The aging body does not contain only one body. Rather, it is multiple bodies layered in time and decay, in memories and experiences. Figuring Age, a performance-installation by Boglárka Börcsök & Andreas Bolm interweaves the stories and memories of elderly dancers with their everyday gestures, postures and dance movements, tracing how three women changed their lives and movement practices to survive the sociopolitical shifts of the 20th century.

Figuring Age portrays three elderly dancers from Budapest, aged between 90 and 101. The work consists of a durational performance and a two-channel video installation running simultaneously in separate spaces. In 2015, choreographer and performer Boglárka Börcsök had the chance to meet several elderly dancers in Budapest. Wanting to work with some of them and knowing that their age would make it impossible to bring them back on stage, Börcsök and filmmaker Andreas Bolm decided to create a documentary called The Art of Movement. It portrays Irén Preisich, Éva E. Kovács and Ágnes Roboz, who were once part of the early development of modern dance in Hungary. During the filming, Börcsök’s role alternated between dialogue partner and dance student to stimulate the elderly dancers’ bodies and memories. The physical engagement continued during the editing process. Bolm and Börcsök watched the footage again and again to study the gestures, movements, and personal stories of Irén, Éva and Ágnes. Börcsök let the ladies invade her like ghosts and began to perform them.

The aging body does not contain only one body. Rather, it is multiple bodies layered in time and decay, in memories and experiences. Figuring Age interweaves the stories and memories of the elderly dancers with their everyday gestures, postures and dance movements, tracing how the three women changed their lives and movement practices to survive the sociopolitical shifts of the 20th century. Börcsöks embodiment of Irén, Éva, and Ágnes is a continuous work of transforming and becoming – a Vertigo. The slowness and fragile heaviness of the old bodies demand a different economy of attention, giving visitors space to rethink and negotiate their relationship to aging and death. In a separate room, the two-channel video installation reveals Irén, Éva, and Ágnes in their private homes. The stillness of their rooms, filled with personal objects and memories, becomes the scenographic backdrop for their dynamic performances on screen.

How did the idea for “Figuring Age” originate, and what inspired you to work with elderly dancers?

Figuring Age emerged from a documentary film with three pioneering women in Hungarian modern dance. My interest in working with these women stemmed from personal experiences and a desire to explore Hungarian dance history. My grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and subsequent memory loss influenced my approach, allowing me to build a meaningful relationship with Irén, Éva, and Ágnes.

Can you share more about your experience creating the documentary “The Art of Movement” and the initial interactions with Irén, Éva, and Ágnes?

The documentary was a necessary step due to the urgency of working with the elderly dancers. My initial interactions were deeply influenced by personal experiences, such as caring for my grandmother. These interactions were not just about filming but about building a close relationship and understanding their life experiences.

How did you approach interweaving the stories and memories of the elderly dancers with their everyday gestures, postures, and dance movements?

I aimed to create an inter-generational exchange, intertwining the dancers’ experiences, resilience, and silences with their physicality. Their histories, particularly their resilience and struggles, were intricately connected to their bodily movements and gestures.

The description mentions the slowness and fragile heaviness of the old bodies. How did these qualities influence your choreographic choices and the overall atmosphere of the performance?

These qualities were central to our choreographic approach. We meticulously recreated and enhanced their postures and gestures, focusing on the sensation of their weight and the slowness of their movements. This required immense physical effort to sustain the sensation of old age, creating a performance that felt like encountering different individuals.

How did you decide on the two-channel video installation format, and what role does it play in enhancing the viewer’s experience?

The performance-installation is devised as a parcour for the audience. They are invited to encounter the elderly dancers in a fictional ghost scéance that happens between the medium of film and performance.

What impact do you hope “Figuring Age” will have on the audience in terms of rethinking their relationship to aging and death?

The performance is a political act of carrying forward the histories and stories of these women. It confronts the audience with the physical transmission of knowledge and the embodiment of age, potentially influencing their perception of aging and the continuity of stories through generations.

How did your collaboration with filmmaker Andreas Bolm enhance the storytelling and visual aspects of the project?

