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By Adushka Meets Brigitta Luisa Merki

By Adushka Meets Brigitta Luisa Merki

By Adushka meets Brigitta Luisa Merki, a dancer, choreographer, teacher and artistic director of the dance company Flamencos en route (1984-2020), founder of the dance concept Tanz & Kunst Königsfelden at Königsfelden monastery church in Aargau.

This spring Tanz & Kunst Königsfelden International Ensemble, with choreographer Filipe Portugal and artistic director Brigitta Luisa Merki, presents a new performance with the name «Secretly the wind sighs». Inspired by the poetry of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, the team brings to life soulful dance images in combination with live guitar music, a string quintet and the sound of the yearning fado singing by Marta Rosa from Lisbon. Blending several forms of art this unique performance takes place within the monastery church of Königsfelden, while the mysterious wind blows in the art installation by Ruth Maria Obrist.


Brigitta Luisa Merki is a true phenomenon in the world of contemporary performing arts and choreography. She is a woman-universe who mixes different art languages, such as poetry, visuals, music, songs and dance into a narrative that not only entertains, but engages, builds emotional connection and provokes further the imagination of the audience. Brigitta’s choreographic signature are independent, honest and atmospherically dense productions.

To capture Brigitta Luisa Merki’s work in one article is almost impossible, however I’ll try to share with you today a little part of her personality and a peak into her current work.


Career Highlights

In 1984 Brigitta Luisa Merki, together with Susana Looser and Antonio Robledo founded the dance company Flamencos en Route. Susana Looser was a world renown flamenco dancer, choreographer and teacher, whose fame rose as a dancer in the duo "Susana y José", as a choreographer and teacher at the National Ballet School and National Ballet of Toronto, Mudra School Béjart, Brussels and Opera House Ballet, Zurich. Her work as a teacher was the subject of a moving documentary, entitled «Flamenco at 5:15», which won an Oscar in 1984. Antonio Robledo composed the music for the works.

For more than 35 years Flamencos en Route intrigued people all over the world with its unique interpretation of the traditional Spanish dance flamenco, mixing contemporary dance and juxtaposing traditional music with classical, defying all fashion trends, and even adding Arabic music, or incorporating fine arts - such as Gillian White's stage sculpture for the solo piece «afán» - throwing into the mix poetry and literature, as in «imírame!» And others.


In 2007 Brigitta Luisa Merki founded the dance concept Tanz & Kunst Königsfelden at the Monastery church Windisch, one of the cultural beacons of canton Aargau, since 2012. The annual art productions (dance, art, music and visual arts) have become popular in whole Switzerland. As part of the Concept a Residence for Creative Art Performers with Guest House and financial support have been established, where performers apply annually to work on projects and performances, undisturbed. Some of these projects are shown as showcases at museums galleries, to receive feedback from the audience. The Residence is a safe creative space to support artists on their journey and ideas to create and perform.

In 2014, Brigitta Luisa Merki initiated a pedagogical art project as part of Tanz & Kunst Königsfelden, which takes place every two years in different schools in Aargau. Children are being encouraged to try performance arts and even play 6 shows in the monastery church.


Brigitta Luisa Merki has provided tuition at the Hochschulen für Tanz Dresden and Mannheim and holds summer courses in Italy and France. She has won numerous prizes, including the Hans Reinhart Ring in 2004.

Brigitta Luisa Merki about her own work - Interview

Tsitaliya: Your Career started with Flamenco en Routes but as a child did you already know you wanted to become a performer?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: Yes, I was performing ever since I remember myself, in front of my family, my friends. I didn’t go to a ballet school as my family didn’t really consider this a serious career choice, but I always felt drawn to dancing and performing.

Looking back at your lifework, what were the turning moments that took you to where you are today?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: First and most important for me was meeting Susana Looser, who became my mentor and whose courses I attended. She encouraged me to go to Spain to learn the flamenco. For my first solo performance, choreographed by myself, I worked with an actor and a musician. We travelled to perform at different stages. In 1984 I started Flamencos en route and I invited Susana and her husband to work with me, as artistic director and composer.

Tsitaliya: What attracted you to Flamenco particularly?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: It was the rhythm and the music first. When you are a Flamenco dancer you are also a musician. I play music too, piano and violin. In flamenco it is the feet and the rhythm that are important. For my performances I work with live music. After learning the traditional Flamenco techniques, I asked myself what does flamenco mean to me, since I am not Spanish and not a gypsy. What can I do with this dance language? Flamenco for me is an art that is very connected to the human being. Just think about it: you dance on stage and you wear shoes like everyone else. Looking back I’ve gone through a huge evolution and I’ve worked with artists from all over the world, beside Spain of course. I always had international company because every dancer contributes to the work with their own personality.

Tsitaliya: Can you share your creative process and inspiration, considering that you work with literature and poetry and you always choose very interesting locations for your performances.

