August 9th, 2005 §
As we enter the theatre, we see a woman sprawled up against the wall, looking miserable. There are some wires around her so we think she might be one of the artists. She is looking at all the spectators as they come in, not shying away from eye contact.
The theatre at Schauspielhause is yet again a black box.
No dancer comes at the appointed time. Instead we face a tripartite image. From left to right: a panel written over English, the image of the artist pressed up against the wall, a panel written over in German:
The initial message is this:
hey dude i have
talent, i’m just here
waiting for god
The artist bends over to each panel to change the writing gradually. Finally the message is that she wishes Robyn would finish her costume so she could start the show.
After about seven minutes, she finally rises and comes into the darkened theatre via the spectator entrance. The centre screen is a projection of her face and carnations she is carrying from the camera in her own hands. The left and right screens show one feet as she walks, there is a technician carrying each little web camera on both sides of her. Mantero is lit by a yellow projector from the wings. The music is some kind of rising electronic fugue.
At this point, our prospects for the evening look good. Multimedia projection, live performance. Funny cryptic scrawlings. A suggestion of playful irony…
New stand-up comedian Vera Mantero
Halfway down the stairs, Vera Mantero breaks character and shouts out, “Put the houselights up.” The houselights finally come up. And there she is in some strange black wool dress with an enormous collar. There are still knitting needles at the bottom to indicate its unfinished status.
She continues, I can’t do this really I can’t do this. It’s no good. I’m really sorry I don’t understand what I’m doing, I’m having a lot of trouble with my body. When I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t really do it.
Fine. Apparently Vera Mantero wanted to do something political about homeless people and Robyn Orlin wanted to do something about Portugal. But for Vera Mantero this doesn’t work:
I’m not into nationality, I’m into people.
At this point we are lost. The dance show is over. A comic monologue has begun.
She takes her carnations and sticks them in the mouths of three spectatators in the front row. Each specator’s image is projected by one of the webcams. She makes the carnations line up in their mouths. Apparently this was part of the Portugal theme.
Very long carnations, very short revolution.
Vera Mantero has mixed feelings about flowers. In Portugal there are all these Indian guys wandering around at night. They target couples, usually men. Why do people need flowers as an affirmation of affection?
The flowers are put away. Vera Mantero asks for cigarettes and receives them from the balcony. She leaves the theatre for ten minutes at a time and we can only hear her monologue.
Mantero’s constant stream-of-consciousness rambling in her New York accent comes across as a female Woody Allen persona. This happens two or three times. The whole performance becomes a blur of words, stand-up comedy for Vera Mantero junkies.
The dress somehow manages to become green and yellow before being shed altogether. There is a very short dance sequence at the end as Mantero dances her way out of the dress with a pink lit reindeer hat on her head.
The topless Mantero leaves the theatre.
End of the show.
This wasn’t dance. Not even sure it was theatre. It was stand-up comedy built-up on personality. If Vera Mantero was not a very strong performer, the piece would have been a total and utter failure. Painlful.
Thanks to her rather skillful delivery, it more or less works for what it is. But it has absolutely nothing to do with dance.
My companion for the show – an excellent modern dancer in her own right and a generous spirit – felt that Vera Mantero’s ramblings and her difficulty in some direct way touched the homeless issue. Homeless people are confused and talk non-stop, she suggested, as Vera Mantero’s character does.
But for the moment homeless people don’t do a lot with webcams.
Meta-theatre in all its tedium. Next time Vera Mantero has trouble pulling her show together I hope she and her creative partners find a more original trope than a monologue on the impossibility of creating the show. Or they could just cancel the show until inspiration comes.
August 9th, 2005 §
A huge empty workshop at the Arsenal. An enormous set of windows letting natural light stream in from overhead. One hundred foot ceilings.
A crowd of one hundred and fifty spectators gathered around the dance floor. Most sitting on the ground. Some on chairs. More standing.
Ulrika Kinn Svennson
From the back left corner a pretty girl with striking red hair in a white dress wanders in.
