A splendid mixture of music, choreography and light.
The piece opens in near darkness. The steps develop slowly. Strange metal shades adorn the dancers’ heads.
Individual bulbs hang down from overhead. The dancers push these pools of light and then dance solos underneath.
For the rest of the piece, the dancers form and reform in pairs and groups and solos under these lamps. Occasionally, some of the dancers actually sing with Lars Stigler’s splendid to score – they sing in an incomprehensible language (certainly not English or German).
I didn’t quite understand the how or the why of when they broke into song but they sang well. The program notes mention something about Dadaistic – singing in tongues and Dadaism go together.
Each of the dancers has quite different technique and attributes, but all are excellent. Each dancer is beautiful in his or her own way, whether the long limbed speed of Leonie Wahl or the concentrated intensity of Kenia Bernal Gonzalez or the cool grace of Tiffany Watson or the incredibly flexibility of Salvatore La Ferla.
Gervasi’s success in Seikes is again making the quotidien magic. Gervasi takes one ordinary object and makes it extraordinary. This allows us to see the wonderful in daily life. As daily life is the only life we have besides fantasy life – whatever will allow us to see the magic is welcome. It is something like the eye of a child. Remember how incredible a microscope or a crystal ball could be? Elio Gervasi does and he lets us see it.
Elio Gervasi in my opinion stumbled for a couple of years under the fashion for conceptual art which took over Vienna a few years ago. Up to that time, Gervasi was regularly part of Tanzquartier, but his last few productions with Tanzquartier have ended in conflict.
The artistic directors of Tanzquartier forced or tried to force Gervasi to follow their conceptual manifesto. That meant cutting down the dance or introducing extraneous elements. Gervasi resisted but some damage was done to his work. It was the worst of both worlds:
- Gervasi was unhappy and his work was damaged
- Tanzquartier was unhappy
Now that Gervasi has broken free of this damaged relationship and is free to make his own dance – speedy and fluent steps closely tied to the music – his work has returned to its traditional high quality.
Do we prosecute Balanchine for not having a clear meaning to his steps? Has the Opera de Paris taken Forsythe’s work out of their repertoire as it is movement based?
The answer is of course no. So why should poor Elio Gervasi have to listen to this tripe about his work being too abstract or movement based and/or having no conceptual grounding?
If I want epistemology or deconstruction, I will go to the bookstore and take home some thick philosophy books. When I come into a dance theatre I want to be entertained, delighted and uplifted. Dance is about the spirit of the body and the spirit of the body is about movement and expression.
Dance is not about a bunch of sour intellectuals sitting around on a dirty floor in their underwear (or without it) pulling tampons out of their loins and then wearing it as a head dress as they continue to sit and sneer at us. Please do not mistake my disdain for prudishness.* Tampons could be part of dance show but props and sitting around do not dance make.
Dancers should be well trained, talented, in good shape, charismatic and full of energy. If a dancer fills all of the above criteria, he or she will inevitably be beautiful – not for superficial reasons of the shape of the face or body, but as a consequence of training, charisma and energy. To dance for Gervasi, you have to fulfill all of those criteria. Another reason for the conceptual dance crowd to scorn his work – he wouldn’t let any of them sully his stage for even five minutes.
Gervasi himself had a darker period when overwhelmed by the tendency to conceptual work and solo. He set himself a foolish dare in ImPulsTanz 2007 with his favorite dancer and muse Leonie Wahl to create an evening length solo. The evening was almost without music. His normal fluent steps were perverted to violent interjection. Wahl’s energy transfixed the audience but by the end we were merely exhausted and unhappy.
Happily enough Elio Gervasi has gone back to his own gift – multiple dancer creations with fast and fluent movement, married to the music.
As mentioned, the lighting by Markus Schwartz is incredible. The music from Lars Stigler entrancing. You can hear some Stigler’s music – on of all places – MySpace.
Seikes is gone now but when it reappears on a Vienna or other stage, run, do not walk, to enjoy beautiful light, movement and music full of life. Seikes will make the rest of your week much, much better.
* Jan Fabre’s stage is often full of blood and nudity and sex, as much as any of those of Shakespeare. But the dancers dance and the actors act. Things happen. Fabre’s works are splendid, dark masterpieces.
All photos © Alec Kinnear – TanzCompany Gervasi