Four Non Blondes

Four Non Blondes

2024

about the piece

The “Four Non Blondes” project takes an essay by US author Claudia Rankine as an opportunity to explore the phenomenon of “blondness”. C. Rankine was asked at a dinner with female university lecturers how they should react when their Black students bleach their hair blonde. She was unable to give a clear answer and began to deal with this topic in the long term. This resulted in an essay about blondness and the ambivalences associated with it. 
 
Blonde hair originated around 11,000 years ago as a genetic mutation in northern Europe. The sun’s rays are weaker here and light-coloured hair allows more vitamin D to be absorbed through the hair. Only two per cent of all people have naturally blonde hair. It is therefore a relatively rare phenomenon, but what is rare quickly becomes desirable. So people started early on to help nature along by colouring their hair.
In a way, this created a cultural history of blondness that is full of contrasts. The most well-known of all stereotypes says that blondes are rather simple-minded and sexually available. Contrast this with the fact that 48 per cent of female CEOs of companies within the S&P 500 stock index are blonde. Even the majority of US university directors are blonde. 
 
They are a feature of European people with light skin and have thus also become a symbol of whiteness. There is no doubt that the bleaching of hair makes a wide variety of statements. It can be a sign that the wearer has risen into the established social strata, such as Hillary Clinton. But it can also be a sign of rebellion and independence. Being blonde here becomes more of an invitation to be looked at and respected. Rankine speaks of “complicit freedom”, meaning that the choice to go blonde is always both a personal decision but also informed by what society defines as “desirable”. 
In this project, we would like to explore the many nuances of blondness with a mixed cast of “non-blondes”. This will include both the cultural history of blonde hair and the personal experiences of the performers.

videos

AI-generated video

Four non Blondes | AI-generated video

Four Non Blondes | StyleGan

credits

Concept: Christoph Winkler | By and with: Lisa Rykena, Sophie Prins, Shelmith Øseth, Mariana Tzouda | Performance: Kyle Kidd | Music: Tian Rotteveel | AI image design: Vadim Epstein | 3D-programming: Matthias Härtig | Costume: Marie Akoury | Video Editing & Graphic: Gabriella Fiore | Technical direction: Fabian Eichner | Sound: Björn Stegmann | Production management: Laura Biagioni

A video recording of the performance on May 17, 2024, at Sophiensæle, Berlin.
Camera: Walter Bickmann, Doris Kolde, Dominik Schötschel
Cinematography, Editing: Walter Bickmann

A production by Company Christoph Winkler in co-operation with SOPHIENSÆLE.
Funded by the Senate Department for Culture and Social Cohesion and the Fonds Darstellende Künste with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

dates

reviews

RBB24 INFORADIO | Culture | By Magdalena Bienert
Listen to the full interview (only German)

Life in Blonde: "Four Non Blondes" at the Sophiensäle "Four Non Blondes" - that’s the name of the new piece by the dance theater company Christoph Winkler, which premieres Thursday evening at the Sophiensäle in Berlin. The piece explores various aspects of life with blonde hair.

[...]
CW: I read a long article (Choreographer Christoph Winkler, who breaks this down in a quite popular-scientific way) about the percentage of female managers in large companies who are blonde. And I found that quite interesting. And then I immediately made the connection. Oh, this would fit well with this cast.

MB: And his cast consists of four non-blondes, four non-blonde dancers plus Kyle Kidd from New York. The powerful live performance makes this show special.

CW: An important aspect is, of course, the music. It’s completely composed with a singer, Kyle Kidd, and Tian Rotteveel, and partly also with the dancers, who have gone through a process of text creation, choosing songs, and so on. I would say it’s a kind of choreographic concert. Kyle Kidd provides the soundtrack for the piece of the non-blonde quartet, interpreting the diverse theme solo or together.

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MORE THAN JUST A HAIR COLOR. The Berlin choreographer stages a piece at Sophiensaele revolving around the myth of blondness, exploring both external and self-perception.

Recently, Berlin choreographer Christoph Winkler has focused on pieces addressing the climate crisis. He often collaborates with performers from African countries and has also worked on an eccentric project about Afrofuturism. Thus, it comes as a surprise that his new production "Four Non Blondes" tackles a hairy topic: the various shades of blondness. But blond is more than just a hair color – it is a myth. Besides its cultural history, it can also have political significance.

In identity politics debates, even dyed blond hair has recently come under suspicion. An American sociologist proposed that bleached hair symbolizes genetic superiority. [...] In the first song, which they intone with a powerful soul voice, they ask: How do you want to be seen? How do you want to be loved?

The dancers enter individually through the glitter curtain, strut like models across the stage, and then approach the microphone. Blond is a genetic mutation, they explain. Only two percent of people worldwide naturally have blond hair. Numerous facts and statistics are referenced.

The story also includes the Berlin hairdresser Friedrich Klein, who developed the hair dye shampoo Kleinol in the 1920s, which enabled more beautiful blond tones. It's mentioned that the founder of the French cosmetics company L'Oréal was a fascist who admired the Nazis. However, it is also emphasized that the fascination with blondness does not derive solely from the Aryan ideal propagated during the Nazi era.

The AI-generated animations by multimedia artist Vadim Epstein are fascinating but also eerie. One sees women of all skin colors suddenly turning blond. An entire army of blond women with helmet-like hairstyles marches forward. The fiction of a uniform society where beauty, power, and hair color are interconnected emerges. Later, one sees through morphing how the faces of blond actresses blend into one another.

Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton are also part of this illustrious gallery. "Four Non Blondes" excels primarily with its visual appeal and fantastic singing performances. A highlight is the duets by Kyle Kidd and Sophie Prins. The four dancers often move jerkily with disparate motions, as if pressed into a mold. Then again, their bodies are soft and malleable. Tagesspiegel - Sandra Luzina

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ARMY OF BLONDES BEASTS

Blond: Only two percent of the world's population is born blonde, yet 84 percent of female executives in the largest US stock index, the S&P 500, have light hair. Blonde: the most common hair color. Facts like these are presented by the four dancers whom choreographer Christoph Winkler features in the Sophiensaele as "Four Non Blondes," although they are four non-blondes. Shelmith Oeseth, Sophie Prins, Lisa Rykena, and Mariana Tzouda each perform their own style to the vocals of Kyle Kidd, sometimes leaning more towards urban dance, voguing, or contemporary dance. Kidd, both vocally and visually, is at the center of the 90-minute dance concert that Winkler, winner of the 2022 German Dance Prize, is presenting at his Berlin base. The choreographer's hallmark is his ability to capture the spirit of the times with his work. "Four Non Blondes" combines the theme of blonde hair with Black empowerment, supported by Kyle Kidd's lyrics about self-determination and agency. Despite Kidd's impressive but somewhat static performances of songs between blues and soul, and Tian Rotteveel's enthralling beats and trance-like tracks, "Four Non Blondes" as a mix of infotainment, choreography, and live concert quickly runs out of steam. But then comes Lisa Rykena's solo number. Her AI-generated avatar spins a story in the background about her youth as a natural blonde, displayed by the teacher at school, a constant object of interest, and describes her hair loss at the age of 28 as a positively transformative experience. Since then, she has shaved her head, the AI personality speaks over the bald dancer, lost in her movements on the glossy black stage. Rykena is a sight to behold, her long fingers fluttering invitingly under her chin, and when her face contorts into a grimace, she deftly resets it into a pleasant smile. What do you want me to be—and do I have to? Elena Philipp - Berliner Morgenpost