Passing the Bechdel Test

Passing the Bechdel Test

fABULEUS & GRIP / Jan Martens (BE)

In Dutch and English | Englisch and Dutch surtitles


‘There are some stories which need to be retold by each generation.’ - Virginia Woolf, 1927
We are thirteen.
We are between fourteen and nineteen years old
and (don’t) feel like girls or women.
We talk.
We speak the words of writers and thinkers, from Virginia Woolf to Susan Sontag, from Toni Morrison to Maggie Nelson.
They take shape in us.
We find shape in each other.
We make ourselves who we are
and what we want to become,
what we can become,
because the possibilities are infinite.
We are a snapshot of the now.
A state of affairs.
A manifesto for the future.
In Passing the Bechdel Test, choreographer Jan Martens opts for language in a radical manner. Because free speech is one of the few instruments left to liberate ourselves.*
Together with 13 youths, Jan draws up a report on the state of affairs in matters of gender diversity and gender equality in the world today. They crawl into each other’s skin and into that of women authors and personalities from the past and present, from Woolf to Winterson, from Sontag to Solnit. Text fragments from letters, diaries, lyrics, essays and TED talks form the frame of the performance. Drawing on his choreographic perspective, Jan Martens designs a manifesto for the future.
* paraphrasing Rachida Lamrabet
by Jan Martens with Isabel Braamkolk, Noor Caestecker, A. Claassen, Renée De Coninck, Luna Glowacki, Bente Govaerts, Noor Hollemeersch, Birgit Lesage, Marie Libens, Hannah Peiren, Celina Vercruysse, Yanou Van Dessel & Mirren Vandenberk artistic assistence Kimmy Ligtvoet & Siska Baeck dramaturgy Peter Anthonissen advice Rudi Meulemans light design Elke Verachtert costumes Lotte Stek subtitling Erik Borgman product management Teresa Wouters & Sylvie Svanberg thanks to Renée Copraij, Fransien van der Putt, Moos van den Broek, Simone Atangana Bekono & Siska Baeck production fABULEUS & GRIP coproduction tanzhaus nrw


Jan Martens (1984, Belgium) studied at the Fontys Dance Academy in Tilburg and graduated in 2006 from the dance department of the Artesis Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. Since 2010 he has been making his own choreographic work which, over the years, has been performed with increasing regularity before a national and international audience.

Jan Martens’ work is nurtured by the belief that each body can communicate, that each body has something to say. That direct communication expresses itself in transparent forms. His work is a sanctuary in which the notion of time becomes tangible again and in which there is room for observation and emotion as well as reflection. To achieve this result he creates not so much a movement language of his own, but shapes and reuses existing idioms in a different context so that new ideas emerge. In each new work he tries to redraw the relation between public and performer.

Jan Martens’ first show I can ride a horse whilst juggling so marry me (2010) was a portrait of a generation of young women in a society dominated by social networks. It was followed by two love duets that he made at Frascati. A smal huide on how to treat your lifetime companion (2011) was selected for Aerowaves 2011 and Sweat baby sweat (2011) for the Dutch Dance Festival 2012 and Circuit X 2013. He then created three shows about unconventional beauty, with performers whose bodies you do not expect in the context of contemporary dance: BIS (2012) for the 62-year-old Truus Bronkhorst, La Bete (2013) for the young actress Joke Emmers, and Victor (2013), a duet for a boy and a grown man that Jan created with director Peter Seynaeve.

In 2014 Jan Martens focused attention on the jump as movement in the group performance The Dogs days are over (2014). The show was selected for the Flanders Theatre Festival and is still touring, just like Jan’s solo Ode to the Attempt (2014) and the project The Common People (2016), a performance, social experiment and workshop in one, created in collaboration with film director Lukas Dhont. Jan Martens’ latest show Rule of Three, a collaboration with the American sound artist NAH, had its premiere at deSingel in Antwerp on 28 September 2017.

Jan Martens has won the North Brabant Prize of the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds (2014) and the prestigious Charlotte Köhlerprijs (2015) for his oeuvre. He is ‘Creative Associate’ at deSingel international arts campus from 2017 until 2021 and ‘Artiste Associé’ at CDCN Le Gymnase in Roubaix, Nord-Pas-de-Calais with support from the ministry of Culture and Communication (2016-2018).

In 2014 Jan Martens founded, together with business manager Klaartje Oerlemans, the choreographic platform GRIP in Antwerp / Rotterdam, from where they jointly produce and distribute his work as well as support the work of Bára Sigfúsdóttir, Steven Michel and Michele Rizzo.