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.
There’s a scene in Episode 9 of Sense8 where Lito is sitting with Nomi before an early sketch of Man at the Crossroads in the Diego Rivera Museum in Mexico telling her how he lost his partner Hernando, while cutting to flashbacks of Hernando describing the history of of the mural, of art, and love before their first kiss.
Late-December, Isabelle says, “I’m going to Mexico.” I say, “You have to go to the Diego Rivera Museum.”
Even if she doesn’t make it there, she’s still in a museum, the Museo Universitario del Chopo, where she’s working with a group of local performers to develop and present a variation of the Collective Jumps / Pieces and Elements series. And if you are in Mexico City later next week, you can see it.
Personal Collective Performance Installation:
4th and 5th February 2017, 1pm
9th and 10th February 2017, 5pm
Personal Collective has been developed together with the performers from Mexico City under the artistic direction of Isabelle Schad, assisted by Julia Rodriguez for the site of the Museum el Chopo. Certain modules derive from the work Collective Jumps by Isabelle Schad and Laurent Goldring.
With: Daniela Urías, Patricia Marcela Herrera Román, Engelbert Ortega, Alvaro Pérez, Azhareel Sierra, Argelia Villegas, Uriel Isaac Palma Torres, Alberto González Etchegaray, Leticia Cordero Mote, Adrián Hernández, Gilberto Spindola, Mariana García, Citlalli Granados de León, Alejandro Ramírez, Edgar Landa, Karina Terán, Mónica Arellano, Daniela Flores, Marlene Coronel, Víctor Hugo Rivera.
Personal Collective is a collaboration by Isabelle Schad with Goethe-Institut Mexico and Museo Universitario del Chopo.
The unstoppable Isabelle Schad! One more new performance from her for 2016. I saw a rehearsal of Pieces and Elements last week and was well impressed. A Beautiful group of performers, a work continuing from her last group work, Collective Jumps, and from her most recent solo, Solo for Lea. One of the three I reckon you come to Berlin for. (Das Helmi, and Castorf/Fritsch/Pollesch/Marthaler at the Volksbühne are the other two. Yeah, I just made that comparison.)
Dear friends and colleagues,
We would like to invite you to the premiere of the new performance Pieces and Elements by Isabelle Schad at HAU Hebbel am Ufer Berlin.
27.11. 2016, 17:00 (afterwards: Artist Talk with Isabelle Schad and Susanne Foellmer)
28.11. 2016, 19:00
In the new work Pieces and Elements a group of performers negotiates the collective body in motion that can only function as a whole. This body with its different parts and multiple connections serves as a possible reflection of nature where each element is in relation to all the others in order for the whole to exist.
Pieces and Elements deals with the fluid borderlines between a scientific, biological, cellular approach to the body and the one seeing the human body in relation to the cycle of nature and the five elements: water, wood, fire, earth and metal. It places itself between a western and an eastern point of view, between visual arts and the performing arts, between installation and choreographic miniatures. After Collective Jumps, the first part of the trilogy on collective bodies, which investigates the body as a site for forming community, Pieces and Elements considers the phases of change and nature as possible energetic means for becoming one: as body, as self or as a group.
In her recently premiered work Solo for Lea, Schad deals with a single figure as a portrait. Pieces and Elements draws on that experience, and focuses on the collective body as cubistic landscape, which can be considered at once as a space of transformation and as the event itself. We are approaching an oscillation between organism, apparatus and hybrid matter, between experience and sensuality, between utopia and reality.
Concept & Choreography: Isabelle Schad
Co-Choreography & Performance: Jozefien Beckers, Barbara Berti, Frederike Doffin, Naïma Ferré, Josephine Findeisen, Przemek Kaminski, Mathis Kleinschnittger, Manuel Lindner, Adi Shildan, Claudia Tomasi, Nir Vidan, Natalia Wilk
Theoretical advice: Susanne Foellmer
Dramaturgical advice: Saša Božić
Artistic assistance: Claudia Tomasi
Light design: Mehdi Toutain-Lopez
Sound: Damir Simunovic
Costumes: Charlotte Pistorius
Costume Assistance: Maja Svartåker
Assistance: Angela Millano
Production management: Heiko Schramm
Made possible by a long-term collaboration with Laurent Goldring.
