CriticalDance Forum

Performances - Bytom Festival 2009
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Author:  Bytom Admin [ Sun Aug 30, 2009 10:20 am ]
Post subject:  Performances - Bytom Festival 2009

"What Comes After Happy & Egg", Alexandra Beller – a performance that cannot be described, but must be seen

By Ewa Zielińska

The Americans rocked, refuting the opinion of a member of the newspaper staff who maintains that performances presented on the alternative stage are less interesting than those on the main one.

The group made remarkable use of the space in the CHP Plant (at last!). The audience was served an inter textual performance – a mixture of contemporary pop culture, laughter and seriousness, ordinariness and originality. TV conventions were applied – romantic series, films starring Bogart, well-known music. In a clear and comprehensible way, grave and weighty themes were presented, at the same time amusing and causing roars of laughter. And it does not matter that the piece lasted almost 2 hours, it was worth it!

The performance began with Alexandra Beller's etude, which told the story of maternity. Calm music accompanied a woman in white lying on the stage nursing , slowly moving her body. In the course of the performance, ever increasing demands were made of her, ye she remained caring and sensitive towards the increasing amount of eggs thrust at her, symbols of life's tyranny . Quivering with anxiety and fear, but also with a desire to control and nurse all of these eggs, she demonstrated the enormity of effort required for maternity. This section ended with a black-out obscuring the falling and rolling eggs.

The audiences, however, were not given time to cool off, as almost immediately a man appeared, resembling a figure from the Jerry Springer Show, an eloquent preacher man asking people whether they want to change their lives. He shouted, urged, threw cookies around, causing the audiences to become part of the show. From that moment on, our feelings were engaged in the performance, we could see ourselves as if in a mirror. At the same time, a series of scenes began, presenting meetings and the problems of communication.
One showed failed chat up attempts and another with a life coach amused the audience.

Yet, the most intriguing moments were the ones making the most of the space of the CHP Plant, and particularly those employing the balconies. Among them was a contemporary version of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. On stage a woman switched on a gramophone and began to dance. Suddenly, a beam of light illuminates the balcony in front and to the side of her, where a man shouts: “That was really great, really hot!” A short conversation begins, they flirt,he tries to chat her up, inquiring whether her hair colour is natural and asking her to repeat the sequence. From the top, he instructs her how to move, his comments making the dance really sexy, but because of his intrusion it becomes even slutty, resulting in his discontentment. The scene is later repeated with a different woman who, when asked to dance the same sequence, also tries to fulfill the expectations of the man, whom she later catches cheating on her with the previous woman.

Another scene which fully exploited the potential of the CHP Plant was the episode in which the balcony above and behind the stage was transformed into a TV. In the high space,as if on a screen, we saw tear-jerker romantic moments or advertisements encouraging fitness.

Throughout, the actors combine speech, dance and singing, creating a communication in which words become movement, and movement is replaced with words. That, as a whole, requires that the audiences engage all their senses and observe carefully.What Comes After Happy & Egg is a rich performance, touching upon such themes as the search for happiness, the stupefying effects of pop culture surrounding us, the impossibility of communication and our lack of skills necessary to establish deep relations. All this is told in a light, witty way, enhanced by the final scene in which the actors undress on stage. In the background, photos from the group’s rehearsals can be seen, to the accompaniment of songs concerned with loneliness.

People are lonely in the contemporary world, and the world shown on the TV screen is not real. The idea of changing on stage pointed to the fact that performers presented only mimesis, unreality. However, they are real and the close relations and bonds linking them with the group make them happy.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Sun Aug 30, 2009 10:29 am ]
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Without the Naked Eye

Green Chair (USA) “Dances for the Naked Eye”

By Wioleta Rybak

The performance consists of several scenes apparently designed to show the dance ability of the Philadelphia-based group, John Beauregard, Sarah Gladwin Camp, Hannah de Keijzer and Gregory Holt, who are both performers and co-creators of the work.

