Lublin Festival 2006
The 10th Anniversary of Lublin International Dance Theatres Festival saw 19 performances plus a full schedule of classes, in only 100 hours. The combination of efficient and hospitable organisers and enthusiastic audiences, made up largely from Lublin's large student body, ensured an exciting and friendly atmosphere.
In the European divide between conceptual and “dancey” dance, Poland, like the UK, tends to favour the latter and this was reflected in the eclectic festival mix, encompassing modern dance classics from Paul Taylor Dance Company 2 to hip-hop from Tunisia's Compagnie Sybel Ballet Theatre, as well as local companies.
The first full day of the festival featured four companies in three venues spanning some 5 hours with respite only during the walks between theatres. We saw contemporary dance in a variety of forms and, while most had interesting features, none of them quite hit the bulls-eye.
Hungary's The Symptoms performed “From Scratch” by Réka Szabó. The show had a number of good and intriguing points: the artists greeting the audience members on the way in, plenty of jokes performed by five highly skilled dancers and dancer/actors. Particular successes included a TV Yoga class in which the seemingly easy, but high risk demonstration resulted in the guru's leg falling off, while smiles and calm continue; later a scene where a girl looks out of a hand-held window, meets a shy man, embraces him, swaps places and, having gained her freedom, walks away. Yet, the only apparent linking themes were the performers and their props and in the end this wasn't enough for me, and perhaps because of this, I spent much of the second half frowning rather than smiling. The group received warm applause and it was clear from conversations afterwards that my view was in a minority.
Attaakkalari from India brought us “Purushartha”, a multi-media dance production, with choreography by Jayachandran Palazhy and music and design by a team from Japan lead by Kunihiko Matsuo. The programme told us of “...India torn between the philosophy of her past and the stark reality of her present...” Anxiety was high on the agenda, especially in the solos of Jayachandran Palazhy, and modernity was always to the fore in the digital imagery and the performing space defined by two rows of metal rods with lines of small embedded lights. The sound scape featured a woman counting the seconds and minutes, in sharp contrast to traditional Indian concepts of time and the dance favoured a contemporary aesthetic with only interludes of Indian classical and folk dance.
“Purushartha” was always visually arresting, particularly where motion capture presented a duet in digitalised form while the source movement was unfolding in front, and in the stunning ending with a series of boxed rectangles on the screen and the light rods flickering in a frenzy. Worth noting that both these sections again featured Palazhy and I would have been interested to see greater focus on other members of this talented team. Overall there was much to appreciate, but I wished for more variety in the dancing, and greater co-ordination in the ensemble sections would have heightened the power of the images. I wondered whether the piece was designed for a larger space, as some sections appeared tentative. Again I was in a minority with my reservations and a section of the audience gave Attakkalari a standing ovation.
The final stages of the festival featured a series of solos illustrating contrasted solutions to the constraint of a single body on-stage. Joe Alter from San Diego presented his “Twilight Series”: three solos exemplifying the simple virtues of a moving body bathed in dramatic lighting. Dressed only in dark grey slacks, Alter's tall, spare frame moves initially in slow arcs around the stage focusing attention to the musculature of his arms and upper body, as he stretches down with one arm and up with the other in some difficult task, the tension and precision of his movement always keeping our attention. In the final stages, he becomes agitated, perhaps as if fighting against the aging process and the loss of previous functionality, before a melancholy resignation, accentuated throughout by Arvo Pårt's minimalist score. The second part is generally faster with a section walking through a pool of light, stopping to look questioningly at the audience and a moment when he “washes” himself luxuriously in the light from a bright spot. The third solo is the most pared down, with Alter at the centre of the stage, moving from the waist, sometimes facing the audience, sometimes with his back to us and choreographing his musculature, until he moves slowly backwards into the darkness. While there is no question that Alter in his 40's still commands astonishing physical control, in “Twilight Series”, he acknowledges that changes are occurring and maps his response to them.
In sharp contrast, Gideon Obarzanek's Chunky Move from Australia brought “Glow”, employing state-of-the-art motion capture to generate a digital landscape around and on a dancer in real time. This breath-taking and riveting 25 minute work uses hi-tech to enhance the dance experience, rather than a distraction, which one often sees. On a white square, surrounded by the audience, Sara Black crouches in one corner, at the focus of a cross of light and enclosed by an illuminated outline. As she moves slowly across the stage, these boundaries move with her. From time to time, she attempts to break free and the frame splinters into jagged shards, but as soon as becomes still, the constraints return. We see such a variety of effects, that there is no chance of tedium: in one section parallel lines of light cover the stage and the dancer's contours as she moves in the manner of a gymnastic floor display, to beautiful effect. Then in a section heavy with apprehension, blotchy, dark patches are generated by the dancer, and when she moves to the edge of the stage, these dark shadows at first remain in place and then move across the floor to reclaim her. “Glow” provides the most compelling use of motion capture I have seen to date, and the contrast between the innovative use of traditional technical means by Alter and the 21st Century technology of Obarzanek lifted my spirits as signposts for new ways to create dance.
Last edited by Stuart Sweeney on Tue Jul 03, 2007 5:23 am, edited 2 times in total.