What’s in a “Torsion”?

The title is, actually, very accurate. The show is about the act of twisting and turning. As with all metaphors, it’s all in the how.

It opens to grand Hollywood airs, the ‘30s type you expect grand cabaret ballet corps to flood the stage on, plumed, long legged and all smiles. It’s the Overture from Funny Girl, but the setup is rather austere, an all encircling white screen and two metallic bars suspended midair, perhaps recalling bird swings.

The two dancers that do emerge, in just as grand, reprised tours of the stage, cut definite, all black silhouettes against the white screen. Their explorations, however, could not be more different. One is angular, Matrix like, ample and pointed, the other is undulating, a wavering body.

The light then dims, and Hanauer’s precise and edgy contemplating the rebellion movement takes us into a moony, trance inducing state of mind. A dancer from Solaris, I catch myself thinking. Then Joudkaite enters and proceeds into orbit like twists in space, for what must be over a minute. The two intersect in perfectly timed hugs. Is she searching for the hug, is that a refuge or a random collision? In black leotard, Lora fills the stage in beautiful floating and I have the time to recall images of all things twirling and twisting: a dervish, a ballerina in a box, a planet, a whirlwind, a vortex, a spinning top. She occasionally varies the rhythm, her arms waving in hallucinating ellipses. When she stops, she shows no inertia, stepping away in full control.

Hanauer balances that with movement in perfect sync with Nina Simone’s Feelings, anchoring her body and the audience in a welcome change of rhythm and reality. From where I stand, she looks like she’s wearing loose pants and a tank top, plus a really cool, wide, bracelet on her left arm. It’s actually a prosthesis, but I only see that when we meet after the show.

When Joudkaite returns for a second act of torsion, we are let in her story. She spins and tells a tale of sisterly love, childhood emotions sharable or impossible to, of freedom and letting go. The internal dialogue I echo at times – as Joudkaite compares spinning with watching through the train window, I recall the excitement of my train trips as a child – is then symmetrically closed with Funny Girl’s Overture.

“It was intriguing, there was a lot going on, it almost felt impossible in terms of the physicality of it. The fact that it stayed intriguing all through the one hour was fascinating. For me it’s not something that I understood very well, and maybe that’s the beauty of it. I did not really get the story, but visually it was mesmerising, you can’t keep on spinning like that, you can’t do that, it’s next to impossible,” says Ajay Naqvi, who sometimes goes to contemporary dance shows with this friends.

“Wonderful. When you see show after show for nights on end, you are generally left with a mood, rather than the memory of a gesture. This kind of play, you carry with you for a long time. It also takes you back to your own childhood, to your own states of being, and, what is after all wonderful in theatre and particular to dance, it transports you. And it also slightly challenges your imagination to get in the shoes of the character. You find depth beyond the complexity of movement or its homogeneity. It’s a structure that works with minimal means to give a ravishing set of feelings specifically because the challenge is within, not only on stage. I liked it very much. It is, as I was saying, memorable,” adds Andrei Țărnea.

How can the human being spin for so long, I ask Lora Joudkaite. “I don’t know how to answer that, I don’t know what it means to not turn. I’ve been doing this since childhood. The idea of talking came in rehearsal. Rashid [Ouramdane] said “just speak.” And then I start to turn and speak and explain, travel in my mind, to my childhood. And it’s so private, my sister heard this when I played in Lithuania and said “it’s good at least you didn’t say my name. This is our story, why are you saying this?” I spoke a lot and Rashid made it shorter and then I needed to learn it. I said it in English, in German, I am learning it in French, for he Africa tour. Russian, too. The turning bars are Rachid’s idea, but for us, we are calling our friends, they are also spinning, the world is spinning, Earth is spinning, I am spinning. For me it’s a symbol, this is metal, machine, and I am human. For me it’s about this.”

Annie Hanauer doesn’t “speak directly to the audience, but I feel like I have a quite direct connection with the audience, I am sharing a lot with them with my focus and my movement. I feel like there are elements of my personality behind that, being a bit light and not serious, but actually behind that there is something deep and meaningful. Particularly for me the Nina Simone [bit] has a lot of emotional layers and amazing sound and her voice layers everything in there, it’s really nice to work with that. I felt a nice focus from the audience, they were really with us and it was a pleasure to be here, so it’s kicking of the tour in a nice way for us.”

“People say that [the arm does not look like a prosthesis] sometimes and I don’t know because I kind of don’t believe it, I can see what you mean, for me it’s really part of me, it’s not something I think about, really. My body has given me a particular perspective. Sometimes we just see a dancer.” That’s all there is to see.

