Klapstuk '91: End of the party

BLITZ 12 Nov 1991English

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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: http://www.sarma.be/nieuw/critics/lepecki.htm


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 www.sarma.be, Diana Teixeira (typiste)

Apart from the contributions from the Nadir and Rosas companies, the last week of Klapstuck’91 was devoted to seven Portuguese choreographers. The New Portuguese, which is also part of Europália Portugal ‘91.

1. Southern Barbarians

Francisco Camacho, Joana Providência, Vera Mantero, Rui Nunes, Aldara Bizarro, Paulo Ribeiro and João Fiadeiro (by order of appearance) were the choreographers invited by Bruno Verbergt, the festival director, to take part in this year’s Klapstuck. With the exception of Vera Mantero and João Fiadeiro (who presented world premières – João Fiadeiro completely reworked the piece he presented in July at the Fórum Picoas), all the other pieces had already been seen in Lisbon. It would be redundant to talk about all of them, but necessary to talk about some of them. So I’ll group them together in line with the differences between “before” (Lisbon) and “after” (Louvaine) in the maturing and development of the choreographies, and in relation to the pieces being premiered.

As Marias e os Papelinhos, by Aldara Bizarro and Sustine et Abstine by Joana Providência

Joana Providência’s piece was opened on October 23rd. The had its first major change was right at the beginning: Philip Cabau’s sets have radically transformed the stage atmosphere, getting rid of the strips of Astroturf at the front and the back of the stage, and opting for a sober treatment of the floor, on which lines and signs are traced out, like a cross between sewing patterns, runway markings and the markings for children’s games. I found that this helped to clarify the schematic nature of the choreography. Then, when the piece has only just begun, we have the second radical change: the new costumes by Conceição Abreu, straight out of a fairy tale, underlining the idea of formal rigidity contrasting with the organic sweetness of Beethoven’s Op. 127 quartet, and of the movement itself. Finally, in the actual choreography, some of the elements have been abandoned, like the chaining of the dancers. Despite all this, I feel that Sustine et Abstine has never re-encountered the inner harmony found in its initial form, the “A” part of the piece A, B, C, Mais, co-created with Paula Massano. The moment of rupture when the third performer enters the stage (in this case, Aldara Bizarro, replacing Joana Providência, who danced the part of Carlota Lagido) – personifying the choreographer – definitive changes the reading made up to this point of the piece: it ironically relocates the actual movement. But once this intervention is over, it all falls back, with a fatalistic use of gestures which have lost their meaning. The final minutes continue to weigh heavily on our experience of the piece. Of course, the same problem had already been felt in Lisbon.

For her part, Aldara Bizarro seems to have been right in the corrections needed to her choreography, As Marias e os Papelinhos. She has removed unnecessary elements, cleaned it up, got right to the point. Examples of this are the way Mónica Lapa (who I think at the moment is one of Portugal’s great female dancers, due to the quality of her movement and the concentration of her performances) is stripped of her clothes without any fussing around, and the improved connection with the music. The choreography flows more smoothly. The question now is about what happens on stage; in other words, the question is aesthetic and not technical. And aesthetically speaking, I think As Marias e os Papelinhos is a completely uninteresting work, in both form and content. It’s clear about its intentions, but it’s a thin piece of work, using tired clichés, and miles away from the proposition set out in the programme notes: Dadaism does not exist without anarchy and provocation; narcissism is more than just exhibitionism.

O Rei no Exílio, by Francisco Camacho; A Ilha dos Amores, by Rui Nunes; Modo de Utilização, by Paulo Ribeiro

O Rei no Exílio was the piece chosen to open the cycle devoted to The New Portuguese, on October 23rd. The piece gained greatly with the scale of the theatre and with a deeper stage, factors which immediately improved the readability of the lighting design by João Paulo Xavier. This second chance to see O Rei no Exílio revealed even more clearly the skill and care employed by Camacho in sacramentally dismantling the semi-divine figure of the King and, by osmosis, Power as an incarnated force, inextricably linked to a body. But it also revealed to need to deal better with some of the elements: the robe, which sometimes gets in the way, and the briefcase, an important element visually and in terms of sound, and which is forgotten. In the meantime, maybe one day we’ll have a second chance in Portugal to see one of the best pieces of Portuguese contemporary dance.