While the audience took their places in the Szombierki CHP Plant, a lone blond on crutches was already on stage and a moment later, she was joined by the remaining three company members. During the forty minutes of the production, the company employed contemporary dance with some elements of ballet, in static lighting on a small stage without set design. They established physical contact in a series of duets , which were visually the most attractive part of the show. Particularly spectacular were mutual lifts, performed with exceptional smoothness and delicacy. The repeated, circular arm movements were also a motif deserving attention.

Frequently, they moved near to the floor, which caused a major problem of visibility for those audience members furthest from the stage.. The transitions in the dancers’ movement followed changes in the accompaniment , sometimes based on music reminding me of medieval courts, [sometimes more like contemporary guitar rhythms and then subtle vocals. Regardless of the style, the music had an unhurried tempo, similar to the slow dynamics of the movement. In addition, a vital element was the exchange of the crutches between the dancers, as though they wanted to experience disability for a while. The “owner” of the crutches, Sarah Gladwin Camp, whether using their support, moving on the floor or assisted by a partner, contributed a great deal to the performance.

In spite of a few clever ideas, the whole somehow lacked coherence and a core concept to bind the individual parts together. The performance failed to spark interest in this viewer or absorb my attention, as it was merely a display of physical ability from this international, award winning group. The audience often preferred to glance at the walls of the CHP Plant covered with posters and graffiti than to observe what was happening on stage. Even though we were supposed to see “Dance for the Naked Eye”, I did not see anything memorable with my naked eye.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:52 am ]
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Praising God

By Wioleta Rybak

Eurypides' Singing by Stowarzyszenie Teatralne Chorea (Chorea Theatrical Association) is a combination of interesting choreography, beautiful singing and absorbing visuals. The word ”chorea” means a group dance performed in a circle, accompanied by choral singing and originating in Greece. This association tries to restore ancient traditions, mixing them with contemporary. What is important, is that this group has its base in Gardzienice, the location of a centre of experimental. There, members of the company have an opportunity to come into contact with a style drawing strongly from the Greek culture, on which our civilisation is based.

The performance, directed by Tomasz Rodowicz, is based on Eurypides' Bachantes, a play presenting the damned life of Panteus, who opposed the introduction of the Dionysian cult in Thebes. The opening scene shows choristers frozen like statues, with the naked Dionysis moving among them , with the power to revive each of them. Suddenly, a change of mood occurs and it becomes typically Bacchic. Panteus appears on stage, surrounded by spontaneous bachantes. Dancers express their emotions with their entire bodies, using primarily hand gestures and expressive facial movements. Several fragments are particularly arresting for instance: a scene in which men support on their arms dancers leaning upside down against a wall; another where the women's bodies form intriguing shapes around a bench.

Apart from the movement, the images created live by Paweł Passini play an important role On the three walls encircling the stage, we see projections showing duplicated, blurred faces or figures of the performers. Also intriguing the play with the name, Dionysis, the god to whom the performance is dedicated. A link that connects modernity and antiquity are the costumes by Veselina Nikolov, an established fashion designer. The men wear dark jackets, the women short dresses with ancient-stylised elements. Nevertheless, the accessories shining in the ultraviolet light seemed tacky to me.

Also noteworthy is the music, composed by Maciej Rychły. Men playing the drums, trumpet, French horn and a sort of ancient lyre provided the rhythm of the performance. Even without understanding the words, mostly sung in an ancient tongue, with fragments translated into Polish by Jan Łanowski, the enchanting quality of the enveloping sounds is worthy of careful listening.

There remains but one question - was it a suitable work to be performed during the Conference? It appears to me that some of the audiences were disposed only to observe the stage movement, and not to treat Eurypides' Singing comprehensively as a performance. Unfortunately, the movement skills of the actors were the weakest aspect. Nonetheless, the audience was transported by the choral singing, resonating in the hall of the Szombierki CHP Plant.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Mon Aug 31, 2009 7:54 am ]
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Fairytale, Dance and Tomatoes

By Regina Lissowska

The premiere of Swan Lake with Idan Cohen’s choreography was dedicated to the memory of Pina Bausch

Empty stage. The first notes of Tchaikovsky’s score. The music invites people into a world of imagination; it signals a well-known, beautiful story of love between a prince and a girl transformed into a swan. The plot begins with the Prince’s birthday when (in the ballet version) he has to choose a wife. It is this occasion, or precisely the feelings connected with it, that becomes the leitmotif of the first section of the performance. Birthday – a special time, when one thinks about dreams coming true, but also a period of awareness of transitions leading to an inevitable end. All three female dancers are birthday girls initially. A garland on the head of one of them emphasises the uniqueness of this anniversary, at the same time referring to Christian symbolism; in this context it is a halo, sign of sainthood inextricably linked with sacrifice.

