Impulse Theater Festival

Düsseldorf, Cologne and Mülheim an der Ruhr

13— 23 June 2019


What is femininity? Who does it belong to? And why is feminisation regarded as something negative? Four performers describe their struggle to live feminine lives their own way. They use dance and language to draw intimate self-portraits from what they have experienced, what they have longed for and social realities between India and Western Europe.

15.06.19 21:00 – 22:00 Tickets


16.06.19 18:00 – 19:00 Tickets

Additional performance

18.06.19 19:00 – 20:00 Tickets


20.06.19 21:00 – 22:00 Tickets

Additional performance (SOLD OUT)

21.06.19 19:00 – 20:00 Tickets Schedule

FFT Kammerspiele
Language: English, German, Swiss German, Tamil, Kannada with German and English surtitles

Special on 18.06. after the performance:
Audience discussion in English with the artists and Alexis C Johnson, trans* femme non-binary artist, scientist and advocate for diversity and inclusion. Chaired by Haiko Pfost, Artistic Director, Impulse Theater Festival

© Lukas Acton
© Lukas Acton
© Lukas Acton

When they were children, Marcel Schwald and Chris Leuenberger both wanted to be girls. In Switzerland in the 1980s this wasn’t easy. Diya Naidu, Living Smile Vidya and Shilok Mukkati come from India where, despite a long tradition of genders transcending the sharp division between male and female, discrimination and attacks against women and transsexuals are also daily occurrences.

EF_FEMININITY celebrates resistance against the norm. This takes on a different form in each of the four solos: with considerable self-assurance the performers share the personal experiences that influence their relationships with their own bodies to this day. Against all odds, the four have fought for and won a pride in their own femininity. Living Smile Vidya has now applied for asylum in Switzerland as an activist for the rights of transgender persons. For this reason it was unclear at the time of going to press whether EF_FEMININITY can be presented with its original cast. The Impulse Theater Festival strongly supports the company’s request to be able to travel to Germany with Living Smile Vidya.


Artistic direction: Chris Leuenberger, Marcel Schwald
Performance: Diya Naidu, Living Smile Vidya, Shilok Mukkati, Chris Leuenberger
Assistance: Anna Josepha Fritsch
Costumes: Salome Egger
Sound: Thomas Jeker
Outside Eyes: Joshua Muyiwa, Kirtana Kumar, Anne Haug
Technical direction, lighting: Thomas Kohler
Photography: Lukas Acton
Production management: Sabine Jud, Franziska Schmidt
Produktion India: Sandbox Collective Bangalore
Contact for touring enquiries: Sabine Jud, sabine.jud[a]


A production by Schwald/Leuenberger in co-production with Dampfzentrale and Kaserne Basel and accompanied by Danse & Dramaturgie, a programme initiated by Théâtre Sévelin 36, in collaboration with Dampfzentrale Bern, Tanzhaus Zürich, TU – Théâtre de l’Usine, ROXY Birsfelden. With support from 1 Shanthi Road Studio Gallery Bangalore, Fachausschuss Tanz and Theater BS/BL, Kanton Bern, Stadt Bern, Schweizer Kulturstiftung Pro Helvetia, Shoonya Centre for Art and Somatic Practices Bangalore, Migros-Kulturprozent, SSA Société Suisse des Auteurs, SüdKulturFonds, Burgergemeinde Bern, Gesellschaft zu Ober-Gerwern.
With thanks to Adishakthi Theatre Arts Residencies, Infinite Souls Residencies Bangalore.


Chris Leuenberger is a choreographer and dancer. He studied Theatre at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts in California and Choreography at the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam. Since 2006 he has worked in a range of different combinations (including the White Horse collective, with Jenny Beyer, Marcel Schwald and Matthew Rogers) in Holland, Germany and Switzerland. His work has been presented in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. ‘Trip en masse’ by White Horse was awarded the Dutch Gouden Zwaan Prize in 2010 as the best choreography of the year.

Shilok Mukkati studied Communications Sciences at the Jain University Bangalore and became known as a poet and slammer. Since 2015 she has worked as a freelance journalist, including writing and presenting radio programmes on sexual minorities and queer communities. She received the National Award from the Indian government’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 2016 for the episode ‘Lesbians in the Shadow’. She was the first author to write queer poems in the local language Kannada and broadcast these over the radio. Since 2014 she has worked as an activist for human rights focusing on LGBTQIA rights. She has practiced bharatanatyam dance since she was a child.

Diya Naidu studied Dance at the Attakalari Centre for Movement Arts in Bangalore and subsequently toured internationally for eight years as a member of the Attakalari Repertory Company. Since 2011 she has created her own choreographic works and taught in Bangalore, New Delhi and Kolkata. Her first solo work ‘Nadir’ won the Robert Bosch Young Choreographer’s Award. In 2016 ‘Hands and Face Project’, a participatory 1:1 performance for public spaces won her the Prakriti Foundation India’s Jury Award for Contemporary Dance. She first came to Switzerland in 2015 for a residency in Zurich. Naidu’s interests include gender and age and she is currently devising formats to be able to work with amateurs on these themes.

Marcel Schwald has established himself with works that take a very direct approach to the audience. His pieces are often structured around improvisations and reflect social hierarchies and possibilities of self-empowerment. Schwald’s works have been presented at independent venues and city theatres in Switzerland and abroad. He was nominated as Young Director of the Year in the critics’ poll of ‘Theater heute’ magazine in 2017 for his direction of ‘The Making of Americans von Gertrude Stein’.

Living Smile Vidya is an actor, (clinic-)clown and writer. As an activist she has supported the rights of transgender persons artistically and politically for many years. She achieved a legal milestone by fighting successfully in her home state of Tamil Nadu to have the name and gender given on her ID altered. In 2013 she won a Mahendra Excellence Theater Award in New Delhi, after which she studied at the International School of Performing Arts, London, graduating in 2014. That same year she founded the transgender theatre collective Panmai Theatre in Chennai. Living Smile Vidya’s autobiography was made into a film in 2008 entitled ‘I am Saravanan Vidya’.