* TORDRE by Rachid Ouramdane was the special guest show of the Contemporary dance season, on the occasion of FranceDanse Orient-Express Romania, on Thursday 2 November 2017.

**Text written with the occasion of the Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017.

The Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017 cultural project is supported within the cultural program Bucharest participatory city, by the Bucharest Mayor’s Office through the Bucharest Cultural Centre ARCUB.

On engagement, with delicate instruments

I just stepped onto the set of George Michael’s Freedom, Cindy Crawford at my feet, arms over chest in pop icon bathtub pose. Meters away, Linda Evangelista stretches against the wall, looking to the side, just like in Michael’s music video. Or Madonna’s. I can’t decide. This Cindy Crawford, though, is blonde and does pretty convincing soprano sprints and Celine Dion reprises. And there is no bathtub. Only the vast, carpeted, echoey lobby of the Omnia Hall. It’s also quite cold.

There is a pace to the action, too. Five performers cover the entire perimeter, moving from statuary groups to insular action, declaiming, reciting, dancing, singing and interpreting for the non-Romanian speaking audience. It takes me a while to get into it, but luckily, of that, there is plenty. Delicate instruments of engagement plays on continuously for four hours.

I follow searching for meaning through a speech on the political resistance of Chile from a contemporary hero (whose name, alas, escapes me), a confounding book launch discourse from one of Romania’s ministers of agriculture, whose ineptitude sets the German tourists across the hall off in unrestrained laughter, a reenactment from Romania’s 1989 live revolution I’d watched on TV as a child, a Wailing Wall sequence where we are encouraged to release a secret into the confidence of one of the performers, and a human search engine inviting any question. I go for “orange” and get a motley of vitamin C stats, grandma’s cake recipes with orange zest, and references to Communist scarcity thereof. Another member in the audience tries on “notion,” and reboots the system. “Would you like to search another word?” replies a member of the engine after about a minute of silence. Not much is new, but the interaction is uplifting.

Actually, the interaction is where the performance, or whatever the precise definition is, does it for me. Eventually, I figure out I am witnessing a puzzle. But the kick is in understanding the puzzle moves with me. Or rather for me. Let me explain.

A performer invites anyone in the audience to participate in an artist’s installation. You will have your ears covered by the performer’s hands for over a minute, experiencing closeness and touch in a perfectly noninvasive way. Our eyes either do not meet, or, when they do, I am not provoked in either way. The human installation is there to serve me. Later, the said Cindy Crawford, i.e. Paula Gherghe, delivers Titanic’s “My heart will go on” eyes glued on me throughout. Embarrassed at first, I just let go and take it in. It feels like an act of generous acknowledgement of my presence.

And of course, the first reason of all: the action is structured in four parts. Upon each completion, anyone in the audience is invited to choose a new beginning, and the flow goes on. I go for the covering of the Guernica tapestry at the United Nations during Colin Powell’s speech, advocating for the American intervention in Iraq, in 2003. The options are Erdem Gunduz’s “The Standing Man” passive resistance protest back in 2013, the “Confused Travolta” meme and Rembrandt van Rijn’s “The Abduction of Europa,” painted in 1632, but in this context, more of a pretext for meditation on nationalistic threat.

It actually feels like a human version of the online world, with functions structured along the same principles of interaction, with calls to action with one or several options. Would you like to search for a word? Would you like to choose your next story, better yet be a part of it? Would you like to post something anonymously? Would you like us to read or play something for you? Just click. Or say so. Alexandra Pirici has reenacted the internet. And it is a rather delicate subject in nature. Revolutions have resulted off it.

“The work is not a “performance,” rather an “ongoing action,” says a seriously overbooked Pirici, engaged, ironically, online. “Delicate Instruments…..” re-transmits a mix of pop culture, art and politics in various dramatics the audience can select from.”

Maria Mora, one of the performers and a self called product of CNDB, gives a sneak peak into the creative kitchen. “The performance is multilayered, also an endurance exercise, you must be physically and psychologically fit to take it on. It becomes repetitive and you see yourself better, perhaps today your voice is weaker, it’s a rather meditative exercise, rather minimalist and clear. Nuances arise as you feel the medium, the country. In Russia, we had a super empathetic audience .At the Wailing Wall people lined up to each one of us. They were speaking in Russian and it was not really about secrets, but an exercise to see what it’s like to talk to us. Nobody came in Germany.

