Three Australians in Wuppertal, by way of Brussels, Madrid, and Berlin. Last time I was in Wuppertal it was for The Vase, one of three banging works I’ve seen this year. This time, Friday evening, it’s snowing to whiteout, Gala and Michael are talking about the headcasts they’ve had done for their upcoming work, New People. They want photos. Guess who brought their camera? Saturday morning, after a lazy breakfast and before lunch hamburgers, still snowing, the falling-apart printer’s workshops behind Michael’s apartment having their roofless concrete floors jackhammered by the owner, one of those old socialist tradie types who ends up with a bunch of properties and maintains them all himself. It’s proper winter cold, slush and snow and wetness, and he’s hauling shit around like Sisyphus. We bail into the one building with a roof. Milky glass-paned, rusting windows along one wall fill it with just enough light for us to get away with photography. There’s a temporary scaffolding floor erected, we tall ones are nearly smacking our heads on bits of pipe and beam. Their busts go on the ground, then on a plank, I photograph them like I would mediæval art.
Completely due to a tiny shuffle of one foot in a decrepit former book printer’s workshop out the back of Michael’s apartment (where the owner was totally having at it on a Saturday morning with jackhammers into concrete in the snow and freeing slush), I managed to do one of those mad meme-y gifs that look like they’re 3-dimensional. Tick-tock, back and forth, convinces me every time.
Showcase Beat Le Mot — Super Collider
HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin (HAU2)
Sun 10.12.2017, 19:00
Mon 11.12.2017, 19:00
Tue 12.12.2017, 19:00
Wed 13.12.2017, 19:00
Laser pointers write “Game Over” in the sky. The performers of Showcase Beat Le Mot do not want to waste any electricity on apocalyptic resignation but instead to expand the frame of discourse to include outer space. That’s why in their new performance they’re sending danced messages and mumbled formulas into the outskirts of the universe. “True, beautiful and good were sought, skewed, quirky and helpful were found.” The antennas for the extra-terrestrial messages are switched from receiving to sending. This is not documentary theatre about the powerlessness to act in a surging reality but an experiment that works like a utopian slingshot. The stage setting is the message, the audience the amplifier. Space acts instead of fake facts. Always alongside trouble. Welcome to the half-truth about everything.
Concept, Space, Text, Realisation: Showcase Beat Le Mot
Shibari: Dasniya Sommer
Sound/Music: Sebastian Meissner
Costumes: Clemens Leander
Video: Alexej Tschernij
Light: Klaus Dust
Movements: Nina Kronjäger
Stage construction: Jörg Fischer
Production: Olaf Nachtwey & Johanna J. Thomas
Thanks to: Alexander Djuric and Etel Adnan
Two shows by and with friends this week: Isabelle Schad’s première at HAU of Turning Solo with the brilliant Naïma Ferré, and Double Portrait, both of which I saw in June showings in Isabelle’s studio in Wiesenburg.
Friday, 15.12.2017, 19:00, HAU Hebbel am Ufer Berlin (HAU3)
more performance dates:
16.12. 2017, 19:00
17.12. 2017, 19:00
18.12. 2017, 19:00
With Double Portrait and Turning Solo, Isabelle Schad continues a series of works which attempt to create distinct and personal portraits through a purely physical approach, moulding respective rhythms and energies into choreographed experiences.
Double Portrait — the portrait for Przemek Kaminski and Nir Vidan — seeks to form a solo for two persons with their bodies, movements and subjective rhythms. Each of them finds his prolongation in the other. In changing interdependencies a shared space defines self and other, intimacy and care, colliding forces and violence creating a web of connectivities. The work plays with aspects of Frances Bacon’s paintings, their complexity in visual rhythm, their intensity and immediacy.
Turning Solo — the portrait for Naïma Ferré — is based on her fascination with spinning for long periods. This whirling practice is brought into dialogue with Schad’s research around axial and weight shift, around inner movement material and its extension into the world, around energetic fields that characterise oneself and others. Little by little an initially minimalist study in movement becomes a shimmering jewel, a rotating sculpture, the choreographic portrait of a dancer.