The idea of the performance was to follow the plot suggested by the music, yet to make an abstraction of it. Dancers transform into all the characters from the story, showing the emotions tormenting them, full of anxieties and passion. They are the plot. In these changes and their expressive, pulsating movement they convey its very essence. When the swans transform into princesses, their movement becomes more animalistic, which is underlined by the sounds they make. Their dance gets noticeably closer to the stage.

The set design is composed only of tomatoes, which serve also as an ambiguous prop. Initially, their regular arrangement marks the rectangular space of the stage. In the second part of the performance, they lay scattered all over, creating a lake in which the swan-princesses commit suicide; they drown themselves because of unrealised love. It is, thus, the end of the plot. The dancers also play with the tomatoes, squashing them with their bodies, smearing themselves with their juice and flesh. The combination of human flesh with the flesh and colour of tomatoes accentuates the former’s dirty, physiological aspect, starkly contrasting with the romantic view implied by the music.

Preparations for the premiere of Swan Lake lasted over a year. A multitude of allusion to various forms of art can be found in this performance. The costumes bring to mind a past model of swimsuits. Playing with bodies, spreading the skin recalls the works of Francis Bacon, whose creations the artists contemplated while preparing the performance.

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake has inspired many dance and theatre creators. For Idan Cohen, it is especially important. It has fascinated him since childhood. As he told us after the premiere: “The inspiration for this work was drawn from this music.” Together with the dancers, he has produced an exceptional interpretation of this musical fairytale, focusing on its emotional content. An aspect usually neglected in versions of Swan Lake, the tension, violence and passion, is certainly highlighted here. In Cohen’s work, we experience the gap between the romantic visualisation inspired by the music and the physical reality of the body, between fairytale, dream and life.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:17 am ]
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All the Colours of the Rainbow - childrens' workshop performance

By Wioleta Rybak

On Friday afternoon, the sun was shining but rain was falling at the same time. I waited for a rainbow to appear in the sky to perfectly match the colourful outfits worn by the children presenting the dance skills acquired in the course of the dance workshops. The rainbow failed to emerge, but the performance was a fantastic compensation.

During 5 days of workshops, the children worked hard and studied various techniques. Korina Kordova familiarised them with contemporary dance, Agnieszka Jaśkowska taught them hip-hop, and dancing with props was introduced by Magdalena Cios. The teachers were presented to the audience before the performance.

In front of the building of the Silesian Dance Theatre, the children demonstrated some of the choreographies they had learned in the classes. The first included many elements of contemporary dance: a ball, thrown among the running boys and girls accompanied by the instructor, was cleverly used in the production. The most applauded was the second piece, presenting hip-hop dance. Despite the tricky choreography, considerably more attention to detail was visible there. Later, the most colourful part of the show began. Children with multicoloured ribbons and flags in their hands performed a delightful dance sequence. The audience was amazed by stunning solo parts, such as splits done without any apparent effort.

Which dance was the children’s favourite? I asked this question to the youngest participant, Amelka, who answer that she liked dancing with the colourful props the most. While Nika considered hip-hop her number one technique, as she prefers fast dance tempi.

Loud, rhythmic music and the colourful outfits worn by the children drew the attention of passing Conference participants, who joined the parents and others watching the performance

The choreographers should be proud of the effects of their work, as it was readily noticeable how happy those energetic kids were, thanks to dance. Children who already danced and now are beginning their education in dance schools, like Nika, could be found there, as well as those for whom it was their first contact with the art, like the beginner, Amelka. I hope that such performances are the starting point of their passion for dance.

