Brutal Romanticism

Brutal Romanticism

Michaela Preiner

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August 2022

"Dance. A Sylphidic Reverie in Stunts" by Florentine Holzinger transforms ballet dancers into bloodthirsty witches.

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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