The audience is very important. Observing has become an almost scientific discovery for me. When the audience steps in, the whole work is transformed. We try and play with the space, get them out of the passive mode, where they come in, sit on a chair and wait for the end. That’s why we play with the zero point, when our face is turned to them. We move further and closer, to get them to move.”

Alexandru Paul “liked it, although I can’t say why, I think it was more of a mood thing. At first I couldn’t understand, but then I did and it even moved me. Maybe it’s theatre, maybe it’s dance, it’s a performance actually. [The question to the human search engine on Alexandra Pirici] was a trap I set for them, but it did not work, they were circumstantially OKish. I came in a bit reticent, many times I am bored and/or aggressed by this kind of performances, but this was good, it did not tend to aggress me, to confound me.”

*Text written with the occasion of the Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017.

The Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017 cultural project is supported within the cultural program Bucharest participatory city, by the Bucharest Mayor’s Office through the Bucharest Cultural Centre ARCUB.

“We are all lichens” made me clean my closet

Walking into the set of We are lichens is like an immersion into a languid version of Children of men. Still dark and unkempt to dirtiness, but without the structure and the drama. Precisely what the title advertises. Although, there is another layer built into it. All, we are all lichens, but more on that in a bit.

Textbooks probably call that performing action unconventional, as in put together outside the typical convention of an audience to whom catharsis is served in the given theatre geometry. Indeed the setup turns out to be a pretext for both the actors and whomever ventures in, and catharsis is a private matter. Needless to say, there are no applauses, no stage, no seats.

I walk into the dim lit lobby of Omnia Hall, where behind a curtain of 70’s looking decorative pillars, lies an underground colony of the lost to purpose. It’s cold and nightmarish. In fact, it feels like entering somebody else’s subconscious.

Captive to computer screens, vacuum cleaner hoses, cables, sheets of tinfoil and other piles of junk, six performers lie in wait and activate to gestures without apparent end. My first thought is they are entangled, but unable to process a request for help. Bruegel’s Children’s games comes to mind, the partnerless version, all nuclei of action, parables of ineptitude. From the outside, it looks terrible futile and lonely.

One sits on a high table top and plays with a rubber band. It’s too dark to see any trace of enjoyment on Andreea David’s face, but it would be the exception to a pre-existing neutrality, neighbouring the debility. Another brings bulbs from all over the universe and lays them on a piece of carpet. It creates an accidental spot of light that goes unacknowledged, let alone celebrated. Then decides to move all of it with no apparent logic. When they move, the inhabitants of this world move their junk with them. I catch myself auditing the contents of my house, all of the sudden motivated to downsize.

On the cold marble floor, another builds minuscule fort like strings of cement, which will lay abandoned until, burdened to a yolk of junk, yet another performer will crawl next to it and observe it emotionless. There is no soundtrack to this, with the exception of a brief groan-like female song, in fact there is no audible dialogue.

I am flooded with film comparisons. It’s Micmacs a Tire-larigot, but without the humour and composed aesthetic. Boxtrolls without the sense fuelled action. Because, we have been told, they are lichens. All of them, objects and humans alike. In fact, we are all lichens, spectators included.

I’m not sure like/no like applies here. At first it felt like organised chaos, but then, when one of the performers came close, as I was able to move around them, I wanted to go in and do the same. I can’t really compare it to anything. I was not overwhelmed by emotion, rather I felt a short impulse, a timeless in-between, like when you take a picture or watch a movie and something just happens, instantaneously,” says Mirela Țîrlea, for the second time at a performance during the season.

Nicoleta Enache “entered a desolate, found space, where I had to find my place. I could have been a being or an object. I let myself hypnotised by the installation, without any explanations.”

On the run to her next show, Andreea David recounts her lichen tales: “it’s a fusion, a contamination, you give up authorship, being the human who acts, and let things infect and inform you. It’s a horizontality, not a hierarchy between humans and objects. New meanings emerge, other than those we are used to. How do you spin a ball differently? How do you take the roundedness, the quality of being able to spin and use them differently? How does this  piece of information lead you? How do you factor in gravity? What qualities does a ball have other than that we know from football?” I smile discreetly, triggered by her inquiry into the functionality of things. I can’t refrain from musing how Andreea’s profession of origin, architect, informs her creations in the realm of contemporary dance.