Very tall, with striking facial features, Ulrika Kinn Svennson, is an alluring and mysterious stage presence. A native of Sweden she works in Le Ballets C de la B.
She reaches centre stage and pulls up her dress to reveal that she is in fact in diapers. She finds a ball microphone.
“I had it all…” she intones into her microphone, the tones of her voice being modulated through a very sophisticated soundbank of mixing boards, keyboard and three computers behind the spectators. Behind the boards is a very intense Andreas Berger.
“You can never understand me.” Her voice begins in the female register before being dropped into the male register. Somewhere near the province of transvestite acts with a confusion of gender.
Svennson is followed by a young man who walks out with a very awkward droid like step. He introduces himself as Johnny. Johnny Schoofs is a Dutch-based dancer, graduate of the Rotterdam Danceacademy.
Schoofs does an “I am/I am not” dance to the sounds of his own voice.
“Could be nice:
are some of the interjections coming in quicker and faster and higher and lower tonalities from the sound system as Schoofs jerks around.
The technology of dance and voice is complicated and interesting but the skit carries on about twice as long as necessary. A nice touch is Schoofs’s exit through the crowd mingling with them on his way.
The third dancer to come out of the back corner is a long-legged young woma in skirt and t-shirt with a short pony tail pulled back. She delivers a long speech about celebrity and beauty and money. Nothing profound. The zeitgeist of contemporary North American culture.
Dancer Stephanie Cumming is a British Columbia native who studied dance at the University of Calgary in Canada. Since 2001, she has been dancing in Vienna with Chris Haring and others.
Cumming’s dance is an elaborate strip game. There are three layers of cotton under skirt and shirt which she pulls up and down. At one point she has all the tops up and we see both her stomach and a bra which she appears poised to pull off before she instead pulls her panties down around her ankles.
No worries. She has another two pairs of panties hidden. This is not to be a naked show.
The accompanying movement track of soundbites is one of conceit and insecurity. “I am so beautiful. You want to see me, don’t you.”
There isn’t much warmth in Cumming’s strip performance – it is strangely cold. The absence of charm may be intentional but the piece would be more engaging with some element of sensuality in the movement.
The final chapter of this experimental movement and sound piece is a trio with Cumming’s character controlling Johnny and Ulrike with commands like “Smell Johnny’s breath. But don’t come too close.”
Schoofs & Cumming dance | Svennson sings
Ulrike takes a pose on top of a box. Her hidden white skirts go all the way down to the ground making her seem like an impossibly tall monster, something out of the 5th element. Ulrike lipsyncs a song, which Cumming sings made up of very strange sounds strongly manipulated, as if a lizard could sing”.
Cumming follows this strange song with a virtuouso performance in three characters. A conversation between Ulrike, Johnny and herself. She switches quickly between voices and personalities without the slightest hesitation.
Much live manipulation of the sounds as we go. Impressive.
One phrase stood out: The space is so vast and generous.
Liquid Loft was perhaps overlong. As is often the case with artistic director Chris Haring’s work, the innovation often risked seeming technology for technology’s sake.
Sound wizard Andreas Berger at his flight deck
But in the case of Liquid Loft it didn’t matter. The manipulation of sound by Andreas Berger was virtuoso-level. Ulrike Svennson’s movement performance was perfect. Cumming’s voicework was wonderful. Schoof had a goofy sort of charm.
A lot of work and thought went into the creation of this new organism of sound and movement. All involved deserved the very warm and extended applause to which the audience treated them. New roads were opened to us.
Additional creative credits: Story, Thomas Jelinek. Text, Katherina Zakravsky.
All photographs by Alec Kinnear. Do not reuse without permission.
August 8th, 2005 §
A darkened room. Illuminated in the middle. Raw wooden tables in a a grand oval. The audience seated in two rows, around the ring, the second row on a raised platform. Silence. Waiting.
As if in a court. As in Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. As in a forum. As around a gladiator pit.
