Animalistic and cool calculation

Animalistic and cool calculation

Michaela Preiner

Foto: (Danny Willems )


July 2022

Dark, threatening, somnambulistic, powerful and poetic. This is how "Hands do not touch your precious me" presents itself with the eponymous subtitle "The mingled universe of Wim Vandekeybus, Charo Calvo & Olivier de Sagazan".

In the work, shown at the Impuls Dance Festival at the Volkstheater in Vienna, Vandekeybus’ choreography and that of the visual artist de Sagazan intertwine in a completely harmonious, even organic way. The music and sound by electro-acoustic composer and sound designer Charo Calvo support the dark, animalistic, often violent nature of the action, right down to the surprising use of silence – which makes dramaturgical sense in one scene.

22 WimVandekeybus UltimaVez Hands do not touch your precious Me c DannyWillems 10 Hands do not touch (Photo: Danny Willems)

Erwin Jans, the dramaturge of the production, explains in his contribution to the programme booklet that Charo Calvo suggested the myths about the Sumerian goddess Inanna and the hymns and devotions of her high priestess Enheduanna as a possible starting point for the performance. These myths are about the duality of man – his bright, radiant side and his dark side, which leads him to the underworld.

Myths are characterised by the fact that they reveal universal psychological and social phenomena in such a way that they are timeless and can be interpreted in many ways. This is exactly what is reflected in this joint work with the Vandekeybus ensemble “Ultima Vez”. If one sees the piece without any prior knowledge or mythological references, it quickly becomes clear that it is a narrative that illuminates interpersonal encounters that always repeat themselves in this or a similar way. But it also looks into those dark, spiritual abysses of the human being into which each and every one of us can slide. The play tells of a personal process of transformation, which, however, spreads to an entire society and changes it drastically. Last but not least, the content can also be interpreted as a simple story of jealousy with a perfidious plan.

22 WimVandekeybus UltimaVez Hands do not touch your precious Me c DannyWillems 11 Hands do not touch (Photo: Danny Willems)

No matter how you interpret it, “Hands do not touch your precious me” is worth seeing both in terms of the dance work and that of the visual artist Olivier de Sagazan. On stage there is a permanent coming and going, a condensation and disentanglement of dancers who react to each other in an artistic way and manage to express many different emotions with physical means. Countless lifting movements, but also many synchronised dance sequences at breathtaking speed are so aesthetic that one cannot get enough of them.

Olivier de Sagazan, at the beginning still on stage as an ethereal elf in a white wale dress as Lieve Meeussen’s partner, transforms in the course of the play not only into animal-human hybrid beings. Towards the end, he acts as a woman with a bloody open belly, the sight of which associates violence and pain. With a lot of clay and just as much theatrical blood, his animalistic behaviour gradually draws all the other dancers into his parallel underworld. The way de Sagazan transforms himself is not only amusing, but also highly spectacular in parts. When his fake hair burns on his head for minutes and continues to glow for a long time afterwards, the audience holds its breath. Open fire on stages still holds a fright moment. Whereby with the duration of this fire scene, one can no longer speak of just a moment.

Only Vandekeybus himself, who repeatedly captures scenes with a live camera, which are projected as a still image large on a white surface on stage, does not allow himself to be caught up in this violent-grotesque scenery. As it turns out at the end, he unexpectedly proves to be an emotionless string-puller and becomes the big winner of the story. Not only has he brought to his side the woman who initially ignored him. He has also risen to become the head of a society that now – in complete contrast to the beginning – gathers around his big table in the same way and pays homage to him in a subservient manner.

On the one hand, it is the intelligent interweaving of the different artistic disciplines that fascinates. On the other hand, it is the dramaturgical pull and the individual as well as collective dance performances that distinguish this production and at the same time reveal Vandekeybus’ choreographic signature. Impulstanz is showing a second production by the multi-artist Vandekeybus this season. “Scattered memories” – a retrospective of 35 years of work with Ultima Vez.

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