The performance very well illustrates a reality of mutism, perhaps a contemporary reality. There’s not much use of the eternal mechanism of music, other than to emphasise an unbearable atmosphere, a dull suffering we do not express and live with moving objects, or somehow arranging the ordinary. All is reduced here, emptied of drama, all moves in circle, Brauninan like. Byung-Chul Han, a German philosopher of South Korean origin speaks of a disoriented world, a society of fatigue and of performance, at the same time. These are two sides of the same coin. Mutism is not silence, is the incapacity to speak, neighbouring ineptitude, oblivion. Gilles Lipovetsky explains, in his work “La Culture-Monde,” how culture has descended into the ordinary, which is very hard to transcend, we sink into it, are stuck. The vibe [of the performance] was of adhering to objects, to things, to not being capable of letting go of,” says philosophy professor Ștefan Vianu.

Depressing as I find it, the action is therapeutic in consequences. The next day I reach out for warm gloves, I take out the trash, I spend the sunny afternoon with mom in the park.

*We Are All Lichens is a performative framework designed by Farid Fairuz, with performers Maria Baroncea, Mădălina Dan, Andreea David, Rui Catalo and Farid Fairuz; it is a project co-produced by the Solitude Project Cultural Association, the National Centre for Dance in Bucharest, Colectiv A Cultural Association in Cluj, and co-funded by the National Cultural Fund Administration (AFCN).

**This text was written with the occasion of the Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017.

The Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017 cultural project is supported within the cultural program Bucharest participatory city, by the Bucharest Mayor’s Office through the Bucharest Cultural Centre ARCUB.

“Dancing Ring – One to All,” the accidental love affair with a speaker

She stands petite, charcoal black clad, almost undefined against the pitch black curtains, face to face with an invested object of desire: a speaker. And then dialogue, more like the passion, ensues. She approaches inquiringly, looks into the speaker’s clarion, intrigued, searching. Once she touches it, they are not to be parted, in dynamic and dramatic symbiosis.

The fervour, curiosity and adoration Mihaela Dancs expends into the speaker is tantamount to great romantic themes, hence the need for its meaning. As befalls the medium of contemporary dance, meaning can only be extracted from continuous investigation of facts, through all senses summoned.

For Dancs, that means sound and touch, paired in vibration, which her body is keen to experience throughout the show, hungry to have sound enter it from all over. And she must love it enough for the source of it to become her lover’s next of kin. The beanie drawn over her eyes clearly advertises both blind love and futility of sight.

At first, she drips on it, longing for love, or jumps with childish excitement. There seems to be a response, as the groovy, almost clubby beats make way for a brief Oui, je t’aime” tune. Like a lover reaching second base, she hugs the speaker.

From here onwards, it becomes mostly mechanical. Dancs’s body trembles, convulses and contorts in synch with the minimalist beats, owning the rhythm. By the end of the show, the speaker will have touched every part of her body, and she will have let the metallic sound permeate her in frantic or awkward sex like mechanics, fragile equilibrium on the speaker, balancing it on her head, or letting herself crushed by it to the floor. Not without humour, she even carries it as a snail does its house, a curt intermission to the violence of their relationship.

Through all this, her movement is precise, minute and articulate. I catch myself connecting her accuracy to her previous profession, which Dancs left in 2008. What an expressive stomatologist she must have been.

It remains unclear wether her object of desire is delivering any catharsis, the few seconds she stands on it, right after bending over and losing her beanie, in a telling image of a spider like creature with music coming out of it, the balance is rather fragile.

If she has been chained to the speaker, if it had been her baggage, there is however, a deliverance. Dancs leaves the clearly marked ring and stands undefined against the black curtains, by her technical crew, hoodie over her head, like a buddhist on the sides of the temple garden. She even takes the applauses with them. A whirlwind in the ring, the former MD is shy off it.

As we meet after her performance, she has transformed into your typical, though chic, bookworm, large glasses pinched to the nose, in oversized coat and boyfriend jeans. I would have easily placed her on green campus lawns, coffee in hand, running to class.

“I had grown into a strange attachment to the speaker when I first did the show,” confesses an amused Dancs. “And it’s quite interesting, I did not intend the love affair at all. What I was interested in was how my body reacts to this very strong stimulus, which is music. Music enters us through ears, but I wanted to see what happens if it enters me through the chest, or the knee, or my lower back, or my perineum. Sometimes I feel air coming out of that speaker. The sound makes my body move to a rhythm, most times that of the music, it’s this repetitive movement…, the speaker starts moving too, and the object gives me something back, like ping pong. You vibrate with something.”