Many powerful associations with this ready circle for drama.
Gathered around this pool of light were almost entirely choreographers, curators and dancers. An exclusive audience of the highest professional calibre.
We were waiting for Sandy Williams and Jan Ritsema to present Blindspot at the Arsenal, home to most of the Impulstanz workshops.
This was perhaps the most heightened moment of anticipation of the festival. Simplicity and elegance in staging. Great concept.
Finally the two men arrived, taking out a leaf of the round table to enter into the closed arena they had prepared themselves.
Both were dressed down. Williams was in Addidas Stan Smith white tennis shoes, grey Levis jeans, a Benetton sweatshirt and Calvin Klein underwear. Ritsema wore dirty jeans, a pale blue t–shirt with a pair of eyeglasses stenciled into the front of the t-shirt.
I mention the brands as Williams was covered in brands down to the underwear and none were apparent on Ritsema. Williams is a young man around thirty with a full head of hair and in the prime of a man’s life. Ritsema is a neat-looking man in his fifties with a smooth bald pate and a ring of white hair around the sides. He wears wire-rimmed glasses and looks something like a university professor. While in reasonably trim shape for his age, there is nothing in his form or figure to give away a dance background.
Ritsema and Williams began with a somewhat incoherent dialectic where Ritsema mainly spoke about politics and Williams about an imagined love life which owed much to Leonard Cohen’s novel The Favorite Game.
Here is a taste of their discourse from the opening:
Jan: Dear Leonard Should we fill the space with politics and counter it with dance?
The greatest dancer to democracy will come from an angry army of the unemployed led by millionaires, preaching the sermon on the mount. George W.
George W. Bush.
11/9 I need some wine
11/8 I need some weight
11/7 I need some heaven
11/6 show some pics
11/5 I need a wife
11/4 will do a whore?
11/3 it is only me
11/2 and you
First lesson: A system is complex if a great many independent agents are interacting with one another in a great many ways…..
Sandy: I had hopes for all this. I used to be thin. I though I might live in one place and know one woman. I walked through….this morning. I made my way through…to… I had on my red apron and I had the woman I loved…..I am not talking about politics. I am talking about your bodies. the ones stretched out on the beach, the ones you’ve just smeared with sun-tan oil. Some of you are overweight and some are too thin, and some are very proud. You all know your bodies. You know your tits, your dick. You know what they look like. You have looked at them in mirrors, you have waited to hear them complimented, or touched with love.
This oblique conversation went on for about twenty minutes, more or less without dance. They do occasionally move and take poses. They do not look at one another but sometimes look at the audience, particularly Williams.
Of the two men, Williams was much the better speaker. His voice is clear and strong. While his stage persona was not particularly likeable, he projects a personality through his voice: a personality both insecure and conceited at the same time. Enchanted with his own prowess, dismayed at his inability to hang onto the object of his affections.
On the other hand, Ritsema has a weak voice and an unclear diction. It was very difficult to engage with his abstruse reasoning. Spoken abstract reasoning requires an absolutely clear idea of what one is saying at all times. As an English-speaking actor, one learns how to work with abstract thought through the direly complicated and imagistic monologues of Shakespeare’s plays. The audience must follow the thought process or it just becomes disconnected bombastic words – which go on for a long time. For the audience to follow the words, the actor must be perfectly clear in both his mind and his diction. It can take days to work successfully through one of these monologues, comma by comma. Ritsema did not manage this at all.
One does not expect dancers to be capable of this kind of rhetorical delivery – but then why ask them to attempt it? I have seen more shows fall down this year by expecting an actor’s verbal performance from a dancer than I can count. Tanz, Graz’s Metamorphosen springs to mind as the most striking example where Beate Arndt had to carry an entire evening work on a voice ready for short dramatic interjections but wholly unprepared for extended narration in English. A steady and convincing actor’s voice in this role would added infinitely to Metamorphosen.
