Brutal Romanticism

Brutal Romanticism

Shortly before the pandemic, Florentine Holzinger presented her piece “Dance. A Sylphidic Reverie in Stunts.” at the TQW. Beatrice Cordua, the German prima ballerina who was the first to dance naked under John Neumeier’s choreography in “Sacre de Printemps”, was also present. Now, 3 years after Holzinger’s premiere, the production was performed again at the Volkstheater as part of the<a href=”;et_pb_searchform_submit=et_search_proccess&amp;et_pb_include_posts=yes&amp;et_pb_include_pages=yes” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”> Impuls-Tanz-Festival</a>. And once again Cordua was on stage, naked – like all her other young colleagues, who were asked by the former prima ballerina to take off their clothes as well.

<img class=”size-full wp-image-46156″ src=”” alt=”” width=”1200″ height=”801″ /> DANCE. A sylph-like reverie in stunts (Photo: © Eva Würdinger)

At the beginning and at the end, the audience witnessed a working process at the barre, which is common in classical ballet. The only difference was that Cordua expertly commented on the movements and constantly praised her small group. Between the opening and closing scenes, however, there was a dramaturgical development introduced by the figure of a contemporary witch, dressed only in a leather jacket and riding a hoover.

Holzinger left the footsteps of romantic ballet – including an interactive audience interlude – and not only performed acrobatic numbers at lofty heights on motorbikes suspended from ropes. She formed her ensemble into a witchy group that was ultimately about pure survival including murder and manslaughter. Parallel to the wild hustle and bustle, a young woman was pierced in the back of the stage – made visible by life projections – so that she could then be fixed by carabiners, pulled up into the air by her own body weight, her own flesh. The embodiment of a contemporary sylph was – due to the subtitle of the production – obvious.

“All our lives we try to rise from the ground” – Cordua explained to her students as part of the graceful ballet exercises. This aspiration was given a whole new dimension by the female stunt on display. This statement was directly related to the destructive intervention on the body of the pierced woman, who then dangled on ropes in front of the audience. The brutality that was shown here is probably just as painful in a more subtle form in pointe dancing. In all those practice sessions in which the foot and leg muscles have to be painstakingly accustomed to walking on their toes, tripping, dancing and jumping. What is ultimately supposed to look floating can only be achieved by painful trimming of the body.

<img class=”size-full wp-image-46164″ src=”” alt=”” width=”1200″ height=”801″ /> DANCE. A sylph-like reverie in stunts (Photo: © Eva Würdinger)

In an interview, excerpts of which can be read in the programme, Holzinger stated that it was important for her to be able to really trust her own body as a strength and weapon. Strength and power was also what she demanded of herself and her dancers and performers. And not only physically, but also mentally. The fact that she had the women who stood on stage with her and herself appear as witches – as much as this was in the context of ballet and opera pieces of the 19th century – also allows this choice to be questioned. After all, it serves clichés that send shivers down the spines not only of emancipated women.

But other questions also arise in the context of the performance. Art producers always bear responsibility. Not only for themselves, but above all for their ensemble and ultimately for the audience. It can be assumed that all those who performed with Florentine Holzinger in this production did so on a voluntary basis. But where does voluntariness begin when, especially in the usually precarious employment field of contemporary dance, every participation in a show is seen as a chance to be able to finance oneself for the coming months? It is to be hoped that the strengthening of the female body image, indeed the empowerment that comes with this choreography for the ensemble, is sustainable and has an effect beyond the stage performances.

Standing ovations made it clear that Holzinger had fully met the taste of the audience.

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Memories in a row

Memories in a row

Those who expected a scandalous performance or an emotional rollercoaster, as the Belgian has often been known to do, were proved wrong. Scattered Moments” turned out to be a cleverly made replica with countless quotations from previous works, highly aesthetic and intelligently conceived. Right at the beginning, Wim launches into a solo performance in which he talks about an early engagement in Helena, in the state of Montana, which took place in a “county jail”. At the end of the performance, hats flew onto the stage in excitement – a gesture the ensemble was unfamiliar with.