Credits Double Portrait
concept and choreography: Isabelle Schad / co-choreography und performance: Przemek Kaminski, Nir Vidan / dramaturgical support: Saša Božić / sound: Damir Šimunović / lighting: Bruno Pocheron / stage: Isabelle Schad, Bruno Pocheron, Charlotte Pistorius, Thomas Henriksson (painting) / costumes: Charlotte Pistorius / head of production: Heiko Schramm / production defacto: Andrea Remetin
Credits Turning Solo
concept and choreography: Isabelle Schad / co-choreography und performance: Naïma Ferré / dramaturgical support: Saša Božić / sound: Damir Šimunović / lighting: Bruno Pocheron & Emese Csornai / costumes: Charlotte Pistorius / head of production: Heiko Schramm
Blog-posting from Isabelle Schad’s mailing list for all youse in Vietnam & Indonesia who didn’t know she’s touring & running workshops until now. Also various dates for various works across Germany and Europe.
Dear friends and colleagues,
we cordially invite you to the following performances and activities in autumn 2017.
We would be very happy to see you, here or there.
Two new works from my good friend, Isabelle Schad,one this weekend, the other the end of the month. Both are early showings before their Berlin première at HAU in December.
All the deets:
Showing – Isabelle Schad: Double Portrait, mit Przemek Kaminski und Nir Vidan
Im Rahmen von informellen Showings werden erste Arbeitsergebnisse der für 2017 geplanten Neuproduktionen vorgestellt.
“Die Bilder sind eigentlich immer im Zwischenbereich, hybride, also nie eindeutig definierbar. Sobald ein Bild wirklich nur eine einzige Aussage haben kann, so eindeutig ist, dass jeder Zuschauer dasselbe sieht, versuche ich eigentlich immer etwas zu verändern oder dieses Bild wieder loszuwerden.”
— Isabelle Schad, Auszug Interview mit Wolfgang Horn, Theater: Ein Fest! Tanzplattform 2016, 3sat
Six hours on the Autobahn and straight into the theatre to find Gala and Michael hard at it. I reckon they must be near the end, arriving so late as I did, but they keep going, like they were waiting as long as possible for me to get there before they started. In the end I missed maybe 20 minutes of their pre-general on Thursday evening and had the delight of their sweaty hot bodies jumping on me the instant they realised who the tardy arrival was.
Turns out missing the beginning is crucial to understanding what’s going on. Without Gala’s first monologue the piece only has the meaning I put on it; it’s a strong argument for context and against interpretation. So I’ll start with interpretation. A woman in a long, pale-lemon dress, cut just below the half-way line of her calves. Sleeveless, but over a dirty white short-sleeved shirt. A man in Oxford Blue corduroy trousers and a blue-grey unbuttoned shirt over a dirty white singlet. Both bare foot. A stage coated with ash, four wooden chairs, and downstage where the stage manager’s box would be if it were on-stage instead of off, a table, chair, computer, sound and light desks, spaghetti-ing cables onto the floor into a red effects box, and a single microphone on a long cable.
It’s one of the enduring clichés of dance theatre, ballet, contemporary dance and all, the single man and woman on stage, dressed so, performing the clichés of heteronormativity. It would be a comedy, except it’s not. It’s a cliché also of gay male choreographers making such work, almost a compulsion, like having to ‘reinterpret’ Giselle or Swan Lake. I’m watching these two dancers, tall, lithe, strong, who I’ve known for well over a decade in various cities and countries, who have danced together for thirteen years now, who I adore — so let’s not pretend I have any interest in lip service to ‘objectivity’ here — who I love watching dance, especially when it’s their own dancing, especially together. I’m watching them, and without the benefit of that first monologue, wonder how awkward it’s going to be if they fall over into that cliché. And giving them credit here, I know them for mercilessly mocking all the tropes and stereotypes of dance, both with their words and with their bodies. Yet sometimes the piece makes itself, and sometimes even the most caustic find themselves wanting to say something on those roles and identities and selfhoods which are real and lived, which we have to negotiate even if we ourselves are not fully part of, even while they are so often used to fill the void of ideas.
