© Orpheas Emirzas© Hesem Rahmanian, The Pets We Love, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde.© Orpheas Emirzas© Orpheas Emirzas

DANCE/PERFORMANCE/INSTALLATION — “It’s one thing to be named Dancer of the Year, it’s something entirely different to try and make something of it."


In the dance solo, Dancer of the Year, we see Trajal Harrell repeating gestures (as if to store them in his body); revisiting movement material and choreographic strategies from previous work; and moving through and layering emotions. In an intimate setting, he shares his labor with us, offers his dance to us, as a gift. 

Harrell created this work in response to being awarded the title of Dancer of the Year 2018 by Tanz magazine. The award leads him to question his status and identity as a dancer. What is the currency of this title? What is the value of dance, dance practice, and the knowledge it produces? What generates it? How does dance/the body internalize its history and how is it transmitted for the future? Harrell reflects on his own legacy as a choreographer/dancer, as he interrogates and re-imagines his artistic lineage, and the strategies he developed over the years for (re-)presenting and performing the self/identity. 

Harrell's speculative history allows for other bodies, identites, and voices to become part of - and unsettle - the conventionall narrative. His operations reveal hidden or under-theorized connections, across historical times, geographical distances, and cultural differences; and create provocative spaces for imagining alternative dance histories. In his current project, Harrell continues his trajectory, but introduces Tatsumi Hijikata and elements and strategies inspired by butoh into the mix. (...) His researh raised questions about the politics of performing identity and the "other,' orientalism and cultural appropriation in early modern dance, and the historical connection between dance and exoticism, eroticism, and prostitution, to name a few. 

The collection of figures, elements, and ideas expands, resulting in a very dense fabric that is impossible to unravel in a linear narrative. Each piece presents as a fascinating origamilike object - layered and marked by multiple folds, creases, and traces - presented from, and demanding, a multitude of perspectives, formats and approaches. Every performance marks but one moment in a constellation of works that continues to expand. Over time, the project accumulates more material, constructing a history and archive of its own.

Read the text of Sara Jansen for Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2019 here






Dancer of the Year Shop, in appearance, performs and respects the hierarchy of the economic relationships and transactions of the (art)market and observes its capitalist mode of circulation and consumption. However, through a display that recalls exhibition furniture, Harrell voluntarily establishes new meanings for these objects and the shop. He not only attributes to himself the authority of the collector by having passionately acquired some of these items, but he also endorses the role of the curator who selected, took care of and exhibited them. These shifts are taking place under the umbrella of the Dancer of the Year Shop, the simulacrum of the gallery. 

Through the process of pricing the artworks in Dancer of the Year Shop, Harrell seeks quantitative and qualitative measurements to understand the meaning of the Tanz Magazine award. He highlights how mundane objects that are emotionally meaningful and unique to the choreographer and dancer are for this reason endowed with symbolic capital as well as the capital value of the artist. No matter the instrument of maesurement, once the artwork is sold, isn't the final price determined by the weight of its loss to the artist 

Read the text of Yasmina Reggad for Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2019 here

This performative installation entitled Dancer of the Year Shop and it’s hours of operation are tailored made to each site.


« A message so perfectly emotional that it fills you up from top to bottom and is able to materialize a moment of pure bliss. Shortly put: staggering. »
- Le VIF


Choreography, dance, sound and costume design
: Trajal Harrell
Dramaturgy: Sara Jansen
Production: CauseCélèbre vzw
Coproduction: Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Festival d'Automne (Paris), Lafayette Anticipations (Paris), ImPulsTanz Festival, BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen), Schauspielhaus Bochum, Museum Ludwig, Dampfzentrale Bern

Premiere: Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2019