eurotrash: sie sind da draussen

My first trip to the world of live dance in Zürich was seeing Christina Gehrig Binder &Anne Lorenz’s Sie Sind Da Draussen (The are out there at the concrete tomb of the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst. In Melbourne, we’d call it Euro-Trash.

It’s hard to say something about a performance when all six of the dancers were sitting in the same cafeteria, or outside on the loading bay dock every day, all of us rehearsing in different studios at Tanzhaus. So I’ll start by saying there were three shows: one of the dancers, one of the mise en scene, and the third of the choreographer.

Sometimes everything fitted together, the dancing belonged or the acting/performing made sense, the sound gave something to the vast cube of the space instead of fighting with it, and the lighting and video gave depth, finishing the work rather than making it look derivative. Other times, I noticed I was paying alot of attention to what was in the rig some 10 meters above, a dead give-away sign the piece had lost me.

Entering the space filled with white; white floor, white bed linen, fridge, pillowcases, all arranged geometrically across the floor, the dancers already there, the performance starting more by small changes of lights than mood or grand overture. Then pretty much everything was folded up, put away, packed and stored, finished. And for the remainder of the work the great majority remained so, superfluous to the events taking place.

In the opening minutes, each dancer established their character, archetype or more accurately clichéof a socially awkward or mentally unbalanced person. These character traits operated as leitmotifs however there was no reason for their behaviour despite the dedication of the performers to pull something out of it.

Thee work meandered, never really becoming anything, not committing, evading and ducking conviction in itself. The wierd centrepiece was a game of teasing one of the girls that became a pseudo-rape, as though the work needed dramatic tension, steriotypical male versus female role-playing or just plain over-exertion to shake the soporific flow.

It really wasn’t needed. The choreographers’ strengths don’t lie in any post-modern cultural analysis of gender and power, and the men-in-pants, girls-in-dresses who-don’t-get-along has been done to death by Pina Bausch and others for the last several decades. It was an easy way of avoiding doing what the work needed, which was a single coherent explanation of what was going on. This kind of pretence at “addressing society with all its unspoken rules and models for survival” more often than not reinforces an over-simplistic uncritical view of social and gender relations, pandering to the unreal caricature precisely because it is an easy black-and-white dichotomy, and in all likelihood terrified of the real nature of the world it professes to represent.

Despite the choreographic weakness, the dancers were fantastic. They made a very sexy, strong, and fearsome group, who can’t be faulted in their committment to performing without holding back. They did everything from the throwing yourself at the floor stuff to the straight acting with equal intensity and conviction, and I’d say it’s worth seeing the performance for them alone.

The piece also did something I’ve seen not done by so many performances which waffle on for hours, directionless and in need of bludgeoning by an editing axe. It finished when it should. The end came from a long way off, Alex assembling all the props into one small living/bedroom on an angle near the audience, the other four in couples revolving around the room in slow duets. It was the obvious point to end, and to know when to finish, to not try and say or do anything more is something I haven’t seen enough of.