Kunst-Stoff is an experimental dance company that plays with boundary-breaking ways of creating dance. Spark spends time with this innovative company as it creates and prepares for the world premiere of “As We Close Their Eyes.” This multidisciplinary work was commissioned by San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as part of its Bay Area Now 4 performance series.
Kunst-Stoff was founded by Yannis Adoniou and Tomi Paasonen. Both classically trained and former dancers with LINES Ballet, they formed the Kunst-Stoff company to explore the intersection of dance with other art forms. Their goal was to explore a range of subject matter in ways that conventional dance had not. The name Kunst-Stoff is a play on words based on the German word “kunststof” meaning “synthetic material.” When the word is separated, “kunst” translates to “art” and “stoff” to “things.”
In 2005, Adoniou read an article on a museum designed for the blind, which inspired him to explore how the experience of sightlessness could translate into movement. Through LightHouse for the Blind, he met Khoja Aniksa, who has been visually impaired since birth. In a rehearsal, Aniksa shared with the group his unique awareness of space and how he perceived and interpreted the dancers’ movements. This experimentation formed the basis of “As We Close Their Eyes,” which uses sound and touch to emphasize sensory information other than visual.
In addition to the two principal choreographers, Adoniou and Paasonen, the Kunst-Stoff troupe consists of eight dancers. Since its inception in 1998, the group has premiered more than 20 new works in the Bay Area, toured internationally, and collaborated with visual and media artists and composers. Kunst-Stoff has performed commissioned pieces for the Berlin Tanztage Festival, the Burning Man Festival, the Dimitria International Festival in Greece, and the 2005 Scuba National Touring Network.