Ritsema and Williams seem to have taken what is worst in Leonard Cohen’s poetry – incoherent politics and prose ramblings on quotidien breakdowns of relationships – but to have lost the exultant compact lyricism of his best poems.
At first hearing, one might think the dialogue more improvised than it is. Blindspot the performance is accompanied by a booklet called Blindspot: Text and Commentary. In this booklet one finds the full extant text of the dialogue, an informal essay from Sandy Williams “A Dress Rehearsal for an Even Darker Future or He Who Falls Becomes”, “A Possible Introduction” from Jan Ritsema and some extensive extracts from Brian Massumi’s seminal book The Politics of Everyday Fear. There is even a bibliography of Works not Cited, including (of course) Michel Foucault and (unsurprisingly) Martin Heidegger. The bibliography proper includes Leonard Cohen, Brian Massumi, Jacques Rancière and Cary Wolfe.
I mention in the booklet in detail as it is far more engaging than the performance itself. It ought to be required reading for coming to the performance. Which sets up an interesting dance model. Dance as lecture with required reading for the show. Not sure it will gain much traction with audiences but it does have its merit if the choreographer/creator would like the audience to see the abstract ideas which are being reflected physically.
Very abruptly the dialogue comes to an end when Ritsema pushes the button on an adroitly hidden CD player lodged under one of the tables. Johann Sebastian Bach. Partitas and Sonats, recording of Izthak Perlman. Very loud. This seems a tendency in modern dance. For the performers to control the music themselves. We also saw it in Philipp Gehmacher’s incubator.
The dance itself began with much walking around. Williams was the first to do some prancing, which degenerated into a stiff one-legged walk. Williams hands are large and very expressive and he knows how to use them like a magician.
Both seemed moved at the sort of half-speed one sees in workshops, teaching exercises, early rehearsals. Ritsema in particular seemed to be showing us the steps rather than taking them.
Watching Ritsema dance besides Williams, one becomes aware of how manifestly silly older people look when they dance. An older person lacks the suppleness and speed of youth. Perhaps a profound visual commentary on time here.
The relationship between the two dances was not clear. On the other hand, the relationship between the two monologues was not clear either.
Williams was self-conscious, jerky, sexual, grandiose, absolute and contorted. Ritsema was intellectual, abstract, hesitant and nuanced.
Gradually the elite audience fell to sleep. I counted at least six people fast asleep. Bach can do this to you, if the dance is not transfixing.
Towards the end, Williams worked through an energetic frenzy of I am/I am not movement with hard floor drops and rolls and painful twists which brought the audience out of their drowsing. Ritsema answered with some half-hearted jétés around the space.
Choreographically, the two men did not have enough material to cover the fifty-two minutes of music they had chosen.
Contemporary dance is at a nasty crossroads where it dreams of addressing issues of justice and peace and war and ecology. Abstract and political ideas. But such is not the natural province of dance. Feeling is dance’s own domain. Especially love. One feels that these creators are trying to use a hammer to do a wrench’s job. Simply not the right tool. So all of this adding of talk and video just takes us away from our natural strengths.
It can sometimes work – Isabella’s Room from Jan Lauwers is a brilliant tour-de-force of dance and theatre. But Lauwers begins with a core of theatre and adds the dance in as an accent (as classical opera often does). Moreover, Isabella’s Room is strung on a very strong chronological narrative line, just like a novel. In Isabella’s Room, the principal speaker is a brilliant actress Viviane De Muynck.
Ritsema is not able to perform a similar role for Blindspot. He has neither the natural gifts nor the training of the grand actor.
One could argue that a creator must always be free to fail. Fail they did.
Starting with the brightest, whitest piece of paper with which one could start and the best dance audience in the world.
If Blindspot prompts the audience of professionals at Impulstanz to take heed of the dangers of polluting dance with an excess of abstract ideas, it will have been a salutary exercise. If Blindspot only inspires more of the same, Williams and Ritsema’s bold experment will only have been a siren for further dance shipwreck.
Unfortunately no photos are available for this show.
