Springdance '92: The Voorland Programme (Part Two)

BLITZ 9 Jun 1992English

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: 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)

Today I give my report on the Voorland programme at the Springdance Festival, which took place in Utrecht from 6th to 10th May. The most immediately noticeable thing about this year’s Voorland – which is Springdance’s special programme devoted to emerging talents in contemporary choreography – is that the standard of the work is much higher than last year, when the most interesting choreographies presented were those by Vera Mantero and Joana Providência (I’m not just being biased!), bright lights in what was otherwise an artistic wasteland.

To be frank, I haven’t much to base this on. It’s an intuition, a strong feeling I get when leafing through the festival programme, as I try to organize this report (I’m still trying). But even so, when I see names in the programme like those of Marguerita Guéra (a Catalan living in New York, who opened Voorland with excerpts from an unfinished piece) and Gonnie Heggen (the most sincere Dutch choreographer I have yet to see), not to mention Matjaz Prograjc (the Slovenian choreographer who presented a performance and a company completely free of pretension, and full of artistic treasures) and Meg Stuart (with Disfigure Study which was presented a few months ago at Acarte, in Lisbon, and at the Teatro Gil Vicente in Coimbra, as we reported) – when I see these names, I get the feeling that Voorland is actually the high point of the whole Springdance festival. There are three other names in the programme: Daniele Desnoyers, from Canada, Ursula Schmid, from Switzerland, and Cecile van Deursen, from Amsterdam, who presented the weakest pieces.

Whilst the first two of these were polished and innocuous exercises (although Ursula Schmid enjoys the advantage of having her own language and an idea of choreography, which she pushes to the limit), Cecile van Deursen was the only choreographer to present a really bad piece of work (last year’s Voorland was bursting at the seams with them), which was futile in the way it explored the formal and thematic clichés of contemporary choreography: women, chairs, film and shoes interacting in ways worth of the title Monologue Intérieur (in other words, “sensual hysteria woman-as-object in her intimacy where she is torn between narcissistic pleasure and obsessive revolt”). This utterly failed to unmask the condition of “woman-as-object etc.”: that which should be ironic and distanced in choreographic discourse insisted on looking as if it were deeply felt, meaning that it never got away from actually ridiculing the feminine. A case of the spell working against the magician. Technically, the performer, Marja Braaksma, wasn’t bad: the worst bits were when the rather rudimentary movement (bad jazz dance reworked) was insufficient for the choreographer’s intentions, leading her to introduce some “theatrical” moments. The music (T. Bressers, H. Janssens, H. Nijssen) was appalling, the sets rather overdesigned for my taste. A shame.

Marguerita Guergué presented some fragments from her work-in-progress, Constanza, on 7th and 8th May, in the problematic Rasa auditorium (very narrow stage). She appears alone, in a dark suit, on an empty stage. In the first part she dances in silence, punctuated by the sound of her own breathing, her feet, that she drags, and vague noises she makes with her mouth.

After seeing her last year in Belgium, with a different piece, I think that Guergué’s type of movement is a sort of up-to-date version of ritual dances, somewhere between a Medieval witches’ Sabbath and Native American dances: the body curved towards the ground, the circular path. In Constanza, the woman on the bare stage exposes more and more of herself, and imposes herself more and more. She spins around herself, describing circles, gradually occupying more of the stage, comes out of herself through the intensity of movement and sound, until her steps choreograph the music, leading to the entry of the second performer, Veronica de Souza, whose character is everything that Guergué’s is not. She creates a sense of theatricality which I have also found in the work of the Spanish choreographer Monica Valenciano: nicely balanced between the twin poles of love and humour.

The presence of Veronica, at first unconnected to Guergué, transforms itself into a joint presence, and I think the physical contact was very intelligently introduced: taking advantage of the lack of valances in the theatre, the two performers meet in the supposed no-man’s-land around the stage, they speak to each other – being where they are, they’re allowed to do this – and then come back on stage to Hahn Rowe’s original music. A paradoxical deconstruction of the stage-frame.

The music suggests new readings: Hahn Rowe is perhaps one of the most impressive composers of dance scores I have ever heard, and the composition for this piece is based on memories of sounds – evocative and incredibly bitter music, strong and emotional. Nothing pretty about it. And for now I’m describing rather than giving a critique, because only when we see the finished product will we be able to interpret it.

Gonnie Heggen and Matjaz Prograjc seem to me to have a lot of qualities in common: simplicity, objectivity, humour, a lot of feeling, very good performances, unpretentiousness, nothing daft. Gonnie Heggen presented a solo in the Blauwe Zaal, on May 9th and 10th, in which tap dance blended with theatre and dance (what the devil is dance-dance?), with a stage design which in itself makes a statement about what she is doing: little paper pennants, like the ones you see at street parties and fairs. Her piece – Here’s to Harry – is a tribute to the tap dancer Harry Whittaker Sheppard, recently deceased, and develops around a narrative line (but not exactly a story, something she manages very well), where the music and mime illustrate each other and where Heggen constructs the party atmosphere – and the sadness – in a consistently self-ironic performance. The fact that the piece was part of the programme which started with Cecile van Deursen’s Monologue Intérieur turned out to be instructive: it showed that art does not need luxury – it needs feeling.

Feeling by the cartload was the central focus of Poets without Pockets by the Slovenian Matjaz Pograjc, who opened Voorland on May 6th. In a corridor of the Akademietheater, three female and two male dancers play (to use the choreographer’s word) together, playing dangerous games which look like something out of Wim Wandekeybus, without being a copy, because they are done with feeling. Sometimes the choreography resembles a sequence of Tex Avery cartoons, and the original score by Vrhovnik-Smrekar plays a vital part in creating this playful and rather insane atmosphere. With high points and low points (the final bit with the actor/intellectual who is buried by the dancers under a pile of chairs seems a bit out of place), Pograjc’s piece captures the audience’s enthusiasm because of its great generosity, the total commitment of the performers, who do their stuff only centimetres away from the ultra-compact and tiny area of seating, and a sense of creative freedom untrammelled by the ordinary conventions of performance. Sincerity as an aesthetic category.