Ahead of us lies the second week of the Little Contemporary Dance Conference. The results of the efforts made by choreographers working with children will be seen on Friday, 10th June, at 2.30 pm. in front of the Silesian Dance Theatre building.

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:52 am ]
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Rami Ba'er's „Ekodoom”, Kibbutz Dance Company - Flashy Spectacle
By Joanna Zielińska

Arriving at our seats, we see on stage Gaia struggling inside a black box symbolising the Earth’s interior, crowned with an orange tree; in Greek mythology, Gaia, mother-earth, emerged from chaos, while people were formed from clay. The central idea of Rami Be’er’s production is a brilliant synthesis of complementary elements: music, movement, costumes and visual effects. The rhythm of the performance is marked with lyrical tunes mixed with songs full of power and dynamics. What is also impressive, is the use of simple ideas such as creating poetic scenes through the use of falling artificial snow, with a dancer performing a solo beneath, or dressing the artists in meaningful costumes, for instance, vast cloaks with enormous hoods or skirts made of many folds of textile underlining the grimness and strength of the characters.

The rhythm of the music is reflected in the dancers’ movement, demonstrating excellent neoclassical technique. The choreography consists of alternating solos and duets, interwoven with dynamic, even aggressive, group scenes. Their dance is, on the one hand, dynamic and vigorous, and on the other hand, poetic, slow, almost romantic. The group scenes are based on dancers, marching uniformly in a long, close line. This wall of human bodies, set into motion, symbolises the contemporary homogenisation of society. The duets and solos, often impressing with dynamic, sweeping movement on the verge of exaggeration, seemed to be an attempt at breaking the routine of this parade. Nonetheless, the living wall of robots, approaching them slowly, yet with ruthless consistency sweeps them again up into its ranks, indifferently absorbs and suppresses individuality. Here are the same people whom Gaia gave life, now, with their actions, they cause her only suffering, through wars and disasters. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, Be’er’s choreography has a pretentious happy-end. It closes with a tao sign, conveyed by the dancers as their last gesture.

Apart from this clear picture, we also see scenes in more ambiguous styles: a romantic duet of a soldier and his lover, and a group scene on the beach in which dancers rocking in their chairs resemble small children focused on their own private matters, a camp counsellor with an umbrella watching over their safety. Later, foreign tourists transported in a cart by hired guides, who presumably represent the idea of exploiting exotic cultures – these are only some examples of the oneiric and difficult to read scenes.

Ekodoom not only represents ecological disaster, but is itself a semantic failure. The performance, which is brilliant in the sense of movement and visuals, great lighting and costumes, fails in the sphere of the coherence of its message. Be’er claims that his aim is not telling stories but conveying emotional content; that his focus is the combination of movement and music, not choreography representing some ideology or propaganda. However, does putting on stage a soldier or dancing to fascist music not imply automatically some ideological meaning? All would be fine, if Ekodoom was only a variation on movement, which seeks to show pure beauty and emotional interaction. But this abstraction was mixed with a multitude of scattered, surreal scenes such as the sudden appearance of three men wearing red coats and black flying caps, with lanterns in their hands. They resemble figures of Japanese warriors. Their presence on stage seems to be completely unjustified and absurd. Of course, stubbornly one may find some coherence, but couldn't the ideas be presented in a bit clearer way?
Certainly, the performance amazes visually, the proof for this being the standing ovation at the end. Although it offers a rather large dose of aesthetic and emotional sensations, after a moment of reflection, the viewer starts to wonder what exactly it was about.
Ekodoom is a well-made spectacle, with popular, powerful music, epic realisation and dancers demonstrating great technique – but is that enough?

Author:  Bytom Admin [ Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:54 am ]
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Street Rhythms
by Magdalena Mikrut

On July 5th, for the second time, Bytom market square hosted the All-Polish Street Dance Contest. Many competitors entered the lists for the the prizes donated by the Agora Gallery, which is under construction on Kościuszko Square. Dancers had prepared sequences in hip-hop and break dance techniques, performed solo or in groups of up to 6 contestants. The participants struggled to win laurels in two age categories in each of the styles: Junior (up to 14 years old) and Senior. The award offered in this challenge was a money prize and a grant for the International Modern Dance Workshops, organised during the International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival. The jury consisted of 3 dancer-teachers: Kamil Lipka, Maciej Florek and Wojciech Kogucik.

