Joshua Monten Dance Company 
is coming this June

The Pursuit of Happiness of the Joshua Monten Dance Company is the first international project of the year at SIDC. The Joshua Monten Dance Company will arrive in Shanghai this June and share with the audience their reflection and interpretation of the hunt for happiness.

An interactive dance theater
threaded by Q&A

The Pursuit of Happiness breaks away from the conventional relationships between performers and the audience, where performers are no longer the only figures on the stage who can decide the story and shape the work but bring the audience in as a part of the show.

The Joshua Monten Dance Company has created a playful and interactive dance performance that is physically and emotionally demanding, exploring new ways of communicating between verbal expressions, body language and physical movements.

In their latest creation “The Pursuit of Happiness”, the audience is distributed throughout the performance space. Their reactions are visible to all, thus they become characters in the very performance they are witnessing.

Through the interactive Q&A, every person on the stage is invited to join the conversation and immerse themselves in the special vibe surrounding the space.

The pursuit of happiness
knows no end

The choreography is structured by cycles of fulfillment and emptiness, by vertiginous cross-fades between hope and despair. Movement itself plays a central role in our quest: the visceral thrill of travel and discovery, the satisfaction of being submerged in the flow of deeply felt experience, the eternal question of how to get your groove on.

John Stuart Mill once suggested that “not seeking happiness and being able to do without it is the most reliable way of attaining it.” Can we ever really know or predict what will make us happy? Isn’t an hour-long performance far too short to have a long-term effect? Doesn’t the pleasure of live theater leave the audience with a terrible hunger once it’s over? Isn’t the journey the goal?

Sit on the stage
and become a part of the show

In The Pursuit of Happiness, the audience surrounds the performing area on all sides. The set — constructed from translucent red plastic curtains divides the audience into separate groups, and quite literally colors their experience of the theatrical environment. The border between “stage” and “audience” is highly permeable, with the dancers sometimes invading the space between individual seats.

About the Choreographer

“Dance is a powerful technology of mood: a tool for reflection, catharsis, and even ecstasy. And a dance performance is an excellent place to go hunting for happiness. In “The Pursuit of Happiness,” both the performers and the audience members join in the hunt by exploring their most basic needs, witnessing each other’s struggles, and wandering the different paths to fulfillment.”

——Joshua Monten

The Swiss-American choreographer Joshua Monten was born near New York City. He studied literature and cultural anthropology at Duke University before discovering dance at the relatively late age of 20.

As a dancer, he performed with Bern Ballett, Stadt-theater Heidelberg, Off Öff Aerial Productions and DA MOTUS! He has worked with choreographers such as Stijn Celis, Hofesh Shechter, Irina Pauls, Konstantinos Rigos und Tino Sehgal. In 2012 Joshua Monten founded his own dance company which has subsequently given hundreds of performances at festivals and theaters around the world, including Hivernales’Avignon, Esplanade Theatre in Singapore, Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, CIFCET Festival in Cairo, Festival de Danza Nueva in Lima, Krokusfestival Hasselt, Festival de Chassepierre, Swiss Contemporary Dance Days and Queer New York International Arts Festival. Joshua Monten regularly choreographs for theater, opera, ballet, museums and arts outreach programs. Indeed, his work as a choreographer is informed by these encounters with diverse audiences and varied forms of artistic expression. He has received choreography commissions from Ballet National du Rhin, Opéra National de Lorraine, StaatstheaterNürnberg, The Yard, Kaserne Basel, Konzert Theater Bern, Zentrum Paul Klee and Art Basel. He is a lecturer at the Hochschule der Künste Bern.

Production team

Choreography: Joshua Monten
Dance: Angela Demattè, Frederik Kaijser, Konstantinos Kranidiotis, Katharina Ludwig
Rehearsal director: Sandra Klimek
Dramaturgy: Guy Cools
Set Design: Romy Springsguth
Costume Design: Catherine Voeffray
Lighting Design: Miriam Berger
Production: Verein Tough Love
Coproduction: Dampfzentrale Bern, Südpol Luzern


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