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Review 2, 11-77: Argentinean Krapp
Grupo Krapp's Song for Latin America
By Aimee Tsao
Copyright 2002 Aimee Tsao
BERKELEY -- Despite
its name, Argentina's Grupo Krapp is an excellent dance theater
ensemble, which made its U.S. debut at the Roda Theater in Berkeley
this past weekend, jointly presented by Cal Performances and Berkeley
Repertory Theater as part of the Celebracion de las Culturas de
Iberoamerica. The name pays homage to Beckett, i.e. his play "Krapp's
Last Tape," and as the performance attests, it is a fitting choice
for several reasons.
Due to current market
forces in the entertainment industry (meaning it's profitable),
just about the only form of Argentinean dance we get to see north
of the Tropic of Cancer is, of course, tango. I love it, but how
stimulating to experience the other side of dance world from Buenos
Aires, with thanks to the National Performance Network for including
Grupo Krapp in its program to increase exposure and creative opportunities
for contemporary experimental artists from many cultural backgrounds.
While tango explores the romanticized individual response to the
difficulties of life, Grupo Krapp takes a more confrontational stance,
painted in broad Kafkaesque strokes, that resonates in both the
politico-social and the personal realms.
Opening the evening
with its signature piece, "No me besabas?" (Weren't you kissing
me?), directed and choreographed by Luciana Acuna, Luis Biasotto
and Gabriela Caretti, with music by Rosamel Araya, Compay Segundo,
and Fun-da-men-tal, Grupo Krapp makes it clear that it is a theatrical
force from the moment the performers take the stage, even before
the lights go down. With an intensity that never lets up, though
is modulated through various timbres, the six performers command
your attention through dance, movement, music, acting, and speaking.
They are equally adept at the dramatic and the humorous, revealing
a brilliant sense of timing in their ensemble dance/movement work
as well as in their comedy.
Two women and a man
begin staring into the audience while leaning on the legs on both
sides of the stage. They notice each other and interact, moving
swiftly, athletically in a style that verges on contact improvisation,
but with a force and speed that goes far beyond it. The narrator,
Luis Biasotto, says they will repeat the same thing but with sound.
Now they move even faster with accompanying grunts, groans and shouts.
He picks up each woman, Luciana Acuna and Agustina Sario, by the
shoulder and crotch and drops her from waist level to the floor.
In this brief time, we've already seen love and lust overlaid with
violence and a bit of wit.
Then three men, guitarist
Gabriel Almendros, accordionist Fernando Tur and actor Edgardo Castro,
enter and join in. They contribute an aura more in keeping with
Americans stereotypical ideas of Argentinean culture -- guitar and
accordion music and macho men -- while the complexity increases.
In addition to blatant sexuality and homoeroticism, there are hints
of the military, a dictator, a torturer. I am reminded of Brazilian
Augusto Boal, director of the Theater of the Oppressed and Columbian
playwright Enrique Buenaventura, both active in the political and
social theater movement in Latin America during the 1960s and '70s.
Whether Grupo Krapp is consciously influenced by that movement or
not (its members were all children at the time), I suspect that
living in Latin American countries alone is enough to inspire such
artistic reactions to one's environment. I even thought about Pina
Bausch's "Nelken" (Carnations) with its themes of authoritarianism
and oppression. Bausch comes from a culture that survived Hitler,
and South America became home to many Nazis who fled there after
the war. I don't know if they were attracted by an already fascist
flavor, if they contributed to its development, or both. But the
end result is the same, a political vice that spawns art. This company
should be seen on the strength of this piece alone.
"Rio Seco" (Dry River)
makes up the second half of the evening. Acuna and Biasotto provided
the artistic direction as well as the choreography with the help
of Sario, and Almendros and Tur wrote and performed the music, for
this lighter piece about family vacations. Though extremely well
crafted and inventive, and meticulously performed, it lacks the
weight and substance of the first piece. I enjoy it, laugh a lot
and feel twinges of nostalgia and loneliness but I miss the power
of "No me besoabas?" In some ways I am glad to go home in a lighter
mood, yet despite the food for thought of the former having grown
cold, I still have an appetite for it and wish it were warm.
I applaud Cal Performances,
Berkeley Repertory Theater and National Performance Network for
their joint vision and hopefully they will continue to bring us
the young and restless new artists in whatever performance mode
they work. We already are fortunate to have the opportunity to see
many established overseas companies here in the Bay Area, but I
certainly would welcome the chance to see even more unrecognized
groups from ever more diverse sources.
For those of you fortunate
enough to live in Southern California or Texas, Grupo Krapp continues
its North American tour, appearing this weekend, November 7-11 at
8:30 p.m. in Santa Monica, CA at Highways Performance Space, 1651
18th Street, (310) 315-1459. On to Austin TX at Dance Umbrella Nov.
11-17 (512) 450-0456, then San Antonio at the Carver Community Cultural
Center, 226 N. Hackberry, Nov. 19-21, (210)207-7211 and then at
the Watson Fine Arts Center Nov. 22-23, (210)207-2234 also in San
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