My collaboration with Andreas Bolm was integral, allowing for a deep involvement with the subjects. This collaboration went beyond the project’s concept, enriching the storytelling and embodying the dancers’ experiences and movements in a visually impactful way.

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Boglárka Börcsök (*1987) is a performing artist and choreographer who grew up near the Romanian and Serbian border in the lowlands of South-East Hungary. She studied contemporary dance at Anton Bruckner Private University in Linz, and at P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) in Brussels. Currently, she is based in Berlin and Budapest.

Her work draws from archival research, personal encounters and the practice of listening and looking.  She is interested in how memory and history is accessible not only in archival form but can be expressed through voices, gestures and movements, as a coexisting dimension of the present. As a dancer and performer, she participated in the works of Tino Sehgal at documenta (13), Stedelijk and KIASMA – Contemporary Art Museum. Börcsök has been performing and collaborating with Eszter Salamon for several years in her acclaimed MONUMENT series shown at RuhrTriennale, Centre Pompidou, Festival d’Avignon, Kunstenfestivaldesarts and Tanz im August amongst others. Since 2016, she has been featured in several editions of 20 Dancers for the XX Century by Boris Charmatz/Terrain. Currently, she is touring with Still Not Still, a dance piece by Ligia Lewis. 

Filmmaker and producer Andreas Bolm (*1971) was born in Cologne, Germany, to a Hungarian mother and a German father. After working as musician and sound engineer in Manchester, England, he began to experiment with photography, sound, and video. He studied film at the film academy FAMU in Prague and at the documentary department of the University of Television and Film in Munich. 

Andreas is currently working between Germany, Hungary and France. His films portray people in their social and familial environments, examining the fine line between documentary and fiction. His works have been screened at many festivals worldwide. His short film Jaba (2006) was presented at the Festival de Cannes and won the “Golden Mikeldi” for best documentary at the Zinebi film festival in Bilbao. In 2009, Andreas attended the renowned Cinefondation Residence Festival de Cannes where he developed his first feature The Revenants (2013), which was premiered at the 63rd Berlinale, and presented at MoMA in New York. In 2014, Andreas was invited for a fellowship at the artist-residency Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, where he developed and shot his second feature film Le Juge with the French actor and film director Jacques Nolot in the leading role.

Bolm and Börcsök have been collaborating since 2017. They made the documentary film The Art of Movement, a portrait of three over 90-year-old dancers from Budapest. Their performance and video installation Figuring Age, based on the film, was presented at Moving in November Festival Helsinki and ImPulsTanz Festival in Vienna among others, where it received an honorable mention. The project was selected as part of the Aerowaves ‘Twenty23 Artists’ network and is currently touring across Europe. 


Concept, choreography & production: Boglárka Börcsök & Andreas Bolm

Elderly dancers: Éva E. Kovács, Irén Preisich, Ágnes Roboz

Performance: Boglárka Börcsök

Light & sound: Andreas Bolm

Costume & scenography: Boglárka Börcsök & Andreas Bolm

Production assistant: Martyna Bezrąk

English translation: David Robert Evans

Performance produced by: Boglárka Börcsök & Andreas Bolm

Performance supported by: Die Irritierte Stadt Festival of Arts, Montag Modus 

Collegium Hungaricum Berlin, PACT Zollverein Atelier No.63 – Experimental Platform for the Arts, Hellerau – Europäisches Zentrum der Künste – Residency Program, Neustart Kultur – an initiative for the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media as part of the support program DIS- TANZEN, an Umbrella Association for dance in Germany. 

Part of the work was developed in the frame of the performance exhibition “20 Dancers for the XX Century” by Boris Charmatz/Terrain.

Video credits: Andreas Bolm & Boglárka Börcsök (editing), Lisa Rave (camera), Elisa Calosi (production manager),

Video commissioned by: Montag Modus/ MMpraxis

Video founded by: Tanzfonds Erbe – an initiative by German Federal Cultural Foundation, La Musée de la Danse, Rennes, Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa, Berlin

Special thanks: the title of this work is borrowed from the Anthology: Figuring Age – Women, Bodies, Generations edited by Kathleen Woodward and hereby we would like to express our debt to all the authors of this book. 

Interview: Markéta Kosinová

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