August 8th, 2005 §
I am often disappointed with the dance photos which I am able to present with the pieces at Impulstanz. Unfortunately modern dance companies believe that the audience has no right to see what the show actually looks like. They provide their own publicity stills and do not allow newspapers or anyone else to take photographs of the actual performances.
While some of the companies have provided excellent pictures which correspond to the show at hand – Opéra de Paris, Etienne Guilloteau, Jan Lauwers to name a few – others have offered pictures which have little or nothing to do with the stage performance. Particularly regrettable in this respect are the Marie Chouinard Company’s publicity stills which are purely iconic poster images which have little to do with what we actually see on stage.
In the case of Tanz Company Gervasi, I am obliged to present photographs from a previous revision of Fuga-Ce in other costumes. In the case of Sebastian Prantl’s Land Bodyscapes, the photographs offered are from an entirely different piece (I will try and get some pictures which I saw taken at the performance).
While I understand these dance companies would like to protect their image, at the very least there should be an official Impulstanz photographer shooting every show in rehearsal and offering the company director or manager to approve or disapprove shots from the rehearsal photo session. The technology exists.
Reviews of the work would be more vivid and useful for all concerned with accurate photo materials which correspond to what is actually on stage. Newspapers would probably be happier to run newsworthy photographs rather than somebody’s contrived poster piece.
Strangely enough, Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker and Wim Wandekeybus – whose pieces along with Jan Lawers have been far and away the best of the festival – offered some of the most accurate photos.
More and better dance pictures! Let us see what we are missing or see why we are coming to the theater.
August 8th, 2005 §
Fuga-Ce original cast at Volksopera:
from front Tomoko Nishino, Leonie Wahl,
Tae Hee Kim, Esther Koller
I first saw Fuga-Ce or at least the core of it two years ago in the Vienna Volksopera. It was an impressive piece of dance. There were works by four of the best of independent dance in Vienna that night (Tanztheater Homunculus, Tanz Hotel and x.IDA were the others). To my mind the Tanz Company Gervasi piece was the stand out.
His dancers were so fast and musical. The interweaving dance that Elio Gervasi had wrought for them left not a moment of idleness to the mind. It was like watching shooting stars. If one were to blink one would miss so much.
What is at Impulstanz this year is a revision of Fuga-ce with the collaboration of Catherine Guerin, a choreographer well-known in Austria for her collaboration with the Graz Opera and Tanz, Graz ballet director Darrel Toulon.
Fuga-Ce is the second Guerin-Gervasi collaboration. Earlier this year, Darrel Toulon brought them together in Graz to create Metamorphosen in Graz. In Graz, there were three choreographers to work on Metamorphosen (Iva Rohlik was the third). Unlike shared choreographic programs, Metamorphosen was not divided into distinct sections for each choreographer but was a single show. All choreographers had full input at all times in the creation of the final composition.
I had the privilege of seeing that experiment in group authorship earlier this spring and could see some of Elio Gervasi’s phrasing in the composition but do not know the work of Catherine Guerin or Iva Rohlik well enough to distinguish their contributions. While there were some fine moments in Metamorphosen, as a whole I found it not entirely coherent choreographically, made up of mismatched fragments. I laud Darrel Toulon’s audacity to always find a new way to approach the choreographic art, whether by retreating cinematic stories in dance, turning the grand classics on their head with his small company or in this case attempting multiple authorship. As with many grand experiments, success is not always assured but there is something to learn from the process.
That is to say, it is extremely interesting that Elio Gervasi and Catherine Guerin have chosen to continue the experiment of creation by multiple choreographic hands of their own free will. No longer is it the idea of the artistic director hiring them.
The version of Fuga-Ce at Impulstanz is much longer as it is now a full evening piece as opposed to one of four small pieces. The aesthetic is much looser. There is a comparatively elaborate set with three metal panels at the back of the stage and dozens of wooden blocks with metal rods sticking out of them. The costumes are no longer monochromatic grey but a variety of sombre browns and reds and blues.