Wim has just finished his story when Saïd Gharbi appears, the blind dancer who has been his friend and collaborator since the beginning of his work with Ultima Vez. Suddenly Saïd throws him a white brick. In his very first work with Ultima Vez, “What the body does not remember”, there are many white bricks that play a central role in this choreography. The white brick, now placed next to Vandekeybus at the edge of the stage, forms the opening of a contextual bracket. It contains not only props from past productions, such as the aforementioned stone, but also film and video clips, as well as choreography quotations from productions of the past decades. Even Saïd’s white shirt, which he talks about with his friend on stage at the beginning, appears in several earlier productions.

Those who have seen much of Vandekeybus will also recognise much in this production. Like that recording by Carlo Verano, a German variety artist who was friends with the all-round artist. “Immer das Selbe gelogen” was a tribute that Wim dedicated to Carlo and in which the then 89-year-old made a singing appearance in bed. That the evening is nevertheless not a flat stringing together of quotations is thanks to the strong choreographic dynamics, which go hand in hand with equally strong musical recordings and allow the various scenes to flow seamlessly into one another. The music alternates between popular hits like “There is a hole in the bucket” by Harry Belafonte and Odetta, but also lesser-known ones, but is always characterised by clear rhythms.

The dance vocabulary features acrobatic floor numbers as well as those jumping cascades for which Vandekeybus is so well known. The weightlessness that becomes comprehensible for seconds in the process is something he has also captured in his films. It can also be seen in many film stills in which his dancers float freely in the air. Again and again he resorts to this stylistic element, but it never appears singularly, but mostly in a rapid sequence, performed by his ensemble one after the other in short intervals. Including Wim Vandekeybus himself, there are 23 people dancing on stage this evening. And each of them is recognisable in their individuality.

Alexandros Anastasiadis, Laura Aris Álvarez, Borna Babić, Maureen Bator, Tim Bogaerts, Damien Chapelle, Pieter Desmet, Saïd Gharbi, Rob Hayden, Germán Jauregui Allue, Luke Jessop, Kit King, Maria Kolegova, Anna Karenina Lambrechts, Anabel Lopez, Tanja Marin Friðjónsdóttir, Lieve Meeussen, Yassin Mrabtifi, Magdalena Oettl, Eddie Oroyan, Aymara Samira Parola, and Mufutau Yusuf perform solo, but also frequently in groups of 2 or 3.

What can be seen is incessant kicking and pushing, holding and catching each other, which in many moments has aggressive and brutal features. But also the choreography from “Inspite of Wishing and Wanting”, in which individuals repeatedly step out of the group and perform dream dances, while the ensemble at the edge of the stage has assumed sleeping gestures. The gliding across the floor in different variations is strongly reminiscent of movements in figure skating, which reinforces the somnambulistic situation.

One interview scene takes on a particularly humorous note, as it is not Wim Vandekeybus who is being interviewed, but the “journalist” does not seem to notice. After all, some cleverly placed statements are dropped in this interview. In them, the historically important work that Wim created with his group over the decades is highlighted. A self-congratulation that isn’t one because of the setting, but still doesn’t miss its mark. Nevertheless, there is no getting around the fact that the Belgian choreographer wrote dance history and he knows it.

Towards the end, Saïd hurls “I have come to sell you your last words” at Wim. They are also from an early production, but in this context they get a different twist.

With “Scattered memories”, Wim Vandekeybus created a bulging cornucopia from which one memory after another pours over the stage. Memories that tell of joy and permanent work as well as of family happiness with children, but also of anxiety, dreams, old age and farewells. Nothing, however, suggests that the production is one with which Vandekeybus wants to say goodbye. He presents himself too vital with Ultima Vez and arouses curiosity about what is still to be seen in the years to come. Ad multos annos!

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Animalistic and cool calculation

Animalistic and cool calculation

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.

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.

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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What do you really need to know about the creation of a work of art?

What do you really need to know about the creation of a work of art?