Isabelle Schad’s new solo for Lea Moro, called appropriately, Solo für Lea premières at Sophienæle next week. I had the pleasure of seeing the development showing a few weeks ago, and it smashes. Intense, focussed, totally recognisable as a Schad work. If you don’t know who she is, now’s your chance. And if you do, this is what happens when Der Bau gets filtered through Fugen.
Isabelle Schad Solo für Lea
Premiere: Thursday, 13th October 2016, 21:00, Sophiensaele (Berlin)
Further dates: 14 & 15 Oct, 21:00; 16 Oct 18:00
The Solo for Lea is a meeting between Isabelle Schad and Lea Moro. In continuation of Schads choreographic practice around relationships between body, movement, image and (re)presentation, the work attempts to draw a very personal portrait of Lea Moro, dealing with the specificities of her body, its rhythms, its contours, colours and energies. Dissected in parts and reorganised anew, the body is regarded as pure materiality, as a medium of energetic potential and transformation.
The new work unfolds itself in the borderline between visual arts and dance, between performance and installation, between sensual experience and abstraction and is playing with form-aspects of cubism and Picasso’s drawings in one dash.
Together Schad and Moro engage in constellations of forming and dis-figuring, in which the body itself becomes the stage: the space, place and matter that is subject of observation.
Concept, choreographie: Isabelle Schad
Co-choreography, performance: Lea Moro
Dramaturgical support: Saša Božić
Sound: Damir Šimunović
Light design: Bruno Pocheron
Technic: Bruno Pocheron, Mehdi Toutain-Lopez
Costume: Charlotte Pistorius
Production management: Heiko Schramm
Made possible by a long years collaboration with Laurent Goldring.
The Goethe Institut is responsible for bringing Isabelle to Abidjan, and it was Henrike Grohs who originally proposed this. Incidentally, Henrike also brought Das Helmi there earlier this year for Ivoire Marionette. Henrike was one of 22 murdered by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on March 13th this year.
Isabelle performs Fugen at the Goethe-Institut, Abidjan this Saturday, 17th September at 19h. There are also performances there and at Institut Français by companies from Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, and Mali. (& sad but true, I’m not there.)
Since July, I’ve been working with Isabelle Schad on her new work, a solo called Fugen. Next Thursday is the première.
Fugen by Isabelle Schad
With Fugues, Berlin choreographer and dancer Isabelle Schad continues her work between musical concepts and their expression in movement. Coming from a music background, she attempts to look at her own (hi)story and the origins of (her) movement between discipline and pleasure, examining the body and its energies in its materiality, process, and time.
The fugue serves her as an analogy for the body in exercise, where the principles of chasing and fleeing, giving and receiving, emptiness and fullness, are becoming one.
Fugues is an autobiographical work in which the performer’s body serves as an example for the construction of the individual within disciplines and systems one cannot escape from.
Thursday, 29th Oct 2015, 20:00, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin)
30th, 31st Oct, & 1st Nov 2015, 20:00
Audience talk after the performance on Friday 30th with Jun.-Prof. Dr. Susanne Foellmer, Isabelle Schad, and Sasa Bozic
Concept, choreography and performance: Isabelle Schad
Dramaturgy: Sasa Bozic
Artistic assistance: Frances d’Ath
Associated artists: Laurent Goldring, Alain Franco
Light design: Mehdi Toutain-Lopez
Costume: Charlotte Pistorius
Production management: Heiko Schramm
Production: Isabelle Schad
Co-production: HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Espace Pasolini (Valenciennes)
Funded by: the Regierende Bürgermeister von Berlin – Senatskanzlei – Kulturelle Angelegenheiten, and the Nationales Performance Netz (NPN) Koproduktionsförderung Tanz, which is funded by the Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien on the basis of a decision by the Deutschen Bundestags.
Supported by: Wiesen55 e.V.
Thanks to: Damir Simunovic
photo: Laurent Goldring
In the previous instalment, the protagonists hitch a ride across the Atlantic on a boat with a dead woman. She’s an aside in the main story, but in The Entropy of Bones, it’s all about her. Chabi, half-black, half-Mongolian, mute, living on a boat and training her teens away in various occult martial arts practices under the tutelage of Narayana, who’s turned up in the previous two books and is the kind of entropic person who would altruistically build orphanages only to see them all burn down, children inside (yup, that’s how Ayize Jama-Everett describes him).