Brigitta Luisa Merki: Every time it is different, but my ideas spring from images that come to my mind. I read a lot and sometimes a poem phrase can provoke an image that I use to interpret in a whole performance. I always think in images. And when I have an idea I meet with the team of dancers and musicians, with the composer, and it takes a long way till you see the final performance. My work is a constant dialogue with the people I work with, but I try not to lose my vision in the whole process.

Tsitaliya: You’ve danced and choreographed for different stages around the world. Which one left an unforgettable impression in you?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: It is hard to say. I had unforgettable experiences on small stages, because everything feels so intimate and personal. Others like the performance I had in the opera in Düsseldorf, which was a collaboration between my Flamenco company, my dancers and musicians with the Opera ballet dancers. That was an adventure, but it worked out very well and I was so thrilled for this experience. As a performer in such space, you feel the place with its history and culture, it is a space that you feel you belong to. This culture of theatre is felt by both the audience and the performer. At the same time I keep very dear heartfelt memories from performances like the one I had yesterday - in a monastery, where I was invited to do a little choreography with two dancers performing for the nuns on a Sunday afternoon. It is incredible what happens….I LIKE TO REMAIN CURIOUS!


Is this what lead you to create the Residence as part of the concept Tanz & Kunst Königsfelden?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: In the past, the monastery church has been a space for performances but it was not used regularly. Now it is a place for dance every summer. A space with its own history, light and architecture specifics. I ask visual artists to create for this space, not for theatre, which is different. In choreography the space is very important. There is a wonderful acoustic inside this church and the idea is to have the festival with life musicians. This year we have classical music and fado. The premiere is on the 24th of May and we have 20 performances for almost a month, since the audiences is small. As for the residency, the idea came because after 36 years with Flamencos en Rote, I’ve developed a whole production institution. A production centre with studio, costume atelier and everything necessary for a performance work. That’s how the residency as a concept was born. Professional dance groups can come to this residency, to live and work here, because in dance you need space to work. Every year professional dancers can apply for residency and have to stay minimum 2 weeks. They live and work here together and don’t do anything that distracts them. Every year we have so many applications from all over the world. I am really happy when I can give this kind of a safe and calm space to young dancers and choreographers to prepare their work. We try and provide them with financial support too, while they stay here. In return they let us see their work, or part of it and we have collaborations with theatres or art galleries where the residents can show their performances for free. This is an interesting format appreciated by all sides involved in the process.


Tsitaliya: How did you find out about By Adushka?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: I met Karin in Baden. We work in the same area, very close to each other. I have always been interested in fashion and involved in the costumes creation for my productions. So when I visited By Adushka I was fascinated with the colours, the individuality and Karin’s personality too. What I love even more are the fabrics and the Indian handwoven dresses that By Adushka has. I used to wear similar dresses when I was 17. It is so interesting how fashion influences you and what you wear can change your mood and feelings.


Tsitaliya: What’s your inspiration for your daily wear?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: Since I work so much in my studio I wear comfortable things, but they also have to feel nice on my skin. Fabrics are so important to me, I have to touch and feel. For example the costumes for the performances are quite expensive and we value good fabrics as on the stage the quality is seen and felt even. The way it moves matters. I like colour too and I also wear things with sentimental value like this scarf from my sister in Australia. I don’t easily part with my clothes. I sometimes return to a piece because it carries a memory or the fabric is so good that it stands the time.

Tsitaliya: Beside dancing do you have other passion?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: I like to walk in nature. I also love the sea, when I can I visit the seaside.

Tsitaliya: What’s your daily ritual that brings you calm and grounds you?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: Yes I have. May be not daily, but I try to do it every day. I meditate and I have a few body exercises too, coming from pilates, exercises that keep my core strong and elongate.

Tsitaliya: What are you reading at the moment?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: At the moment I am reading Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese writer I love to go back to. He wrote books and stories from the perspective of a different personality every time. He writes about nature and the experience he has in nature, the wind example.

Tsitaliya: Any destination you went to recently that inspires you today?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: I love going back to Vienna and especially the Opera. I am very interested in Martin Schläpfer’s work as director but in general I like to go to the Vienna Ballet and see what’s on.

Tsitaliya: You are such a global person and it is hard to say where you are from. What makes you Swiss at the end of the day?

Brigitta Luisa Merki: It is difficult to say, but thinking of other cultures and the people I am surrounded with, I am the person who always starts on time. I am punctual. I am also very well organized, which can be a matter of character too. And last I am someone who is confident in making decisions. I stand fully by what I say YES to. I don’t overthink and doubt too much. I am an honest and straight forward person.

Tsitaliya: Thank you for this interview. I would like to add to me you feel like one of the most authentic people I’ve met in my life! That is very rare and precious! Thank you for the honour of this interview! 

Tickets for the Tanz & Kunst Festival are available here:

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