Now it’s your turn
Review of “Jetzt bist du Dran”, July 2010
By Joanna Zielińska
“Jetzt bist du Dran” (“Now it’s your turn”) is composed of three parts complementing each other: firstly the documentation of the past in the form of Harmen Tromp’s reconstruction of Andrei Jerschik’s original 1929 choreography “Madman” (“Mensch im Wahn”) performed here by the Czech dancer, Petr Ochvat. Secondly, there is the contemporary work, inspired by anddrawing on the original piece which is the result of the cooperation between Tromp and the Austrian dancer / choreographer, Georg Blaschke. Thirdly, we have a video filmed in the rehearsal room, presenting the middle phase between the model and its interpretation.
To begin, we see a slim, young man with short hair wearing straight, gray trousers and a shirt standing in one of the corners of the post-industrial space of Szombierki Power Plant. After a little while, he begins a moving solo performance that takes us back to the first half of the 20th century and German expressionist dance, Ausdrucktanz. The dancer’s movements are expressive, vigorous, exaggerated and firmly grounded by the dynamic music of Sergei Rachmaninoff. “Madman” points at the same time to the protagonist of this dance work. The dance represents various stages of madness of a man, completely unfit for living socially, whose outlook on reality is filtered through his subjectivity. (Previously, the choreography was interpreted as a critical metaphor of dictatorship.)
In the next section, its originators and creators, Blaschke and Tromp, appear on stage. They acknowledge the audience in silence and sit on chairs facing the performance area, as if for a rehearsal. The dancer, Petr Ochvat, performing Blaschke's variations on Jerschik's original work, transmits his body and consciousness from the psychological process of retrospection to the industrial building in the present time. Deriving impulses from various architectural elements: wall, balustrade, and floor, on the one hand, he follows the thus resulting movement of arm, head, torso, and inertly falls under the weight of his own body. On the other hand, he fits into the wall, corners and other elements of the hall, attempting to reconfigure the original movement. Stillness, silence, arrested movement, echo, slow fall – these are the basic elements of the choreography, accompanied partly by the electronic music of Mika Vainio.
In the final scene of this section, Ochvat reaches towards the audience and his mentors with his arms, and kneels. The lighting changes into a beam of intense light coming from behind and accentuating his shadow. After a moment of silence and stasis, the artist sits next to his masters. The third, and last, part of the work begins – a video showing two dancers working in a studio. It presents the process of reconstruction and recreation of Jerschik’s original choreography conducted by Ochvat and Tromp, as well as various movement improvisations and searches performed by Tromp and Blaschke, who share the same stage space. Finally, the video brings us to the source of the original solo, the figure of Jerschik himself, filmed giving hints and teaching particular movement sequences to Tromp.
“Now it’s your turn” is a record of the processes of conveying a message, memorising and translating the movement through the bodies of successive generations of dancers. On the one hand, the work raises the issue of the significant subjectivity of the art of dance which stems from its medium, the body, different every time, always interpreting and presenting movement in another way, depending on individual characteristics. On the other hand, the work confronts a specific dancing body with a multitude of movement vocabularies and the consequences of such a situation, that is the numerous ways a choreographic text may be read- the variety of the forms of expression in dance.
Jerschik’s dance is made to face time passing in human consciousness, linked with the changes occurring in sensitivity, perception, and even dancers’ physicality. This contrast is well rendered in the video showing the rehearsals. What is noticeable is the juxtaposition of the two ways of treating dance and expression through movement. Therefore, on the one hand, we have the figure of Tromp, whose attention while dancing is directed completely inwards; he appears to be absent, indifferent to the surroundings. In this way, he refers to the expressionist dance method of getting closer to movement and body; its essence is a one-way process from the internal to the external, or, in other words, translating a dancer’s emotions and tensions into the language of movement used by the body. On the other hand, there is the other extreme represented by Blaschke who is unrestricted in moving around the hall; he touches the walls, rearranges and pushes objects in his way, or even Tromp himself. The former translates choreography into his own specific style, which derives energy and looks for forms of expression at the intersection of the dancer’s body and his awareness of what’s outside, the characteristics of the place, its architecture, or the natural force of gravity the body must obey. Here, dance is the product of a conscious and active duet, in which space marks the forms and borders of movement. Blaschke’s theory is accompanied by a special language based on release technique, which allows the dancer’s body to yield freely to the structure of the place, following the impulses coming from objects, architecture, gravity, or even clothes, without the use of will.
In other words, “Now it’s your turn” shows two modes of expression: one which comes from the inside and is a result of introspection, and one consisting in going beyond the dancer’s body, will and personality into the seemingly objective space of everyday life, which becomes expressive because of the man’s presence in it. Every generation adds something new to dance - innovative perspectives, attitudes, sensitivity. Now it's your turn…