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Dispatch, 12-4: Sublunary Spaces
Nesting at FNAK in Baden-Wurttemberg
By Julia Ritter
Copyright 2002 Julia Ritter
-- Modern dance has been a minor player in Baden-Wurttemberg, the
southwestern state of Germany, renown for car manufacturing, pretzels
and tourism. Ballet is firmly situated here with state funding,
yet now one venue exists exclusively for contemporary dance, the
Forum Neue Arts Klingenteich, or FNAK. After ten years of presenting
projects throughout the city, its pioneering founders, Bernhard
Fauser and Jai Gonzales, have moved FNAK officially into a new space
in this quaint castle town and are tempting the region's appetite
for contemporary performance. Fauser and Gonzales have a triadic
mission: the magical mix (and balancing act) of managing a company,
a biennial festival called "In Transit/Tanz Raum Klang," which hosts
international artists, and now their performance space, FNAK. Why
here in Heidelberg, traditionally a haven for sightseers and shoppers?
As Fauser explains; "In the free scene, meaning without significant
funding, it is almost impossible to survive without a space. We
stayed in Heidelberg because we have a space. We have tried to always
keep one leg to stand on, (be it) the company, festival or space."
Their previous location was on its last leg, with the roof falling
in, but today FNAK stands ready to expand, with co-productions and
collaborations with organizations in other countries. At present,
FNAK is the only German organization partnering with Ciudades Que
Danzan, an international network of festivals of dance in urban
landscapes. In June 2004, in conjunction with Ciudades Que Danzan,
Fauser and Gonzales's company, Unterwegs Theater, will create performances
on site at one of Heidelberg's bridges.
A recent concert at
FNAK presented the work of an invited guest, the Carlos Cortizo
Tanzprojekt, with Cortizo's evening-length "In Bewegung "(On the
Move). A choreographer from Brazil with extensive experience working
in national theaters and operas throughout Germany, Cortizo tells
us in his program notes that he is interested in telling short stories
about moments of imposition upon the body. To this end, he incorporates
a sixteen-meter long plywood bench, various props, text and video.
Now, I will admit my occasional queasiness at seeing props onstage.
Perhaps it is an empathetic reaction, knowing their indeterminacy
and penchant to sometimes trip up the performers or the choreographer,
who may become more interested with invention with the object than
with the body. Here, for "In Bewegung," Cortizo most deftly used
the long bench to illustrate his corporeal tales. Lighting designer
Christian van Loock, with careful illumination, skillfully teased
out the tensions between expanse and confinement.
The work opened as a
delicate arc of light drifted across the dancers' bodies, splayed
languidly beneath the bench. Soon loud drums from Stefan Poetsch's
score punctured their oneiric cocoons. When Mathys Scheeper rose
to a vertical position, he moved with a floating walk upstage and
became a pulley for the others, gently unearthing them. A brief
interlude in and around the bench had the dancers resembling sleepy
automatons, comfortable but resigned to their gray cargo pants and
crumpled button-down shirts. Then, with a lovely and sparse piano
composition by Ryuichi Sakamoto as a calm foil, Cortizo showed spaces
made smaller and smaller by the energy and presence of another.
The dancers worked hard at being quiescent, but a quivering restlessness
caused them to invade a neighbor's spot beneath the bench. Feet,
hands, and an exposed armpit searched for a place of repose. Soon
separated again, they became rivulets on a windowpane, with two
performers merging and synchronizing their descents, while the others
veered off wildly, launching themselves to faraway corners.
eye is keen, yet his pacing and sense of structure is less convincing.
The splendid dancing by Emily Fernandez, Sulis Hukkelhoven, Marie
Sophie Kluger, Scheeper and Carolina Zimmerman was interrupted by
a fussy improvisation with a pile of shirts and again later with
attempts to set up uncooperative folding chairs. When Zimmerman
and Scheeper discuss making "interactive art," their rapport is
sharp, but the moment lacks connection to the undercurrent present
in the rest of the work, and the intelligence of these two bodies,
which were just plowing through the space moments ago, is lost.
These sections, long in time and short on relevance were inserted
into what otherwise was the honest work of dance -- play with the
body in space.
A short, yet only mildly
interesting film didn't open further any doors into Cortizo's world.
At times, the movement was familiar, with sweeping turns and tilted
battements at an ongoing moderate tempo that threatened to lull
the audience into a glassy-eyed state. It was in the partnering
and play with the bench that Cortizo's dance crackled with interest.
Hukkelhoven and Kluger mounted the bench with a ferocious slide
and then dripped away, pieces of them disappearing beneath. When
Zimmerman took a long, tense walk to the corner of what was now
the edge of a precipice, we believed she was ready to accept the
consequences of a jump. In a speedy and intimate duet, Scheeper
and Hukkelhoven entangled one another such that it was difficult
to ascertain who was sitting and who was flung to standing. Cortizo's
cast is bathed in his movement, skimming across surfaces and by
each other with confidence and skill. All the dancers maintained
a mix of dramatic awareness and detachment from each other and the
audience and a clearly directed dynamism informed their work with
the bench, which became alternately obstacle, cubicle, nest, bridge
The end of the work
rose up quickly when Fernandez whipped across the long runway with
the speed and agility of a speed skater and figure skater rolled
into one. When she skid to a stop and leaned into a glorious arch
over the edge, she suddenly found herself besieged by crawling baby
dolls which emerged from under and over the bench. This non sequitur,
unlike the other small props, surprised and charmed. Her solo reverie
became a mad dash to keep all twenty babies safe from harm. The
mechanized clicks and whir of the toys, combined with Fernandez's
blond curls frenetically trailing behind her, reminded me of the
shrill hell of trying to keep the many elements of one's life moving
in intended directions -- work, love and responsibilities spilling
beyond control as the lights delicately fractured and then dimmed.
FNAK is a gift to the
contemporary art scene in Baden-Wurttemberg. For more information
on FNAK and its programming, please click here.
Julia Ritter is a choreographer, performer, and artistic director
of Julia Ritter Performance Group. She is currently working in Germany
as a Fulbright Scholar for 2002-2003.
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