‘Stance II’ and ‘San (Beyond)’
by Thea Nerissa Barnes
October 18, 2005 -- London
“Stance II” seems an expressionistic dance with its lone female figure moving eerily across a blackened landscape. Several layers of contemplation are offered with this solo. For those who could understand the spoken text that quoted Italian filmmaker, poet, novelist and essayist Pier Paola Pasolini’s “La Terra di lavoro,” a host of interpretations were made available. Those not understanding Italian or the work of Pasolini lingered on the vastness of the space and a performer whose physical contours and minimal gestures contained much significance. The dance though had a layer of understanding that seemed only expressible as movement and not text, whether written or spoken.
Though stated that this work is influenced by Diverrès’ time spent with Kazuo Ohno, seminal practitioner of post-war Butoh, the work seem to have more relation to early American or British modern dance presentations. It was certainly reminiscent in tone and subject of what satirically is called the ‘long black woollen era.’ This dance though had an incredible level of forlornness; an atmosphere oppressively dark and dense with feelings. It had a lyrical quality in the dynamic of the torso-complimenting passages that offered more etched angularities in arms and legs. The darkness of the performance space made movement seem as if a shadow with some passages so dark only hands and face were barely perceptible. The sound by Denis Gambiez was an audibly low noise that only kept the space from being in total silence. The dance seems more a conversation between the performer, Rita Quaglia, and self, a testimony of sorts with its hunched over body design that reaches towards the end defiant stomping. The voice that read the passages of “La Terra di lavoro” added another texture but seemingly became more a dissonance that disturbed the stillness Quaglia occupied. The starkness also made the audience seem an intruder, eavesdropping on someone having a conversation with self, deep and lost in very private thoughts.
Quaglia makes several transformations but in particular there is a vulnerable stance and a resolute one. A stance, a position of mind, is also indicative of a posture, a telling of the mind set manifested in bodily form; bodily form whether standing static or moving revealing the quality of that stance. With the ambience so dense and dark, static images held an extraordinary layer of intrigue so much so that as the figure disappeared repeating finely contoured hands around a tilting face much had been left behind. Whether the contemplations were rendered reflective or transcendent depended on how introspective or deep into the void one allowed one self to go into this dance of pathos.
“San (beyond)” is a homage to Oskar Schlemmer, influential set designer and teacher at German academies including the Bauhaus in early 20th century. Schlemmer’s work often featured simplified lines and curves with two-dimensional human figures in maze-like geometric settings. Diverrès’ “San” offers a non literal visual narrative in the Schlemmer tradition. A series of scenes that are linked by imagery move one to the other, each complete in itself but linked in quality and purpose. The work begins with a barely perceptible silver ball strung from the rigging that works its way up to the rafters and by the end of the work back to the ground. A wooden frame encases a black scrim; a large one downstage and a smaller one upstage and in between the performance space in which three male dancers, Julien Fouché, Fabrice Lambert and Osman Kassen Khelili, perform solo or ensemble movement.
The movement vocabulary is a range of stark but powerful movement phrases dynamically stylised, using repetition with purpose or bombastic dynamics to change with the intention of a given scene. The sound and mixing by Denis Gambiez adds complimentary auditory permutations from the ambience for Rita Quaglia dressed in red satin carrying a red fan to emphasizing the machinist, assembly line-like movement of the men on a diagonal with red lights attached to their arms, or their progression of two dimensional shapes that though purposely shape to shape had a sense of continuous motion or lyricism to them. Behind the upstage scrim a unit of stairs is used as is, to be sat on, roll a metal ball down or stand on each one making its own dramatic statement. With lighting design by Marie-Christine Soma assisted by Pierre Gaillardotto, one is even allowed the imagination to believe that a man can float on air.
At the end the male dancers seem to be competing with themselves; this scene perhaps the only one to utilise extensively a three dimensional movement vocabulary. Performing a flinging, slashing-like frenzy, hurdling through the air and rolling on the floor the men throw from their arms what appeared to be small plastic pallets that make a crushing sound when landing and when stepped on. As the silver ball lowered one of the men lays downstage as the ball slowly brushes the pallets on the floor making an uneven crunchy noise. The man lays on his back twisting and contorting seemingly mumbling to himself. The stairs have appeared again and Quaglia stands or reclines there. There is a projection of a window on the scrim upstage right.
The work seems a living art exhibit. Each scene seemed to have been developed for its own purposes within the context of the whole work and possibly able to stand on its own. In one scene a man appears in drag. Program notes explain that this is a comment on the Weimar Republic cabaret of the 1930’s. The significance of Quaglia and her fan is perhaps desire, an apparition that simply adds to the intrigue of a surreal dream-like extravaganza that captures the senses.
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