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Offensive Tanz

Dance Ambassador Mira and Etchi

" live out this feeling of freedom."

Interview with Farah Deeh and Olivia Mitterhuemer from Potpourri Dance

"For me, the most important thing about dancing is that I always achieve this flow state, i.e. when dancing doesn't just feel like work and I have these spiritual moments from time to time.

Translated with (free version).

The performance PUSH by Farah Deeh and Olivia Mitterhuemer from Potpourri Dance was created as part of the RAUSGEHEN project in fall 2023 in cooperation with the Hector Peterson School.

Olivia and Farah have been dancing "House" together since their youth and are not only known in their hometowns of Vienna and Salzburg, but also through successful tours in many other places. In the fall of 2023, they gave several dance workshops for school classes as part of the RAUSGEHEN project of the Offensive Tanz für junges Publikum at the Hector Peterson School in Berlin and, inspired by their work with the young people, developed the house dance performance PUSH. The piece was premiered on 14.11.23 as part of the Offensive Fachtag Equity im Tanz at the school.

The workshops were very well received by the pupils, and many hope that Olivia and Farah will start another project like this the next time they are in Berlin.

Pupils described the experience with sentences such as "the workshop was great and a lot of fun!". They particularly enjoyed the dance battle-like atmosphere that arose when Olivia and Farah presented some dance units to the classes in the middle of a circle. In fact, at the end of the "Equity in Dance" day, there was a real dance battle in the school gym, with Olivia sitting on the judging panel. Before that, however, Olivia and Farah's performance PUSH took place, which we were allowed to watch in rehearsal in the gym.

Afterwards, we asked them a few questions:

How did you come up with "House" and what do you particularly like about it?

House dance is a dance style that we got to know 15 years ago in a studio in Salzburg. Since then, we have been at home in house dance, but also in hip hop, locking, popping, just like that in various street and club styles. We have started to dance shows ourselves and are also on the road a lot with our dance repertoire in theaters. We also organize dance battles and are active as battle dancers ourselves. During several research trips to America and Asia, we learned more about this dance culture, which has now developed in many places.

House dance originated in America - in the late 70s and early 80s - in clubs: it didn't come from the streets, as many people believe. House was mainly shaped by marginalized groups, by a queer community. We focus a lot on the origins and development of the dance style and where house dance is located today.

We are always fascinated by the fact that people felt so comfortable in this style and these clubs. Because they found their families there and were able to live out this feeling of freedom.

Which place did you like best on your tours?

Tough question. We were once in New York, the two of us, on a research trip where we just went to a lot of clubs, parties and dance studios, we just really got into the house culture. And just had a look: What is it really like in New York? What is it like in America, where house dance originated?

It's also very exciting in Paris - we were there last year. We created a piece there and realized that the club culture there is completely different. As well as the culture and people there in general. There were also other factors there that shaped the club culture and made it possible. In addition, the house dance scene there is simply much bigger than in Austria.

So Paris and New York are definitely the house dance and music capitals you should have been to.

What does dance mean to you?

Dancing is simply an outlet to break out of everyday life, to clear your head, to free yourself from various problems. For example, from the feeling of being under pressure, which we also deal with in the performance PUSH.

And it is simply usually (not always of course) a very nice feeling to feel your own body and express yourself with your body. Not with words, but simply with your own body. What's more, house dance as a dance style is very strongly linked to the music, which is perhaps less the case with other dance styles. But house lives from this very bass-heavy, strong music. And it's just nice to express yourself to it, to let yourself be driven by the music.

So would you say "house" is a dance style that couldn't exist without music?

You can dance the style without house music, but basically the two belong together. The origin of the dance style is the house music of the clubs.

Now we take it out of the clubs, into the studios or onto the theater stages. But without house music, you take away an important element of the style. I don't know if I would still call it house dance.

Would you describe dance as a kind of "alternative to words"?

Yes, definitely. And the language I've learned in recent years is house dance and hip hop.

How come you dance as a duet? What is special about it for you?

We met in a hip hop class when we were 12-13 years old and then started dancing championships with a group of girls relatively early on. At some point - with various ups and downs - it was just the two of us.

Now we have our club, which we founded in 2006. We also organized a battle and have grown together a lot. We have experienced a lot together, both professionally and as friends. Through many experiences, we've always stuck with it (even full-time) as a duo, which doesn't happen that often.

And have you always loved dancing?

Well, I think I've been dancing since I could walk - there are lots of videos of me dancing as a child. And then I took my first class at the adult education center when I was six.

Funnily enough, we both said in an interview when we were 18 that we never wanted to become full-time dancers because then it would be work and not so much fun. That's why the fun factor is so important to us.

What was the biggest reaction you ever got to a dance piece?

I once did a solo piece with a company that was about my Muslim and Christian roots. I was veiled on stage and then also unveiled and danced unveiled on a carpet. Afterwards, a person from the audience came up to me and got really upset that this wasn't possible. That was the strongest reaction I can think of and shows what art can trigger.

On the other hand, there have also been people who have watched a piece over and over again and cried every time because it touched them so much.

What was your experience here at the Hector Peterson School?

It was very cool. We held workshops with at least six different classes in total. After the dance workshops, we exchanged ideas with the students. We then started to create a piece with the topics that came up there. We then received direct feedback on the development of the piece during rehearsals in front of other classes. That was a very special process because we had never received so much immediate feedback before and also so much honest, unfiltered feedback from students who don't go to the theater every day.

It was also a sense of achievement that many of the students, who the teachers had predicted would often not do much in class, really came out of their shell in the dance rounds, made very active contributions and really came into their own. That was great.

Are you very excited before you perform?

Yes, but normally you're really looking forward to it and a bit of stage fright is important. Otherwise it would be boring at some point.

There's always a little thrill when you go on stage. You are then fully engaged with your own body and somehow speak from your soul, which is of course always a challenge.

What do you do when you black out on stage?

It happens from time to time. But we've learned that time and again at the show championships: just carry on as if it was planned. We keep reminding ourselves that the audience doesn't actually know what we want to do.

Is it difficult to earn money from dancing?

Well, we're doing well, but you have to keep at it and generate new jobs, they don't usually just come to you. You have to work hard for it, but I don't think we can complain. We make a good living from it and are satisfied.

But sometimes you have several projects at the same time and then sometimes none at all. It's always up and down. You have to get used to that if you want to work independently as a dancer. But you realize that the more you put in, the more you get back at some point.

Thank you for the interview Olivia and Farah!