the ballet of Sam Hogue and Augustus Benjamin

 “The Ballet of Sam Hogue and Augustus Benjamin” explores the artistic practice of systems of non-representational physical communication between performers.

These systems are based on the constant exchange of kinetic information in between performers using repetition as a motor for development. Every movement performed by one of the performers, is informed and affected by the movements of the other performer. Every movement performed is different, but also retains certain information from the previous movement. This “modus operandi” allows an ever-regenerating flow of kinetic information, creating multiple meanings/readings, levels of abstraction and sensation for the viewer, while remaining in its core a non-referential kinetic communication system. While performing the system, every stimulus is perceived and processed in real time, always shaping/forming information while attempting not to name it, engaging in a ritual physical “discussion”, embodying relational phenomena in between two people and trying to process what we understand, as well as what we don’t understand. This work was premiered at the WUK Wien in March 2011.

Creation: Raul Maia (PT) and Thomas Steyaert (BE)
Performance:Sam Hogue and Augustus Benjamin
Light:  Bas Devos (BE), Thomas Steyaert (BE) and Raul Maia (PT)
Music:  John Zorn, Eva Cassidy, James Brown and Ryoji Ikeda (remixed)                                                                                       Co-production: CC De Spil (Roeselare, BE), WUK (Vienna, A), Jardin d'Europe/eXplore Dance Festival (Bucharest, RO)
In co-operation with: ulti'mates/Ultima Vez (Brussels, BE)
Residencies:  Kunstencentrum Buda (Kortrijk, BE), Jardin d'Europe eXplore Dance Festival (Bucharest, RO), Pianofabriek Kunstenwerkplaats (Brussels, BE), workspacebrussels (BE), Ulti'mates (Brussels, BE) and Wolv (Vienna, A)
Supported by MA7 - Kultur Stadt Wien, the Province of West-Flanders and Jardin d'Europe



Der Standard – 01 April 2011 - by Helmut Ploebst

Deep-dance with saw-sound

Two young men get on stage via the audience entrance, put down their backpacks, their jackets, and actually all they have except for their incredibly un-sexy white and far too large underwear. There they are, Raul Maia and Thomas Steyaert, standing awkwardly on the empty stage of the Wuk-hall ready to dance their improvisation The Ballet of Sam Hogue and Augustus Benjamin.

In the end, after a good hour, its clear that this ballet (which is all in all the total opposite of ballet) is so far one of the best dance pieces seen in Vienna this season. Nothing dance-theater-like, no ‘meaningful’ gesture. Through ambiguous modes of communication, two bodies concentrate on what happens under our cultural masks and behaviors. Nothing about love, friendship, vice or antagonism, but tip-toe-ing around, measuring an intricate effort, a kind of loneliness in the confrontation with ones counterpart/opponent. The sound fits this depth: hammering, sawing, drilling and electronic noise.

An uncanny piece by two excellent dancers who have been working with Wim Vandekeybus’ company Ultima Vez.

Translation by David Helbich and Tawny Andersen


tanz.at - 02 April  2011 -                               by Ditta Rudle

Bodies speak volumes

“The Ballet of Sam Hogue and Augustus Benjamin“ is a fascinating dialogue between two bodies that uses a completely new language, far from any known gestus. Raùl Maia and Thomas Steyaert captivate with accuracy and precision, but they never miss out on theatrics and affect.

Two men - naked except for ridiculous, white shorts - try to come closer to each other in the dark. The roar of the ocean, the waves hitting the beach, two castaways fighting against the wind. One desperately struggling with a recurrent gesture of stretched and bent arms, the other walking upright, staggering. Neither of them reaches the other. Neither saves the other.

I don't know if Raùl Maia and Thomas Steyaert really do speak about a turbulent sea and a crash landing. It's the soundtrack on their Ballet of the Corpus, which constantly opens new spaces (more than once Sam Hogue and Augustus Benjamin got us excited as the alter egos of Steyaert and Maia). Later on, the music and the light guide me to a discotheque so as to end up in a dimmed love den. The speech of two bodies does not enter the ear nor the brain, but it directly enters the solar plexus.

The tension, and probably the stories as well, are generated not only by the intensive closeness of the performers (something they take the liberty of confronting us with), but also by the richness and depth of the emotions told by seemingly fragile bodies and ritualized gestures- entangled arms, twisted legs, hands carefully reaching out with curled fingers.

Scene by scene the two men communicate with their bodies, try out advances and rejections and tell about love, jealousy and indifference. Both performers have their own vocabulary: Maia is mostly upright walking and tiptoeing, while Steyaert focuses on the horizontal plane, crawling, rolling and freezing on his back or on his belly, one leg in the air, as if the film ripped.

The way the bodies communicate is very diverse: very slow and thoughtful (slow motion) or vehement and aggressive; far away from each other with the quasi-impossibility of communication, or entangled until the emotions constrain any articulation, until the 'words' are almost incomprehensible within all the stuttering and spluttering.

A manifestation of the idea, that we don’t necessarily need words to communicate and to understand each other. And of the fact that dance is able to find again and again new possibilities of expression.

For about 6 years the Portuguese Raùl Maia and the Belgian Thomas Steyaert (for some years dancers at Wim Vandekeybus / “Ultima Vez") have been developing a specific language for the body. The system of movements shouldn't consist of known symbols and pantomimic gestures, but uses a new vocabulary of the body. Originally begun as an improvisation and still called 'a project', this performance appears accurately worked out in all details, fascinating and surprising (also in its irony and hidden humor); it does not simply show the perfect technique of both performers, but is visually catching and emotionally satisfying.

Translation by David Helbich and Tawny Andersen.



Potsdamer tagesspiegel - 27.05.2013 - by Astrid Priebs-Tröger

Longtime visitors to know: The Potsdam dance days are always full of surprises. The Saturday evening was this time entirely in the nudity. Which was found in the two Germany premieres of the evening both literally as well as figuratively. The two dancers who opened the double night at the factory came without notice. With their hiking boots, jumpers and backpacks they looked like late teen-urban visitors, but when they marched directly on the empty stage, her performance "The Ballet of Sam Hogue and Augustus Benjamin" started with another unusual action.

Leisurely Thomas Steyaert and Raul Maia got rid of their clothes until they slipped and stood stark naked tree in old-fashioned woolen underpants. And immediately it seemed as if they had filed with this undressing their previous cultural layers and textures. The fascinating live body communication that began shortly thereafter between the two, used as soundtrack though decipherable sounds like the noise of the wind, metallic tones or known musical compositions, but the two lean-muscled figures appeared before this cultural film certainly like beings from a foreign star. Expressive and fragile, without male superiority gestures, sometimes reminiscent of etchings of Goya or graphics of clover, both explored without discernible thread movement possibilities inherent in their bodies.

But this had nothing to do with traditional dance moves and symbols or pantomimic gestures. Their movements appeared with no (known) meanings or emotions charged and precisely because could before the inner eye of the beholder a series of images and situations: Sometimes associated with the movements of the two virtuoso performers such as occupants of a medieval insane asylum, another time had their characters as survivors of a unspecified disaster. Ambiguity is intentional by the Belgian Thomas Steyaert and Raul Maia of Portuguese, which open with her exceptional movement laboratory surprising spaces and want to confront with a previously rarely perceived human shades. Concentrated tension and moments of bewilderment in the audience, who applauded warmly, but somewhat subdued.


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