[A few decades ago – I don’t know if it’s still the case today – you learned a lot in art history courses. Especially styles and their geographical distribution. You studied buildings, paintings and sculptures and made comparisons. And if you had already enjoyed lectures on iconography, then you were also able to interpret the message of individual works of art that was hidden from the layman. When one had finished 8-plus-x semesters and was allowed to put an academic title in front of one’s name, one suddenly found oneself often in the embarrassment of being able to give only the most rudimentary biographical information about artists. There was almost no space devoted to them in studies; if there was, then one acquired them oneself or read up on them in acute need. For works of art themselves, however, there was and still is an unwritten law: if they are good, they do not need biographical supplements.

Jan Lauwers, Belgian theatre director who originally studied painting at the Academy of Arts in Ghent, sets many scents in the direction of artwork creation and its biographical background with his new play “All The Good”. It was presented as part of the Impuls Dance Festival at the Volkstheater in Vienna. With the Needcompany, co-founded by his wife Grace Ellen Barkey and himself, he offered the Impulstanz audience at the Volkstheater insights into the genesis of a special work of art. In doing so, he did not focus on an iconographic approach and its philosophical background. Quite the opposite. The only tentative progress of the development of the object, equipped with blown glass drops from a Palestinian glassblower, only forms the background for a vividly told family story that gets completely out of kilter at the end of the performance. And it also forms the background to a very subtle indictment of Israel. An indictment, however, in which there are no victors and vanquished, only losers.

But until this happens, the events – accompanied by live music by Maarten Seghers and three other musicians – intensify in a dramatic way. The parents Jan and Grace Ellen are put to the test by the relationship actions of their children Romy Louise and Victor Lauwers. There is the realisation that art actions today, no matter how shockingly intended, are neither shocking nor original. A coitus scene that takes place coram publico subsequently turns into a nightmarish event of a traumatised former Israeli combat soldier.

The women, Grace Ellen, Romy Louise and Inge (Victor’s partner) press the gas pedal with their feminist interpretations when it comes to new ways of looking at historical works of art, but also current art productions. Nevertheless, they all give the impression of not being able to consistently defend themselves against male dominance. Grace Ellen is abruptly interrupted by her husband while she is talking about her artistic work. Romy Louise defends her partner Elik to the hilt against her mother’s questions. She knows that Elik killed as a former Israeli soldier, but she does not want to hear any more about it and is happy to leave these events in the unspoken past. Inge Van Bruystegem only steps out of the role of studio handler when she talks about the life of Artemisia Gentileschi. That Renaissance painter who was abused by her teacher and wrote art history with her self-portraits. The fact that the painter was given thumbscrews to check her incriminating testimony, but that nothing else happened to her tormentor afterwards, is an injustice that Elke wants to make drastically clear to everyone. To do so, she even takes the risk of inciting Victor to commit a repeat offence. A sensitive young man who, however, completely refuses to do so.

The unrestricted ruler of the family events, however, is Jan Lauwers, who has his alter ego portrayed on stage by Benoit Gob. Although Lauwers initially explains the scenery and introduces all those involved, he then always remains in the background observing and hardly intervening. In between, works of art are shown again and again, and Jan briefly lectures about them. Then there is dancing and singing – Maarten Seghers demonstrates both his beautiful bass and melodious tenor in two performances. Again and again, the ensemble is annoyed that the electric drive for the glass-fronted work of art doesn’t work properly. For a change, a fox bites off the head of a pigeon in the best Dada manner and again and again a rat pushes itself to the front of the stage to present its view of things in a know-it-all manner.

One scene replaces the next, costumes are changed and after the revelation that the artist Jan Lauwers abstains sexually so as not to disturb the energetic flow of creation for his glass artwork, there is a real crack in the family-friendly woodwork. The banal fact of sexual abstinence completely upsets the family structure. This is followed by a story of infidelity that has happened, is happening and will happen countless times on this earth in an almost identical constellation.

Thus, one has completely distanced oneself from the current production of art, but also from the historical considerations of various works of art. Now there is arguing, reproaches are made, now one is deeply offended and no longer sure whether a harmonious family life will ever come about after this argument. It is now the fullness of life with all its distortions that comes to the fore.