Martial art girl fighting her way into and through life as irresistible force, absent father, problem mother, street tough and walls all round. I like Jama-Everett’s world, writing, imagination—duh, obviously, I’ve just read all three of his books and got through this one between Friday night and Saturday morning (with sleep)—and taking the Liminal War series off away from Taggert, his daughter, that story line and axis of Morocco to London via Marseille, to a distinctly minor character in the second book and building a whole new line from her, that’s good story-telling.
Martial art girl, etc yeah, that’s a bit of a cliché. The most recent I’ve read of that stereotrope is Tricia Sullivan’s Shadowboxer, and both indulge in and suffer from the endless descriptions of fighting, training, and corporeality, the body as a thing that only becomes true when it surmounts technique and training and finds its natural movement. There’s a shit tonne of essentialist problems in that model, as much as it is a fact—a fact that derives from the simple physicality of human bodies, how joints can articulate, muscles contract and release, nerves hold conversations, all the mess of having a body; and you can’t move outside your body without breaking it so, yeah, ‘natural’ movement—that fact doesn’t necessarily correlate to a truth. The truth being postulated is that of the authentic body and self, like Martha fucking Graham saying, “The body doesn’t lie” (yeah dunno if she said that or if it’s been corrupted from “Movement never lies” but much the same), or Star fucking Wars and “Use the Force, Luke” it’s an asshole full of orientalist shit.
And ’cos the protagonist always has to find the passive way, not be the irresistible force, be like wind or grass, which sure, is a legitimate way of fighting, Aikido, Tai Qi others work from these principles, but hitting shit until it breaks is also no less natural movement and authentic self (if we’re gonna talk in those terms), and the unspoken statement here is Chabi (or whoever else) is broken, incomplete, inauthentic until they find this ‘true’ technique-less movement. As someone who’s spent close to two decades training and suffering from the pervasiveness of that bullshit, I think I can say fuck off, and also, drop your essentialism and orientalism, it’s fucked up and it’s like you don’t even realise.
Otherwise, The Entropy of Bones is pretty bloody good. It’s not going to be book of the year—thinking there isn’t going to be a fiction one this year—partially for the above, partially for the stereotrope of ‘tough martial art chick grows up when irresistible force hits immoveable object’, partially for Jama-Everett’s need to mention one character in particular is gay when he never labels any of the others as hetero except for through their actions (a bit like Sullivan’s really awful attempt at a trans/kathoey/wtf?Idunno character), so it’s like he went through a checklist of tokens and … yeah, I’m as cynical as fuck about this stuff (no, I’m totally down with Taggert calling people “Faggot,” that’s the person he is) … partially cos there’s a darkness in these books that—I mean you can’t call any of the protagonists heroes or necessarily good people given what they do, but it’s not that darkness, it’s something underlying that, like a pessimism in the writing where everything is a rearguard action, like Anna Kavan’s Ice, brilliant book but God you come out the other side feeling hopeless and in need of a shot of heroin.
Like I said of the other Liminal books, read this if you love China Miéville (especially his stuff like Kraken, and Un Lun Dun) or Saladin Ahmed, or you’re looking for a world that isn’t full of hero white people.
Yeah, a little behind here. I just finished reading the sequel and nope, haven’t even written about this one. So, Ayize Jama-Everett. The Liminal War. Recommended I think by someone at the Tiptree Award. The first book, The Liminal People is fucking brilliant. Dark brilliant like what’s-his-name in the first Transporter film, when it wasn’t funny (and when you could ignore the stupidity).
The sequel, this one, continues on, but mostly in London instead of Morocco. It did manage to do that thing which sequels often fail at, expand the universe in which the characters reside, and introduced a few new characters, but wasn’t brilliant like the first. Yeah, pretty good, I read it in one inhale, somehow became too urban trustafarian where the first one was more like Saldin Ahmed’s Arabian fantasy. The was one though, on a boat, in the ocean, dead. She turns up again. Definitely worth reading if you’re looking for urban-ish fantasy and like the Ahmed-Miévilles of this world.