“It’s very subtle and very deliberate, everything from her movement to her choice of music,” says a proud friend. “It was interesting, but very violent,” comments a cultured Frenchman.

To Claire Garand, the show was “very poignant, physically and intellectually, physically because the basses were quite strong, taking in the audience, and intellectually because it is about the relationship between a human and an object, not an intelligent object, but an intermediary, transmitting something other than itself, and with whom there is an evolving relationship all throughout the performance. First there was surprise, then the show makes you enter a dream like state, because of the rhythm, of the repeated gestures, the chained movement. I am not a regular contemporary dance goer, but I love seeing anything that surprises me, makes me question, and learn. This is a register of movement that works the body and the space quite differently, delirious and inquisitive at the same time.”

*Text written with the occasion of the Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017.

The Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017 cultural project is supported within the cultural program Bucharest participatory city, by the Bucharest Mayor’s Office through the Bucharest Cultural Centre ARCUB.

Stardust and unicorns in “37 minutes of make believe”

Andreea Novac is not your ordinary dancer. She welcomes you to her show, invites you to make yourself at home then says she’ll be right back. And as the mostly female audience oozes to Beatles’ “Oh! Darling” (please believe me), she goes behind the curtain to exchange her (really fit) soccer mom outfit, jeans, sneakers and all for bright red socks, rainbow coloured yoga pants and a dark green top.

 

She then proceeds into speech. In Novac’s performance, in the beginning there was the word, proclaiming the rules of her space. “There is no sky, no vodka, no pain.” There are also no emotions, she claims, but I later come to believe she means there are no emotions right now. She then translates from word into action, announcing movement, then stepping into it. It eventually builds into dance only speed, but it doesn’t all come at once.

 

In-between there are the bodily equivalents of Magritte’s “ce n’est pas un pipe.” After introducing her dance, Novac defines it as what it is not, taking that aside from the white floor to make space for what it actually is. “This is Rio de Janeiro from the front. And this is Rio de Janeiro from behind,” she breaks matter of factly, body erect, arms to the side, quite like the statue. Muffled laughter erupts here and there. She even puts into act the awkwardness of her would be classic ballet class, and the audience echoes her own amusement.

 

Only then does Novac’s athletic body burst into dance, alternating cadet like sprints to angular, decomposed movement, to flow, but always in dialogue with her public. When connection is complete, she attempts audacious communion, channeling the crowd in, she a medium to their choreography wishes. Her body is playful, irreverent like a puppy in the sun, flows, rolls and stacks itself and I caught myself moving in my chair, as if tuning in to her.

 

Catching her breath, Novac switches back into conversation, raining a torrent of sensation invoking questions, from hot sands, to green dewy grass, to bone breaking hugs. I’m still thinking of my summer at the beach when I see her leaning on three fans, as if over some ritual drums, blowing pink, scarlet and golden glitter in the wind. And then, like a unicorn, it was all gone.

 

“It surprised me, the spoken part. It took me a while to adjust.” “I did not expect it but I liked it,” said two friends, seeing such a performance for the first time. “I liked it a lot, actually. The atmosphere, the performance, it made me ask myself questions about living and experiencing the moment,” said Johan, the Dutch half of a clearly in love couple. Diana, the Romanian, completes him: “It suggested there is no emotion, but by the end I had forgotten that. The impact at the end was very powerful, what she said, the questions, I felt them on my own skin, … and the glitter. It made me think of all that is beautiful, of love, of how he makes things…” She chokes a bit and then adds “I could not stop crying a bit.”

 

“I liked Andreea, diplomatic and sensitive, and I see how the story was built with the audience. I recalled my walks on hot sand. The improv seemed very authentic,” offered another Diana, head shaved and cool looking in large knits. Her friend, Dan, had been following Andreea for a long time. “I felt the deconstructions, but I thought the make believe message landed well. We were there with her.” And “the ending made her and the show sparkle,” added Diana.

 

Still all glitter behind the scene, Novac is enthused by what her show conjured for her public. “My power is to imagine. I’ve always been told I am a dreamer. I create worlds. Emotion shows up, but that is not what I am after. My stake is with this whirlwind of questions that bring answers, all shuffling until it is not clear what is reality and what is… anyway this is how we remember, we don’t remember what was, but how we need to remember.”

 

*Text written with the occasion of the Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017.

 

The Contemporary dance season CNDB – Bucharest in movement, 2017 cultural project is supported within the cultural program Bucharest participatory city, by the Bucharest Mayor’s Office through the Bucharest Cultural Centre ARCUB.

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