All questions of art theory are blown away. The audience can ask themselves these questions after the performance. What remains is the realisation that a work of art lives from narratives. Of those that arise ad hoc through association, but also of those that are reported about it. If the object rotating on its own axis with its blue-turquoise glass drops were in a museum, then nothing at all would indicate its genesis in the midst of a family tragicomedy. Then the unwritten law would come true that a good work of art does not need biographical attachments to be good.

The intelligent show opens more questions than answers. It covers more than it shows – leaves the audience in the dark as to which statements are to be taken truthfully and which follow purely a theatrical dramaturgy. The only thing that seems certain is an eternal cycle. A cycle that is actually stopped by a never-ending run around the art object by all the ensemble members. Props are picked up, dragged along, dropped again, only to be picked up again by others. The eternally human – the doing – remains as the constant of a creative process. A production like something out of a picture book: clever, funny, profound, varied and entertaining. And a production you can watch several times!
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The Jungle Book – reimagined

The Jungle Book – reimagined

Who doesn’t know the story of the foundling Mowgli, who grows up among animals in the Indian jungle? That story by Rudyard Kipling, which was filmed as an animated film at the Disney Studios?

Now there is “Jungle Book reimagined” by Akram Khan. The Austrian premiere took place as part of the Impulstanz festival at the Burgtheater. The British dancer and choreographer, whose family comes from Bangladesh, played Mowgli in an Indian dance performance as a young boy. This memory, but above all “the three profound lessons of the play”, as he calls it, made such a deep impression on him that now, after many years, he is staging a newly interpreted Jungle Book with his company. The main plot of the story remains more or less the same, but in his version “Mowgli” is a girl who is separated from her family due to an environmental disaster. She is portrayed tenderly and fragilely, but in the end strong and full of hope for her future, by Pui Yung Shum. Like her male role model, she too spends time among animals who take care of her, only to ultimately set out again in search of humans.

Many of Akram Khan’s productions deal with the disastrous state of our world. The confrontation with what has been and is still being destroyed on our earth is one of his central themes. And so his story also begins with a wild doomsday scenario. Rising waters, sinking, destroyed cities, people fleeing on rafts, all this becomes visible on stage through computer-animated drawings. Although they were originally planned only for reasons of economy and to minimise the environmental impact instead of a haptic stage set, Miriam Buether’s depictions contribute significantly to the success of the evening. Delicate and at the same time expressive, full of poetry and yet real, she created a world of memory and current events at the same time. Flying birds, singing whales, leaves falling to the ground – all of these set the action in changing environments without much reconstruction. The use of this technique on stage and in dance is not new, but it is used excessively here. So much so that at certain points one imagines oneself in London’s West End or in a Broadway production.

However, Khan’s Jungle Book – contrary to all dance conventions – does not do without language. Rather, it is just as central a component of the production as the visuals. The text, adapted to the present day, was written by Tariq Jordan. The voices of the individual characters, such as Bagheera the panther or Baloo the bear, come from the tape. The fascinating thing is that every single dance movement is carried and supported by these voices. This combination, through the use of individual movement patterns, reinforces the recognisability of the figures. The dialogues of the individual animals are repeatedly replaced by pure dance numbers, underpinned by a coherent sound. It is a joy to watch Holly Vallis as Bagheera sneaking lithely around Baloo or Mowgli. It’s just fun when Tom Davis-Dun mimes the “dancing bear” and gets completely out of hand. The fact that there is nothing to fear from the snake Kaa is also wonderfully solved and will appeal especially to young audiences.

The compositions show strong borrowings from the most diverse origins. Whether Philip Glass’ “Koyaanisqatsi – which he created for the film of the same name by Godfrey Reggio, or whether it is broad symphonic rock interpretations – as known from Vangelis, whether quotations from a Christian Kyrie Eleison or sounds like from a world music album – the English composer Jocelyn Pook drew from the full for her soundtrack. Her compositions are catchy and support the action in a highly emotional way, just like a good film score.

