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Flash Review 3, 11-21: Christmas
MS Schrittmacher Delivers Ho-Ho-Hos, Aus Einer Wurzel Zart
(And the Cookies and Spiced Wine Aren't Bad Either)
By Angela Jones
Copyright 2001 Angela Jones
BERLIN -- Snow falling, jingle bells
jingling, the smell of cookies baking, and the taste of hot spiced wine. Ah, Christmas!
Somehow the German troupe MS Schrittmacher manages to package all that and more
into the multi-sensual, hilarious, jam-packed Christmas carnival extravaganza,
"Aus einer Wurzel zart"-Das Weinachts-Tanzstueck ("From a tender root," the Christmas
dance-piece), seen over the weekend. At times serious, at times tongue-in-cheek
and at times just plain wacky, Martin Stiefermann and Gilys Komova create a series
of vignettes that leave no aspect of Christmas untouched.
From the moment you enter the performance
space at Dock 11, you realize you have entered some kind of Christmas warp. The
two dancers look like furry snow people in a thin haze among perhaps 30 or so
large tree stumps. From here the mad rush towards Christmas begins, with frantic
cookie dough pounding (which the audience then gets to sample in the cooked version),
cleaning, tree trimming, and more. Then -- BLAM! Much to our shock, 20 real Christmas
trees fall from the ceiling and somehow stick perfectly upright into their corresponding
tree trunks (quite a technical feat). These trees then create a perfect set of
wings in which the dancers change costumes and from which they pull out their
different bags of tricks. They go from gently resting in front of a TV fireplace
to the hyper anticipation of a gift exchange. No matter how large or small the
package, the man always seems to get a tie and the woman perfume. Then in the
next moment, the woman screams "I want SNOW" and a whole load of it dumps itself
on her head.
Even though the end featured 20 toy
Santa Clauses running around stage, this piece was not just about a million and
one props. The dancers themselves displayed a wide range of movement as well as
theatrical power. They performed such pedestrian tasks as stuffing food into their
faces to music with the same integrity as they applied to dancing bits of "The
Nutcracker." Probably one of the most hilarious scenes was the duo's rendition
of a competitive ice skating pair. From the girl falling on her butt, getting
up and continuing to plaster a smile on her face to the cheesy rhumba dance break,
to the man watching for their scores, Stiefermann and Komova had it down to every
All the action was broken up properly
with some ironic, and more contemplative moments as well. A lonely single man's
Christmas depression felt visceral and real. As did a man somehow feeling the
movement of an angel he can't see. And as Komova began to struggle to sing the
theme song "Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen aus einer Wurzel zart" ("A Rose has risen
from a tender rootâ") she found herself being pushed, her body manipulated and
contorted until we could barely understand her.
But what does it all mean? So many
unrelated vignettes occur that just how the choreographer views Christmas as a
whole remains unclear. Each scene seems to be its own plastic snow ball toy, entertaining
and compelling but self-contained, not part of a bigger picture with a clear intent.
Upon leaving the performance, I did
not feel that I had a clearer sense of my own relationship to Christmas. But I
did leave with a smile on my face, a feeling of positive creative energy and of
having had every sense satisfied. When was the last time you smelled vanilla then
orange and spice then smoke then pine at a dance performance? Frankly, I think
if more dance companies gave out cookies and hot spiced wine during their performances,
dance might do better than it does.
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