Bimárginario: In the land of imagination

BLITZ 28 Aug 1990English

item doc

Contextual note
This text is part of the Portuguese anthology. This text collection contains 100% of the writings of André Lepecki for the magazine BLITZ. Sarma could realize this project by the support of the Portuguese Institute for the Arts.
You can read more about André Lepecki and his poetics as a writer on the following link:


Editor Sarma: Myriam Van Imschoot
Editor Portugal: Monica Guerreiro
Research in Lisbon: Jeroen Peeters
Coördination: Steven De Belder, Jeroen Peeters, Charlotte Vandevyver, Myriam Van Imschoot
Translator: Clive Thoms
Financial Support: Portuguese Institute for the Arts
Thank you to: André Lepecki for the contribution to this anthology, BLITZ for giving consent to republish the texts on, Diana Teixeira (typiste)

On the fifteenth of August, the BESCL auditorium hosted the preview of Bimarginário, choreographed and performed by Francisco Camacho and Mónica Lapa: free association goes to town or the art of achieving overall balance on stage.

It starts with one of those long benches which inevitably make me think of school dinners with the metal soup bowls and plastic glasses of the nineteen seventies. Only this is a twenty first century bench. Seated, facing each other, legs straddling the bench, a bald man who looks like Boris Karloff wearing a toga and what looks like Nina Hagen after receiving a 100,000 volt electric shock, wearing a lovely white dress. The lighting is an amber square, and the music (at this point) is traditional Portuguese, but processed, sampled, reworked, and the end result is total disrupture (if I may invent a word) somewhere in the audience’s neocortex, a sense of unease because the ambiguity is complete. You feel that anything might be possible.

The game starts (because games are what this is really about, but in a meta-meta-perspective where everything is permitted and where what we had previously taken as the natural order of things is diluted): the man and the woman look at each other and touch each other, in an absurd mime act, to rules known only to themselves. So you think: “This is going to be one of those dance pieces along the lines of ‘Look-at-our-bodies-male-and-female-oh!-what-bewitching-madness-shall-we-dance?’ which pollute the banal imagination of people who can only see a Man-Woman relationship in terms of stereotypes”. But then Nina Hagen lets out a weird cry and Boris Karloff cracks up laughing, doubling up and hiding his face in a convulsion of the parasympathetic system and your misgivings evaporate because the audience is feeling edgy again as it tries to decide whether the dancer is laughing or crying and why the hell is the music so strange and why is she screaming and screaming, and the game goes merrily on.

All of this takes no more than a few minutes, and the audience is already hooked. The fabulous thing about Bimarginário is the intelligent play of atmospheres and images which carry multiple references: to pranks, films, games. These references create a tension within the choreographic discourse, a tension which Arthur Koestler has called bissociative, but which in Bimarginário is plurissociative (I feel like inventing new words today), which grips the audience to the action which presents itself as a puzzle.

Childhood (with all the awfulness, perversity, magnificence and creativity conjured up by this word and our distant other state of being) seems to figure as the base-knot of creation. Or rather, childishness, which manifests itself in its essence of denial, where Freud pinpointed a sadistic eroticism and a narcissistic omnipotence. And this central knot branches out into a tense balance between hysteria, eroticism, nonsense and innocence, which pervades the entire forty five minutes of the choreography, but which is finely exemplified through the game of tag where the word coito (coitus) spoken by each of the dancers encompasses all its unexpected meanings.

There are also moments of surrealism and kitsch, firstly when the dancers return to the bench and Francisco Camacho turns slowly on one knee whilst Mónica Lapa stares in boredom at the audience. Then again with the lighting (pink, orange, blue, bright green) and in the (excellent) music of Bruno d’Almeida.

The music actually constructs an atmosphere which often refers us to film (Fellini, but also to American horror B-movies), which is telling, because Mónica Lapa is a tap dancer, and for the audience tap is Ginger and Fred, Hollywood, as kitsch as can be. And all this can also be found in Bimarginário, in Mónica’s tap routines and also in Francisco Camacho’s movement, in the sequence where he draws a wide circles around the stage with his bond bent backwards, arms in the air and the face of Nosferatu.

But the best bit is the end where the stage artifice is unmasked and the audience is gripped with a tension worthy of a Cup Winners’ Cup Final between Benfica and Milan, with Benfica playing well (I swear I’m not exaggerating: it really was like that the night I was there), as it watches an amazing Game of Clowns between Mónica and Francisco. The adrenalin is pumping and once again the audience is confused but can’t take its eyes off the stage.

The performance had its shakier moments, such as two occasions when the music is slightly out of synch and what I felt was a rather over-long final passage (when you play with imponderables such as in the Game of Clowns you need rather more presence of mind to deal with the unexpected), but this in no way upset the whole.

Mónica Lapa and Francisco Camacho have put together a show which is intelligent, fun and beautiful to watch (because a spot of beauty is always welcome), they dance it superbly (Francisco Camacho appears to have achieved a fabulous pitch of bodily and histrionic control, whilst Mónica Lapa surpassed herself in her performance), managing to overcome any problems which might crop up in a confrontation between a dancer and a tap artist (perhaps cheating a bit on this and avoiding the confrontation). They have also coped successfully with the poverty of material resources which afflicts the Portuguese dance scene, making the most of their human resources, dressed artfully and in good taste by Carlota Lagido, whose costumes were crucial in creating the strange atmosphere on stage, and of the sober formal effectiveness of Rui Pedro Pinto in the design of the bench, not to mention the music of Bruno d’Almeida. They have also learned a new trade and skilfully designed their own lighting.

Let’s see if someone gets hold of this show and keeps it from an early death because we (the audience) don’t deserve such a fate.