The fleet of animals looking after Mowgli is bathed in dramatic red, then again in cool blue through changing lighting. The movements of the monkeys, the panther and the bear imitate their gait or even boisterous behaviour. But when they want to behave like humans, they dance, as we know from contemporary productions. Mowgli herself remains an observer for long stretches, intervenes kauf. At her side is often the “monkey outcast”. He is danced frighteningly, unfathomably, but also full of empathy by Max Revell. Greta Thunberg’s “how dare you are!” – from her 2019 speech to the United Nations, but also mountains of cardboard boxes as distributed by online giants across the world to people addicted to consumption, are just two of several references to the problematics that seem to be sheerly overwhelming us at the moment.

Despite all the doomsday mood and gloomy outlook, Akram Khan hopes that his production will also be visited by children. To confront them with what we call “everyday life”, he thinks, is necessary. Above all, however, it is the three teachings mentioned earlier that are important to him to pass on. The teaching of the community of species, the interdependence of humans, animals and nature, and the importance of family and our human need to belong.

The choreographer has a knack for great productions. The spectacle created by his company and a large number of co-producers will, in all likelihood, conquer the world’s great stages. The fact that it will also inspire many people for contemporary dance who have not previously had an affinity for dance is a side effect that should not be underestimated.
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Much and little and yet more than enough of everything

Much and little and yet more than enough of everything

“Full Moon. A Play by Pina Bausch”

Unterferent they could not have been – but also not more complementary. “Full Moon” – shown on the big stage of the Burgtheater, performed by the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch – came up with a lot of “theatre magic”. The piece, which premiered 16 years ago, requires a total of 12 dancers, stage equipment that can make it rain and also has the possibility of flooding part of the stage floor. Bausch starts with a sultry summer night atmosphere in which young men and women interact with each other in a constant succession of short scenes. In the process, one or two sentences are dropped in the direction of the audience, usually spiced with a fine pinch of humour.

“Full Moon” (Photo: ©

The choreography, like the costumes, is gender-dualistic. While the men, predominantly in long trousers and with bare upper bodies, demonstrate their strength in a dance-like to acrobatic way, the typical Bausch repertoire of movements can be seen in the women with hip-length hair and softly flowing dresses. Oscillating between gestures of the desired establishment of contact and those in which the withdrawal into one’s own inner self is always clearly recognisable, alternate here. The visualisation of emotional states occurs much more frequently with female dancers than with their male colleagues. Intersexual encounters are often marked by moments of tension. Loving and hating each other, not being able to let go of each other and punishing the other with contempt are visualised just as much as moments in which the women dominate the men. Right up to instructions on how a woman’s bra must be unclasped as quickly as possible so as not to disturb the tingling moment of erotic anticipation.

“Full Moon” (Photo: ©

Despite an intense choreographic work that demands extremes from the ensemble, there is, however, another silent and motionless actor on stage who equally captures the audience’s attention. This is a mighty boulder that is undercut by a body of water. Particularly in the second part after the intermission, the water streams down on the stage almost incessantly like a continuous rain and at one point even becomes the unrestricted stage star. Scooped up in buckets by the men in piecework, it is hurled by them in powerful blasts from all sides against the boulder. The optical stimulus that results can well be described as “water fireworks” without opening up a contradiction. For the explosive cascades of water visually resemble those of rockets which, once exploded, pelt towards the earth in a fine rain of fire. This visually powerful scene has addictive character and burns itself into the memory just as much as the soaking wet costumes of the dancers and together they form an indelible pair of recognition.

“Dances for an actress”

While Bausch worked with an extremely high technical effort in her piece, “Dances for an actress” gets by with the power consumption of a hoover running for 1 hour. At least that is how the Belgian actress Jolente De Keersmaeker, sister of the choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, who is also a frequent guest in Vienna with her choreographies, told it. Jolente was persuaded by Jérôme Bel to create a dance piece. It should be clear to anyone who has seen Bel’s work that this is no ordinary piece. Perfection and beautiful appearances – all that Bel does not demand from his artists. On the contrary, he demands a great deal of courage for imperfection and for revealing both their skills and their failures to the audience. The French choreographer is something of a pioneer in his guild. He rethinks what moves society in a way that is suitable for the stage and, in doing so, questions what socio-politically relevant themes could mean for performance practice.

