dance & aesthetics, mostly
Some shows I’ve seen recently:
I’m a big fan of Raimund Hoghe, and although his work is often programmed in the UK as live art, for me his recent works have consciously presented themselves as dance. In this work from 2009 Hoghe partners with Congolese choreographer and dancer Faustin Linyekula, who brings a distinct presence and sensibility to Hoghe’s pared-down, understated movement. Those who are familiar with Hoghe’s work know that it is very difficult to say precisely what his dances are about, only that they are about something; in Sans-titre that something is starker, rawer, more palpable than before, articulating a sense of loss and grief that I couldn’t quite place, and that the programme notes about the loss of identity brought about by immigration controls only skirts around. I felt scrubbed clean after watching Sans-titre, as if with a pumice stone; Hoghe deserves respect for having the guts to say something true about the human condition, and to say it beautifully, in an age when truth and beauty are increasingly difficult to pull off.
Iphigenie auf Tauris (1974) was the first full-length work created by Pina Bausch after becoming director of dance for the Wuppertal theatres. Although there are moments that hint at Bausch’s interest in the static, painterly tableau vivant, there is little else in this piece to suggest the greatness that would be seen in her later works. Iphigenie comes across as an attempt to marry classical ballet storytelling with movement derived from German Expressionist dance, but it proves to be an uneasy match, with the relentless, plodding narrative pace of the Gluck opera refusing to give the dancing space to breathe. Apart from a brief moment of surprise where Bausch quotes the Kingdom of the Shades scene from La Bayadère (yes, really!), it ended up being rather boring.
This full-length work really felt like two works stuck together. The first, an intensely focused, meditative pas-de-deux set to Gustav Mahler, aimed for a kind of Zen-like absorption in the moment, only for glimpses of theatre to shine through the cracks: who is leading who, and why? The second section, set to a variety of contemporary music, was at times dark and aggressive, at others comical and bizarre. The two ‘works’ were each interesting in their own right, but I could discern no reason for their combination in a single piece, as there seemed no common element to link them; moreover, they seemed to jostle and compete with each other for attention. This was a shame, because the quality of the choreography was very high – the Mahler section in particular, with its concentrated presence undermined (consciously, I think) by a subtly-staged game of power and domination, impressed me a lot.