Fuga-Ce original costumes: Tae Hee Kim
There are six dancers instead of four. When there were four they were almost all close to the same height and proportions. Most disconcerting about the additional dancers is that one is much taller than the others and one is much smaller. The symmetry of the earlier production of Fuga-Ce is gone.
What was improved this year was the addition of live music to the performance with the Keller Quartet at the Akademietheater performance. Sadly in the showing at Arsenal there was no live music.
The lighting from Markus Schwarz was excellent. Studio One at Arsenal is the same empty space in which Philipp Gehmacher’s incubator took place with all the atmosphere of an empty aircraft hangar. For Fugua-Ce, Schwarz had managed to put in a full lighting rig.
When we entered the hall it was almost dark and we had to find our places carefully. He finally brought the house lights down and then brought small pools of light up all over the stage, nine in all revealing the strange forest of metal sticks in wooden blocks.
The dancers moved to one pool to another. Sometimes dancing whirling solos, sometimes dancing fantastic and energetic duets. With the size differential some of the dancers seemed to take on a male role and a female role this year.
All the dancers, as is wont with the Tanz Gervasi Company, were very good. Elio Gervasi’s choreography is very quick and demanding of the dancers. Leonie Wahl showed extreme speed and vigour and perhaps more precision than at the Volksopera. Tae Hee Kim was exceptionally smooth and strong throughout the piece. Esther Kollers danced with characteristic grace and lightness of touch.
Of the new dancers, the tall one seemed somewhat out of place. While very athletic, she lacked the precision and softness characteristic of Gervasi dancers. The new blonde dancer seemed a little bit cold and to think her way too hard through the piece. The final new dancer – while too short for the company – revealed herself to be fluid and passionate in her movements. The fire in her movement was a welcome addition to the rather cerebral emotions of Fuga-Ce.
In the tendency of almost all of the productions at Impulstanz this year, the revised Fuga-Ce could not pass up noises from the dancer. At the end of the extended choreographic meditation on Bach, Leonie Wahl stands on her head. After a moment on her head, as the other dancers slide away into the darkness she begins to occasionally bark. Two minutes later she drops down into a crouch, takes a Russian looking fur hat, pulls it tight on her head and scrabbles away into the dark, some sort of peculiar gollem creature or perhaps a homeless person.
All of these additions of dancers and metal forests and different colours in the costume and barking on one’s head did nothing to add to the piece for me. But nor did they deprive a very strong work of its core – smooth and dramatic dancing from a musical and fluent troupe.
A refreshing change from the comedic sketches and experimental theatre under the dance banner this past week.
August 6th, 2005 §
The Modesty of Icebergs – Photo J. Grenier
Another one of the poster productions of this year’s Impulstanz, Daniel Leveillé‘s new work is graced not only by the strong image of three naked men flying but also by a chillingly poetic title The Modesty of Icebergs (La pudeur des icebergs). I expected the most.
In the splendidly intimate Akademietheater, The Modesty of Icebergs was very slow to start. The dancers did not come into the half-darkened hall until quarter after nine.
Three men strode out from the back right corner (Mathieu Campeau, Stéphane Gladyszewski, Emmanuel Proulx). Totally naked as the poster promised. They promptly set themselves out in a staggered row of three and began to pose. It was like some sort of strange body building contest where they pliéd and puffed-out their chests in strange half squatting positions.
The piece is difficult to describe as there was no particular narrative but rather a cyclical repetition of the same movements with an ensemble comprised mainly of three men but augmented at times to as many as five men and one woman (Ivana Milicevic).
A highlight of the dance for me were the series of leaps the dancers made onto one another’s hands. Sometimes the other dancer would push the leaper backwards across the stage in the air, as if he were flying. Other times, the dancer would leap up on top of the walking dancer suspended by their own hands on shoulders and the hands of their carrier directly vertical at the midriff. The dancer would be carried clear across the stage in this dramatic pose. If you’ve ever seen someone portage a canoe, you will have some idea of the geometry involved.