“Dances for an actress” (Photo: Herman Sorgeloos)

A current example is the widespread refusal to print programme booklets. For ecological reasons, these are currently being saved at performances around the globe, see also “Wiener Festwochen” – Bel found her own method of nevertheless giving the audience a little insight into the events in advance. Through an oral introduction by Jolante herself, who told the audience what was normally printed, including the list of sponsors and partners. Inevitably, this was accompanied by a huge dash of humour, a hallmark, but also a subtle hint that this practice popping up at the moment is probably not really the last word in wisdom for Bel either.

After this prologue, triggered by the general ecological disaster we cannot escape at the moment, the dancing actress presented a longer scene in which she gave samples of her classical ballet repertoire. She drew on a body of movement she had developed during her ballet classes between the ages of 6 and 14. That this time must not have been fun for her is still apparent today. The individual dance steps are executed with great concentration, jumps are only performed in such a way that there is no risk of injury and a body control that makes dancing not fun but rather an agonising experience – all this can be taken as proof why Jolante did not take up the profession of a dancer.

From these first impressions, she spans a wide range of different improvisations by various choreographic and dance greats of the 20th century. She begins with a Chopin Prelude, originally choreographed and danced by Isadora Duncan. Using this example, she also demonstrates one of the methods dancers use to memorise movement sequences. The verbalisation of movement sequences is still a common means of remembering step and movement sequences today.

“Dances for an actress” (Photo: Herman Sorgeloos)

The change to a Pina Bausch improvisation, based on her work “Café Müller” from 1978, is initiated by her silently taking off her clothes. The immersion in that fragile figure, dancing naked in front of the audience to the sounds of Henry Purcell’s “Didos lament”, is one of the most impressive moments of the entire performance. The way the fragility of the human body and its soul become visible and tangible at the same time unfolds an incredible emotional magic. What a big difference to the pompous “Full Moon” piece by the same choreographer. If one wanted to vividly explain that technical commitment does not have to correlate with the emotional movement of the audience – these two pieces would be textbook examples of this.

What a great, great idea to replace this Bausch choreography with Rihanna’s song “Diamond”. Equipped with a pulsating rhythm and a life-affirming drive, the music alone sweeps the audience away in just a few moments. The still naked body now has absolutely nothing of fragility about it, but radiates pure life energy, unbridled joie de vivre and pure dance power. So much so that one would like to dance along.

After an intensive study of mimicry, dedicated to the Butho grandmaster Ono Kazuo, in which the performer can show her enormously strong mimic expressiveness, she ends up in contemporary dance performance. For this, sitting on stage with a laptop on her lap, she describes a YouTube video, the content of which she only reproduces verbatim. However, “Dances for an actress” would not be a production by Jérôme Bel if he did not himself respond with much humour to the purely verbally-reflective dance rendition with the upcoming “John Travolta number”. The way Jolente De Keersmaeker slowly begins to dance along with the famous “Saturday Night Fever scene” during her description, steadily getting into it, is simply stunningly funny.

The fact that she adds a self-designed choreography to Renaissance music with a strong, repetitive rhythm and southern flair rounds off the performance in a successful and once again highly intelligent way. How strong is the contrast that Keersmaeker expresses with her classical ballet rehearsal at the beginning and her own powerful and lustful choreography at the end of “Dances for an actress”! With this own choreography, she has visibly reached a point where you can believe that dancing is something that she also enjoys, and that it even seems to be in her blood. Through its ingenious protagonist Jolente De Keersmaeker, Bel’s piece reveals what is actually a profoundly simple insight: dancing is a human means of expression that everyone is allowed and encouraged to shape according to their own needs. Whether you want to reproduce a given choreography exactly, dance an improvisation on it or implement your own ideas – everything is possible, everything is desired, nothing is forbidden. What a wonderful insight even for people who have been working with this medium for decades. Merci Jolente and chapeau Jérôme.
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