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Sarka Ondrisova’s Voda na Vode in SND

Voda na voda starts with a woman lying in a chalk body circle, surrounded by suitcases and clothes scattered across the stage.

The ruins of life.

The beginning is the end, like a film. How did she arrive here?

As we all do by living life.

Voda na voda is a series of associative tableaux, focused alternatively on travel or on the relationships between men and women.

Men don’t do very well here. We’re either brutes, or dependent winos. Easily seduced, easily duped. Better controlled on a short leash than loved.

It’s a dark look into the heart but not an unmerited one. Most women do feel hard done by.

Along the way we are treated to elaborate work with bathtubs, high heels, climbing gear, skipping ropes, suitcases, suspended rope.

What’s wonderful about Sarka Ondrisova’s work is the elaborate work with objects together with the consistency of the choreography. In difference from my recent experience at Dido and Aeneas where the choreographic language seemed to change from scene to scene (same thing happens in Linz at Jochen Ulrich’s work but that’s the topic of another post), Ondrisova’s movement fits together to create a work greater than the sum of its parts.

Particularly powerful is the work against the floor and other bodies. Movement builds up into a crescendo and then into high impact. But the impact is never simple pyrotechnics, as is sometimes the case with Win Vandekeybus. Ondrisova earns her body slams in an elaborate emotional subtext that builds up over the full scene.

While its roots are in choreographed contact improvisation, Ondrisova takes her dancers much further. Movement is a reflection of both thought and feeling.

There’s a splendid scene lifted directly from Bram Stoker’s Dracula where a young man full of wild oats (he prances around the stage as a horse) is seduced by three beautiful succubae who come out of a bathtub with long hair and high heels. As they drain him of his life force, a thought comes forward: “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

Apparently despite invitations for the last five years, no one from ImPulsTanz can get down to Bratislava to check out Ondrisova’s work nor her colleagues work. Shame on you Karl. This is some of the most interesting modern work I’ve seen. And it’s happening in ImPulsTanz’s own backyard while they comb the far outreaches of Europe and all the continent for something interesting and new.

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