In the Senior Solo Hip-Hop category, the first place was won by Jessica Ali, the next two places were taken by Marta Szlachcianowska and Bartek Leszczyński. In the break dance section, the firm favourite and eventual winner, was Paweł Ładyński, from Trzebinia, who has been dancing in the Municipal Culture House for 6 years. As he told our newspaper, his instructor encouraged him to take part in the competition, claiming that if he decided to make a trip to Bytom, he should also perform on stage. In his opinion, the biggest advantage of the contest were b-boy battles. Radosław Byrski became the runner-up, the third award went to Paweł Biskup. Among the groups, companies such as Flame and Shane predominated. Shane is a group from Podkarpacie, recruiting participants among 14- to 19-year-olds. In the Junior Solo category, the scene was mastered by Lidia Woźna and Anna Phan, while Dawid Nawrocki was pronounced the best break-dancer.

The Street Dance Contest is, according to the participants, a highly important event. It allows for an exchange of ideas and presentation of skills. 15-year-old girls from a group called DNA, who have been dancing for only 2 years, claimed that this challenge was a great opportunity to broaden their experience and make valuable business contacts. When asked why they dance hip-hop, they told me that earlier, they danced ballroom dances, yet found themselves very limited by the constant repertoire of moves. Only in hip-hop, their imagination was liberated and using this style, they can express themselves fully. According to Paweł Ładyński, there was only one problem – the dance stage was rough, hard and flexible, which made for some unpredictable effects and caused a lot of skin abrasions.

Author:  crazzycat [ Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:38 am ]
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when we should expext this shows?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:02 am ]
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Hi crazzycat, I'm afraid these shows have passed - they took place in July this year in Bytom. A number of the companies taking part there tour regularly so you might be able to pick them elsewhere.

The next thing to come here will be the Lublin Dance Festival in mid-November, based in a Polish city near the border with the Ukraine.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Performances - Bytom Festival 2009

„To the rescue of Gaia” (Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Ekodoom)
By Regina Lissowska

One of the key events of this year’s Festival is Ekodoom presented by Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Run by Rami Be’er, the group constitutes one of the pillars of dancing in Israel. At present, the goup comprises several dancers, making up an original group. Sharing a common lifestyle and working together in a kibbutz in Gaton, completely isolated from the external world, has not only been an interesting social experiment. It has also allowed the group to perfect their dancing. Their technical skills seem to transcend human capacities, while their bodies communicate through every muscle. The fundamental idea for the group has been expressing the profoundest problems of the present time through the prism of Israeli culture.

Placing emphasis on aesthetics, the poetics of Kibbutz has contributed to the group’s international success. It is based, among other things, on an ingenious synthesis of theatrical elements. Rami Be’er creates powerful images by masterly utilizing the capacities of light, space, rhythm, music, as well as the finely composed costumes and set design. All these aspects amount to a spectacular performance. The concept of the spectacular in this case is devoid of any pejorative connotations; on the contrary, it allows the audience to fully understand the intentions of the authors and appreciate the artistic value of the performance. Its goal is not to create a story, but to transmit a clear emotional message. It is mostly this way that leads the audience to reflection.

Therefore, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s performances should be considered differently than fictional or conceptual forms of dance theater.

“Ekodoom” means a environmental disaster, an annihilation of nature. The leading theme of the performance is the figure of Gaia, thrashing inside a black box symbolizing the inside of the Earth. Above the box, an orange tree, whose fruit Gaia cannot reach. Her moves, though confined by the lack of room, continuously changes its character. Initially slow and even, yet full of internal tension. At times quick, rapid, reminiscent of pain. At other times, it seems peaceful and gentle. Gaia feels what consecutive scenes depict. Successive civilizations, aggression, wars, destruction. Gaia is a constantly pulsating source of life, thoughtlessly devastated by people, but as long as she lives, there is hope.

