Labyrinth | Saskia Hölbling and Katia Plaschka at the Semper Depot

December 13th, 2004 § 0 |

A darkened section of Vienna. Just off the ring but nothing but blackness and the massive wood and iron doors of old warehouses. A voice rises tormented and beautiful into the night. A futuristic baroque. It must be here.

You push the heavy wood door, peer inside. An almost black space. People wander randomly in the distance. It doesn't look like a dance show at all. You enter and pass a small table where you give your credentials.

The voice sings insistently, beautifully fragmented.

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In German. You understand little but that it is about the cold and falling water. It is an existentialist lament to the stars. Later you learn the the beautiful words are from Dante Alighieri.

The ceiling rises almost as high as the stars. Distant above us all one can see the soprano lit by a small lamp from which she reads her music. Her name is Katia Plaschka and her voice is exquisite.

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But where is the dance. It is amid us. Some audience members sit at the far end of the depot, on a small tribune. Others like you wander among the dancers. Or do the dancers wander among us.

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The dancers break and come together. They stand and they fall. They lean on one another.

All of them are heavily covered. Trenchcoats. Jackets.

One is free to ignore them. And often does. Always the music rises beautifully into the dark mystical space.

On the walls, images of lost temples of the future rush past in a deep blue projection.

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Apparently the future offers us nothing but more alienation. As long as the music is this beautiful, perhaps we will survive.

The choreography was somewhat indifferent, dancers falling into one another and supporting one another, all as if in slow motion. But unlike in choreographer Saskia Höbling's last piece, the rather tepid movement was appropriate, to both the music and the environment and the projection. As it were, the choreography supported the even rather than distracted from it.

All of the dancers were interesting individuals. The choreographer herself was perhaps the weakest link in the strong crew she assembled including Höbling's perennial favorite the marvelous long-limbed Andrea Strotter. Strotter's lean physique and gaunt features complemented her trench-coated and alienated persona.

Katia Plaschka who came in from Hamburg to perform was exquisite. Four days of two hour concerts, she to carried the evenings on her voice.

Wiener Taschenoper's Artist in Residence Wolfgang Mitterer provided a formidable score. Estranging and haunting. I am sorry not to have a copy of it to play on lonely nights.

Alexej-Paryla's blue graphics were atmospheric but in the end suffer from the same limitations that all projected performance graphics inevitably do. They cannot match Blade Runner and more recent films like City of Lost Children in creating a dark alternative universe. The playing field simply isn't level.

An exceptional space, exceptional music, exceptional vocal performance, interesting visuals with some choreography in an evening of free movement for audience as well as performers.

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A very good creation from Taschenoper and Dans.Kias.

For the moment you can hear the music and see some visuals at the Taschenoper site above. If for some reason they are no longer available at a future date, here are some sample music links.

Labyrinth excerpt 1 | Labyrinth excerpt 2 | Labyrinth excerpt 3

Photography by Alec Kinnear © Please notify before using.

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