The next day I see the whole work. I pay attention. I listen to Gala say, “Have you said any words of love today? There are no words of love today.” Say, whisper, bellow. Her voice is a typhoon blasting the stage, pushing the air before it. Rage, hate, anguish. This is the story of Medea, who kills her children after her husband’s betrayal. This is the story of Gala. In Genesis, Michel Serres says,
The more I think, the less I am me. If I think something, I am that something. If I simply think, I am no longer anyone. In any case, me thinking am nothing.
[…] Dance is to the body proper what exercise of thought is the subject known as I. The more I dance, the less I am me. If I dance something, I am that something, or I signify it. When I dance, I am only the blank body of the sign.
When Gala and Michael reference the story of Medea and Jason, the Gods take an interest. Not to say it’s an invocation, but rather to recite the lines from Euripides’ Medea, and to find or thread together multiple variations, be it Euripides, Ariel Dorfman’s Purgatorio, or their own private lives deferred through these variations is enough to reverse the relationship. It is Medea who dances her life through Gala as much as it is Gala who draws on Medea to tell her own. It is a repetition across time, through each work referencing a predecessor, tracing branchings and bifurcations back to Medea. It is a repetition also in their bodies, dancing themselves, dancing each other.
I want to diverge from philosophy here and write of the awe I feel seeing these two together. Because this is becoming something of a review and not just photography and a travel document, Gala and Michael first danced together in Leigh Warren & Dancers, Michael coming from Oz Ballet; Gala from WAAPA (by way of me and a couple of pieces back when I actually made dance). Michael went on to Compañía Nacional de Danza in Madrid, while Gala went to Charleroi Danses then Ultima Vez in Brussels. As for why I was seeing them in Wuppertal, Michael joined Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch a while ago. So we’re talking about two highly capable dancer-performers, who have worked across dance, theatre, opera in Europe and Australia while making their own work together for much of that time, and ‘officially’ since 2012 under the name cie. OFEN. They move, alone and together, with brutal clarity. This isn’t the kind of work you can make in six weeks by throwing together some steps and ideas; it’s a knowing of self and each other down to their bones, worked into their bones. Even if they had gone fully into the cliché, I’d be destroyed by the beauty of them together.
The inevitability in their dancing. They compound that with dialogue, or with just the mundane acts of technical concerns, changing the lights, sound. There’s a moment where Gala is on all fours, around the centre of the work, the light and the energy has gone into a dark place, like blood is going to be spilt — or already has and you don’t even feel it yet — and Michael, barely above a whisper, spits, “Get. Up.” Savage. A slap to the face. Hatred where there was supposed to be love; betrayal and resentment and spite. You want to see work like this. You want the shit mediocrity of the cliché exposed for what it is: violence and abuse. Those saccharine dramatic conceits of the love story rest on the unmentionable bodies of murdered women, and while Medea might have murdered her children, this is projection: it is not women who are the murderers, not terrorists who women must fear, but the men in our midst, the men closest.
It’s a fucking hard, brave work.
It’s a beautiful work. I’ve said that already. Here is the violence of abuse, and here also is something to aspire to, here is a way out. Michael and Gala, Gala and Michael. Maybe a decade and some years is what’s needed for such a work. The care they take with each other, the familiarity, even or especially when they get rough, when it needs to be endured. The matter of fact getting on with it, like digging in the garden, there’s a complete absence of pretence that also doesn’t try and be some shite authenticity, like here’s the genuine, essential, real Gala and Michael for your entertainment. I want to say more, but then it becomes personal, and the point of a performance is to defer biography. So I will end with the end. Michael is back at the table. He and Gala have danced together, separate but together, increasingly apart, the light has increased for this last somewhat third or act, he sits and watches her as she comes from upstage in front of the chairs, dancing, dancing, and fades the lights, she’s smiling. Alone, survived, no longer Medea, Gala dancing, smiling.