Rui Nunes’ piece opened on October 26th in the same auditorium; once again the venue was crucial to the reading of the piece. But in this case it worked the other way around. The “chamber” nature of the choreography, given by the music and principally by Félix Marques’ sets, was irretrievably lost and the cloister-like atmosphere which had been achieved in Lisbon was distorted. A Ilha dos Amores fell into fragments, turned into an archipelago of images and sounds and lost some of its form and meaning. An island of love peopled by men who represent themselves in the poetic abstraction of dance and who define themselves as the actual object of desire is always an inner island, a metaphor for intimacy which only the audience can see. In this respect, the lighting (also by Félix Marques) did little to help define this intimate space of desire, searching and dreams.

Paulo Ribeiro’s piece opened on October 29th, and I have little to add to what I have already said about Modo de Utilização. After seeing the piece several times, I am left mainly with the idea that some of the problems I pointed to as problems of composition (principally in the third part) are in fact basically questions of inspiration in the performance. Sometimes it all makes sense. Other times, there is a lack of definition about the character presented to us.

Perhaps she should dance first and think afterwards by Vera Mantero and Um solo para dois intérpretes (A solo for two performers) by João Fiadeiro

I have this problem that basic principles of ethics and professionalism prevent me from writing about Vera Mantero. I also have the duty of reporting to you. So that’s what I’ll do. Basically. Vera Mantero premiered her twenty-minute improvisation on October 25th. The silence is interspersed with Thelonius Monk’s Ruby My Dear, the sets are my own, the costume is by Vera Mantero, and the lighting by João Paulo Xavier. That’s it. One day I’ll write what I really think and “honi soit qui mal y pense”.

In common with the work in progress presented in Lisbon, João Fiadeiro’s piece has only costumes and stage designed by Marta Wengorovius. The première in Louvaine took place on October 30th and included the pleasant surprise of live music by the Miso Ensemble. As in previous work by João Fiadeiro, the piece starts before it actually begins, i.e. as you enter the theatre. This time, a large panoptic box (two meters high and one and a bit wide) attracted the audience’s curiosity: from the orifices on its surface, two visions emerged – either the eye itself or one of the dancers. This was complemented by insistent sound coming from inside. If the ideas of otherness and identity, of self and its double, i.e. the archetype of twins, are the explicit thrust of the choreography’s content, then a number of symbolic manipulations both in the movement (the two dancers, Fiadeiro and Nuno Bizarro, spinning around an axis, at the start and the end of the piece) and in the actual introduction (which for me is a clear phantasmagorical representation of life in the womb) embrace all aspects of myths of origin. Which is psychologically and anthropologically interesting. But once again we have the aesthetic question in action and with it that of the presentation of a piece on the stage. As concerns the lighting, the stage designs and music, there is nothing to say: they all fitted together and worked together harmoniously, creating a coherence which is sometimes difficult to find. In terms of the actual choreography, I think the piece is rather exhausting and redundant for the audience, as each of its component parts goes on for too long. An excess which is difficult to reconcile with a duration of only thirty minutes. If the idea was exhaustion and repetition, then the time span will have to be greatly extended. I also think that we are witnessing a change in João Fiadeiro’s language, which might explain some of the hesitations in the project.

Final note.

If we lived in another country, I would end my report on Fiadeiro with the words “time will tell”. In Portugal, I have to say, “let’s hope we’ll see one day”. This is a pity, because it was clear at Klapstuk from the strength and specific talents of these choreographers that their struggle, originality and innovation make them deserving of the title of Barbarians of the South: those who don’t express themselves in the standardized language of the civilized North. That makes Mónica Valenciano a barbarian too.

2. Quaderni in Atta Vo, by Nadir Company

The worst performance of the festival was given by this Venetian company, supported by a series of French organizations. The amateurism of it all is ridiculous. And as my space is limited, I’ll say no more (there are in fact too many things in the world).

3. The party of parties

At the seminar which the Festival organized on dance criticism, bringing together sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, critics, festival directors and dance lovers, the Expresso critic, António Pinto Ribeiro, said that a Festival is a success when it manages to do more than just put on shows. When it turns into a party, I would say. Klapstuk’91 was all this: it performed its self-appointed task of producer/presenter, and ended up being a celebration of the Art. The parallel programme of film, videos, chats with artists in a café and the seminar helped to bring choreographers, performers, producers and audience into contact with each other. A far cry from the staid formalism of the current Encontros Acarte.