Others were very moved by a piling on of bodies in which they found some emotional succour in the rather cold show.
One becomes accustomed to the full male frontal nudity in a positive way. All the dancers are fairly ordinary looking men (mid-way through the piece a curly haired man with huge limpid eyes and a lush mouth appears like an overgrown cupid, as the exception to prove the rule). Some with rounder butt cheeks and more robust chests, others with more slender grace, but authentic looking men. The investigation of male form is intrinsically fascinating, as it is so rarely done. In most professional sports like hockey or even baseball, the participants are so attired as to reveal little. This is one of the great attractions of basketball as a very popular spectator sports for women. But event there the motion is repetitive quick and not especially revealing.
Yet a consistent low point in the choreography for me was an insistence on the male sphincter by Daniel Leveillé. There were three poses in which we were obliged to confont our dancers’ crack in the most intimate way possible. One in which the dancer turns his back to us, bends his knees halfway and then bends over towards the floor. This was perhaps the most off-putting. Another was when the dancers lowered themselves to the floor in splits and then rolled over on to their backs and finally used their hands to spread their butts. The third was to place the dancers again back to us, but kneeling on the floor, butt directly towards us.
Frankly, I found this emphasis on the anus distracting and worse the revealing poses highly contrived. Unpleasant artifice in off-topic sensationalism. A half-hearted descent into male pornography with no link to the rest of the piece. Apparently these are poses which baboons will make in pre-combat situations. Perhaps Leveillé was trying to recall our primate origins.
The music was repetitive – exclusively fragments of Fédéric Chopin’s Préludes op. 28. There were long passages of silence. The silence allowed us to hear the dancers movements on the stage very distinctly which offered another rhythm to the ear.
I found the alternation between silence music very stimulating. On the other hand, Chopin and silence can be a powerful somnificant.
Daniel Léveillé – Photo R. Laporte
Towards the end of the piece the eye contact between dancers becomes ferociously intense, as if they were consumed by hatred or envy of one another. I did not quite understand their sudden emotional intensity.
As an étude on the male body, as an exploration of certain types of movement, Daniel Leveillé’s The Modesty of Icebergs does not dissapoint. But somehow the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
An often-heard complaint was one of length. But at one hour and fifteen minutes The Modesty of Icebergs is not particularly long. Simply there was perhaps neither enough choreographic nor emotional content to play for more than forty minutes. The Modesty of Icebergs was slow-moving. But so are icebergs.
A well-written and enthusiastic Montréal review Naked Angels.
A concise quality video extract from The Modesty of Icebergs.
August 2nd, 2005 §
Woman collapses on stage.
A bleached out video shows on a large plasma screen on the left hand wall of the theatre. It is a high-angle overhead view of somewhere in downtown Vienna in near-winter. People wander by four Mozart concert ticket sellers in capes. The ticket sellers talk mainly to one another as there are few of their habitual prey (foreign tourists) wandering by on the busy morning. A woman passes with her dog every five minutes, reminding us that it is a loop.
The video is important as it sets an urban environment, a bleached-out emotional landscape and a Viennese context.
At some point our collapsed dancer (Ingrid Reisetbauer, the choreographer) starts to emit guttural shouts.
Mainly a lot of sitting on the stage with a bored look on her face and staring at the audience with disinterested disgust. Reisetbauer’s character is attired in an ugly green top and ill-fitting trousers. Her hair-do is particularly pernicious, managing to be both up and mussy at the same time.
A lot of painful looking floorwork.
Later while Reisetbauer lies face down on the stage, she begins to pump her hips up and down hard on the floor. As if she were humping a lover. On her face the disgusted and bored look remains. In her emotional voyage, I think we are to understand that this is her sex life. Perfunctory and empty. Her lovers bring no more emotional content into her life than the floor.
In general we are facing an absolute discomfort with body and space.
Fist it should be said that in the tasks Ingrid Reisetbauer sets herself – generating discomfort, disgust, ennui – her success is outstanding.