We can see successive, contrastive images appearing from the dark. There are figures dressed in long, multi-layered coats. Their color is suggestive of clay, of which humans were made. Their dance is fast, disturbing. Another time, processions of dancers appear, made uniform by their clothing and monotonous, rhythmical moves. The solo and the duos danced in the background can be seen as desperate struggles for individuality. Slowly yet steadily, he wall of human bodies incorporates the dancing individuals. Then, the horror and anxiety give way to bright, glaring colors, cheerful music, and scenes as if taken out of clownery. The performance, though, also abounds in beauty, oneirism, obtained using simple effects, such as light and artificial snow. There is, too, a moment of disillusionment, when the curtains are torn down, revealing the walls of the stage, thus transporting the action into the reality of the theater. Also strong is the rhythm of the performance, built up by music, motion, and the alternating sequences. The lyrical duos and trios are set against the impressively powerful group scenes.

Ekodoom is full of references: mythological, cultural, theatrical. The processions are evocative of Pina Bausch. The lyrical duo of the soldier and his mistress is a clear quotation from Kurt Joss’s The Green Table. The choreography includes steps from character dance, Hasidic dances, and Bavarian folk dances, drawing inspiration from various styles and aesthetics.

The woman in white dancing in a rain of snowflakes incorporates much of the mystically languid Far East. The scene evokes associations with the expressive geisha dance. Initially, the dancer – set in a narrow ray of light and amidst the stream of snowflakes – tells the story of her loneliness. After a while, the snow covers the entire stage, while the dancer is surrounded by figures in brown, multi-layered skirts. The final moment of the scene is brilliantly executed, with the geisha rising from the floor and making her way through the wall of the falling snow, setting the last petals of snow in motion again. Two figures in white, wearing linen turbans, enclosed in a golden frame, refer the audience to the high-brow aesthetics of European painting. The affectionate duo, featuring a woman and a man, seems to freeze every few moments in studied, picturesque poses. Their dance is centered around a model sitting on a chair. The recurring theme of dancers exchanging lines to a strong rhythm of German music is saturated with war-like brutality. The dancers approach the edge of the stage and freeze in powerful poses. At times, they drag other dancers by their hoods, knocking them down despite their hopeless struggles. A radically different ambiance is achieved by the colorful, cheerful scenes of grotesque clownery. A woman wearing a red dress runs around the stage, trying to hold on to an umbrella swept away by a gust of wind. She is accompanied by a man in a striped shirt and suspenders, reminiscent of the 1920s circus costumes. Altogether, the group delivers a breathtaking performance. Spectacular scenes evoke powerful emotions in the audience. The performing space seems to unceasingly change, both shrinking and expanding. It is transformed by the compositions of light and choreography, marvelously developed lines, broken by solos and duos. Ekoodoom is a tremendous performance, explosive and transcending the space of the stage. The stage of the Cultural Center in Bytom seemed too tight to accommodate it.

The sole weak spot in the performance could be its ending, featuring sung verses from “Everybody gets a little lost sometimes” and the tao sign, which the dancers transmit to the audience in the final gesture. Set against the work as a whole, this may be an unnecessary literality, particularly because there are other scenes that ease the pessimist overtone.
Regardless of differences in individual opinions and expectations towards dance theater, Ekodoom is unlikely to leave anyone unaffected, aesthetically enchanting and emotionally moving. The work captures the audience completely, forcing them to remain focused throughout the performance.

(First published in the “TEATR” monthly, no. 11/2009, as part of article by Regina Lissowska “Po szesnaste – Taniec!” [The Sixteenth Commendment - Dance!])

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Jul 30, 2010 10:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Performances - Bytom Festival 2009

“Where is Alice?” (Jossi Berg & Oded Graf 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer)

by Regina Lissowska

Among the events of the second week of the 2009 Bytom Conference, abundant in interesting presentations, the performance of Jossi Berg and Oded Graf, 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer, deserves special attention. The performance is a result of their cooperation with dancers Sergiu Matis and Thomas Michaux within a German project initiated by Tanzplan Dresden.

