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.
Several hours in a car hooning on the Autobahn somewhere around the 180km/h mark, arriving in the evening getting dropped off outside Börse theater, and straight into an already underway dress rehearsal. Michael had called the day before, asked if I could take some photos during one of the runs. I was bringing my camera anyway because art, and hoping I’d get to do exactly that. This is one from that Thursday evening run, a beautiful, hard, glorious work by two dear friends whom I’ve watched for almost all of the thirteen years they’ve been dancing together. Two of the very best.
Because I’m obviously in love with the best public transport in the world, here’s some photos of the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn from Bahnhof Landgericht, which is the stop for Börse, where Gala and Michael were performing. It’s colossal, science-fiction engineering of swaying beauty.
No one told me they sway! Side to side. And lean into corners like they’re racing. Wuppertal’s Schwebebahn is the best 13km of public transport in the world. So good, Gala and I made a song about it. It’s the title of this post, repeated until you’re bored. You won’t be though, because Schwebebahn is the Best Bahn. The only thing that could make the best better would be Schwebebahn racing. Not especially fast, but especially awesome.
In Wuppertal. Home of Pina Bausch, Schwebebahn, Micheal Carter, and for some days and nights, Gala Moody. In town for their première. The view from where I was staying with Gala, looking south across Eberfeld and the Rathaus to the University. Sun and heat and a crazy two days with my Australian darlings.
The beautiful tall ones, Gala Moody and Michael Carter, are finally performing together in Germany. In Wuppertal, as in home of Pina Bausch and Tanztheater Wuppertal, or Wuppi as the locals seem to call it (dunno if that’s a local thing or Aussie local thing. Strayans would probably call it Wuppo.). Trailer on Vimeo, and I’m debating with myself whether to bike some of the way over.
Cie.OFEN is delighted to invite you to the german premier of The Vase, the latest work by Cie.OFEN which premiered at Wim Vandekeybus’ ‘Ulti’mates’ festival in Kortrijk, Belgium.
Based on the theater work Purgutorio by Ariel Dorfman, The Vase shows the clash between Medea and Jason, who are trying to repair a broken love. Condemned to their own reckoning, they find their fates are entwined.
In Oldenburg for the première of Das Helmi’s collaboration with Oldenburgisches Staatstheater, the “progessive feminist science-fiction soft-porno project” Gullivera’s Reise (and repeatedly realising I should have gone: London, train to Brussels, night in Brussels, train to Oldenburg, and not London, fly to Berlin, arrive at midnight, get a morning lift to Bremen, train to Oldenburg, arrive half an hour before the show). It was most excellent seeing the Helmi mob (including Dasniya Sommer and Solene Garnier) once again — the company I’ve seen more than any other.
Friday night was the second and last of this season, in the BANDEN! Festival, and after we joined the throng in the parking lot of Exerzierhalle for food and beer. And there was this bicycle caravan thing, delivering people from one party to the next. This thing was riding around Oldenburg at night like a deranged dragon pirate ship. I saw some mad good bikes in Oldenburg.
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.