‘It was striking to see what kind of insights the dancers got: they knew already so much only by embodying their assigned roles in the space,’ says Dorota Gazy about Court Dance, the project she graduated cum laude with from Design Academy Eindhoven. Gazy asked four dancers to explore the dynamics of a court room to reveal the limits of the justice system.
‘When I came to The Hague to study the field of justice I noticed a strong dynamic of othering,’ Gazy explained during Hague Talks last September. ‘Othering in the system: you’re either suspect or victim. You can’t connect with each other because of the system.’
The system is focused on judgement of the suspect and punishment of the perpetrator, leaving no room to really communicate and process emotions. Gazy asked herself what tool she could design to make this dialogue possible. A dancer herself, she decided to invite dancers into the court room to explore the dynamics of the space.
‘I wanted to make it visual and dance is a perfect way to do that. It is visual, you can express your feelings and you have sensory knowledge afterwards.’ Gazy asked the dancers to move around, improvising, taking on the roles of either victim, suspect, justice, or victim’s support.
The dance was divided in two phases. In the first phase the dancers had to move according to how they think they were supposed to move within the current system. Next, they were free to follow their own feelings and intuition.
In the documentary Gazy made of the project, the dancers tell afterwards how they felt while dancing. They express their impotence to really relate to each other and how this changed the moment they could step out the constraints of the system. But even without their comments, the viewer can intuitively read the dancer’s movements.
With Court Dance Gazy offers the justice system advice through experience, as opposed to pure reason, with the aim to bring humanity and empathy back into the process. A criminal lawyer who saw the documentary told Gazy she could imagine to use this method to better understand juridical cases. Some design thinking!