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Tanya Khabarova - 'Reflection'

Eve, evolution, and the journey into life

by Rosella Simonari

December 16, 2004 -- Teatro Lauro Rossi, Macerata, Italy

Big bang. Life began with a beat. Maybe. A heart throbbing in some creature's chest. Maybe. Tanya Khabarova's “Reflection” begins with a sound effect that recalls a heart beating. The lights are still on in the theatre when she steps in, hardly keeping her balance in her white tunic, black cloak and white pointed cap. She holds a black luggage suitcase in one of her hands. There she stands until the audience quiets. She begins to walk and to perform a series of parodic rituals with objects she takes from her luggage: a book, a candle, a hammer. This seems like an introduction to a journey she invites us to take with her. Her parodic set of movements are alternated with a different set where she goes centre-stage and seems to be caught in a tension that devours her whole substance.

“Reflection” is a poetic and metamorphic journey into the origin of humanity and possibly of life itself. Khabarova structures the piece according to a series of snapshots in which she becomes a different creature each time. The scene consists of a big tree placed in the back centre. Its two asymmetric branches evoke the image of a distorted cross. At different stages there is a swing on the left handside. The lighting design is particularly complex with fifty floodlights set in different directions. The subtitle to this piece says 'a dance fable inspired by images of the Creation' and the audience gets fully involved in these images after Khabarova appears with her black cloak covering her head and body and moves towards the front part of the stage carrying a basin. She offers it, maybe, to the audience and suddenly drops it in the stalls producing a hollow sound. The stage is abruptly darkened and the audience is left with the sensation that a crucial line (that between stage and stalls) has been broken.

Other images of metamorphosis are presented. A particularly successful one is that of the insect/spider. Khabarova is almost naked and she moves crawling sideways at the back of the stage, her head bent down nearly touching the ground, her arms nervously stretching and bending, precisely according to the rhythm of insects. Another striking snapshot is that of an odd Eve. Khabarova wears a white wig of long and straight hair, a dramatic change in her otherwise bald look. This Eve has nothing of the sexual and lavish tones used in classic iconography. She sits on a cube shaped structure in the front of the stage on the left. and plays with a red apple, rolling it on her lap and surrounding it with her fingers. She finally bites the fruit and happily chews it. Her frantic face expressions make this scene childish and grotesque at the same time.

There is more. A suspended, silent ooooo seems to invade the audience when she appears front-stage laying face down and shaking a pair of bluish wings. Is she the fallen angel Lucifer? Maybe. Maybe not. She mentions 'the inner bird of dreams' in her website, a bird who is unable to 'take flight'. And she is tender and melancholic in her wing moving. Even more so when she carefully attaches her wings to the ropes of the swing, her wings on the sides, her white short dress on the swing itself. Another transformation is about to come, that into a woman wearing a tight black dress and black high heel shoes. She floats around the stage and laughs. A second time she comes in carrying a structure with two hanging stones on her back, her movements are now slowed down and weakened.

What is amazing about Khabarova's movement articulation precisely consists of her ability to transform via movement. With an amazing ability to shape her body into different forms, she widely explores the space on stage, conveying different results for each creature she re/presents. Setting, for example, the spider so far away at the back of the stage, she creates a distance which is also the chronological evolutionary distance between insects and humans. That is why perhaps she decides to place her Eve front-stage, that kind of distance being in this case shortened.

“Reflection” is a demanding choreography both on Khabarova's part (she hardly leaves the stage during this one hour long solo!) and on the audience's part (it is rich and characterised by a variety of tones). The end has an astrological flavour: Khabarova becomes a Sagittarius-like creature with pyrotechnic horns flashing flaming lights and a prosthetic dark body resembling that of horses. With her bow and arrow, she slowly moves on stage till she departs leaving the totemic tree and the winged swing as visual keys to her performance. Minutes pass and the audience is left to reflect on this journey, will another creature appear? Is this the end? It is and it is not. Enthusiastic applause explodes as Khabarova re-enters the stage to take bows and thank her collaborators. Our journey in her company has come to an end. The journey which she hints us to undertake has just begun!

Edited by Jeff.

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