4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer is a performance touching upon important issues without losing any of its lightness. The dancers use amusing contrasts, utilize elements of camp, and surprise with their diverse operations on rhythm and motion. The entire composition retains a refined sense of taste and humor.

What first attracts the viewers’ attention is a stuffed deer. The sole object on the white, sterile surface of the stage, it creates an intriguing dissonance, heralding the absurd character of the performance. The effect is intensified by four men who enter the stage, wearing suits and colorful wrestling masks. They step back and forth using salsa walk, led by the soft rhythm of music. The subtlety and refinement of their moves seems incompatible with the powerful and brutal masks. The contrast introduces the audience to the main problem of the performance, namely the stereotypes of masculinity, its essence and significance today. The successive sequence of 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer is made up of dynamic and precise duos and trios acted out against the harmonious compositions of J.S. Bach. Throughout the dance, individual features of the dancers are revealed, disclosing particular characters and constructing relationships between them, comprising various shades and stereotypes of masculine friendship. By alternatively taking off and putting on the masks, the dancers take up a game of identities that permeates the entire performance.

The performance is interwoven with a story, which acts as both a verbalization and a turning point of the plot. Once upon a time there were four men who lived over the hills and far away, in a white house. They wore masks of superheroes and black suits, they were strong and, naturally, exceptionally intelligent. They lived in harmony with nature, withdrawn from the company of women, indulging in shared rituals: fishing, hunting, watching TV, tree-hugging. Their friendship seemed unshakable, making them rather happy about the situation, until the day which marked the coming of Alice on a red bicycle. The girl got lost in the forest, looking for a way home. Alice does not appear on stage, her existence is confined to the story. However, the female figure has far-reaching consequences for our protagonists. The girl’s beautiful eyes stirred up the harmony of their secluded life. By offering Alice to spend the night at the white house, the men add a whole new perspective to their lives, releasing desires previously unknown to them. The men try to experience the new pleasure in many ways, by echoing Alice’s “yes” to their proposal, re-uttering the word to the rhythm of Queen’s hits, rap pieces, soccer fans’ chants. In rapture over her acceptance, the men initially miss the moment when Alice’s sacramental “yes” changes into “no.” Mulling over the ambiguity of the girl’s words, they lose their primal merriment at her presence, which is gradually replaced by a growing anxiety. Their friendship slowly shatters. One of the men does not want to accept Alice’s refusal, thus sparking a battle of words among the dancers, expressed by simultaneous utterances of “yes” and “no” to the sound of their clashing bodies. Alice, perhaps weary of the tiresome waiting, departs, leaving behind an emptiness that cannot be filled with the previous harmony of masculine rites. Among the clashing bodies of the dancers, new words can be heard. The repeated question of “where is Alice?” is accompanied by such words as “love,” “laughter,” “nothing,” “money,” “power,” “struggle.” One of the dancers finally utters “I’m lonely.” The unfulfilled hopes originated by the brief appearance of he girl marked the fate of the men’s friendship, giving birth to the need of rivalry, displays of force and authority. The dancers jiggle about the stage, alternatively fighting and helping one another. The flashing stroboscope light fragment their moves. Bach’s music has been replaced by pulsating, electronic beats. This stupefying scene is followed by calm, remaining, however, far from the initial harmony. Each man reacts differently to the new situation. One of them, devastated, does not even try to stand by
himself. The deer disappeared from the stage, dragged out by another man, who then returns in a bloodied undershirt. The men’s attempt to rescue their friendship by a ritual hunt turns out to be yet another failure, though. The innocence of all-masculine relationships has been irrevocably destroyed. Killing the deer appears as a cruel murder, transcending another border. The other two men depart.

The ending of the story is not happy, though it remains open for interpretations. The issues taken up by the artists, such as the sense of masculinity, stereotypes connected with it, and male relationships, cannot be resolved unequivocally. The mysterious Alice does not determine the fate of masculine friendship. She only extracts its repressed undertones.

(First published in the “TEATR” monthly, no. 11/2009, as part of article by Regina Lissowska “Po szesnaste – Taniec!” [The Sixteenth Commendment - Dance!])

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