I disagree with her ends in principle. To my mind, dance is supposed to bring one closer to one’s body, not drive one further away from it.
Towards the end of Drängen, Reisetbauer leaps off the stage and lingers a moment in front of the audience as if searching for a victim upon which to hurl herself. Given the extremity of her performance the audience is genuinely discomfited to find her persona among us.
Happily enough she trots up to the back of the auditorium and disappears. An empty stage. Silence. Reisetbauer reappears to sing out loud and discordantly and repeatedly hum.
And thank heavens it is finally over. Twenty-five of the longest minutes of my life.
Another Vienna piece, like the one from Philipp Gehmacher, about boredom and disgust with urban life.
Here we are facing an ugly if clear performance by an artist who makes herself as insupportable as possible. In difference to Gehmacher’s incubator, at least Ingrid Reisetbauer moves around – Drängen is legitimately a dance piece. Again, unlike Gehmacher, Reisetbauer is succinct in delivering her dour life statement.
But neither incubator nor Drängen have anything to do with life in Vienna, whether mine or those whom I know. Vienna is a beautiful and lively city, filled with all kinds of delighful and gorgeous people.
Some part of the modern dance crowd seem to have mutually poisoned one another to all light and beauty. I wish they would find themselves a support group instead of inflicting their angst on the public.
The stürm und drang of early French existentialists but without the languid expressiveness of Camus’ or Sartre’s texts.
Decades of work from Tanztheater Homunculus, Tanz Company Gervasi and Impulstanz itself have gone into building up a modern dance public. My concern is that these tanzextentialists will drive all audiences from dance theatres in this city. And then life will really be bleak. In a worst case scenario, we are facing a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For masochists only.
August 2nd, 2005 §
Bare black stage. A girl stands. A fallen chair. The girl rolls on to her back.
A single overhead light allumes. Girl rises. Dressed in in plain white t-shirt and very blue jeans.
She turns on the chair. A vicious attention. Kicks the chair melodically across the stage.
Intimacy and hatred in an inanimate object.
Strong projection of personality. Not a typical dancer’s body, but beautiful, flexible and powerful. Somehow very true.
Claire Croizé in Skéné
Unfortunately these first five minutes were the high point of the show.
The rest of the mercifully short piece (less than one hour) involved a lot of arm twisting to very loud Mozart.
Only the charisma and physical presence of Clara Croizé kept the audience in the theatre. At some point Etienne Guilloteau wandered out himself. He was wearing the same white t-shirt and plain blue jeans as Croizé. He gave himself mainly the same movements as Croizé to execute. This only highlighted the obvious – that he is not nearly the dancer she is.
Guilloteau’s pointy little beard and sloppy pony tail only added a focal point to our discontent. His head did not seem to be fully in his performance, at least beside the almost otherworldly concentration of Croizé.
Never did we get as lively an interaction between the human pair, as we saw between Croizé and the chair.
Croizé does get one more peculiar and transfixing solo. She wanders the stage in a circle throwing her arms forward violently and repeatedly to the chords of Symphony No. 25 in G-Minor . Eventually Guilloteau joins her, spoiling a promising moment.
Guilloteau’s choreography is simply not at the hauteur of his musical ambitions (Mozart chefs-d’oeuvres).
Nice dancer. Lousy show.
Clare Croizé and Etienne Guilloteau
Twenty-five year old Croizé is a French born, Belgian-trained (P.A.R.T.S.) dancer who is a choreographer in her own right (Give me something that doesn’t die). She has performed for Carlotta Sagna (Public Relation) among others.
Four years Croizé’s senior, Guilloteau is also French and a P.A.R.T.S. alumnus who has performed for for Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker (Kassandra), Charlotte Vanden Eynde (Beginning Endings) and Mar Vanrunxt (Deutsche Angst). Skéné appears to be his first professional work as a choreographer. Let’s hope for the best.
Photos © Raymond Mallentjer