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Dispatch, 1-02: Catalonian Contemporary
Sitting with Tricicle, Making Origami with Mudances, & More
By Julia Ritter
Copyright 2003 Julia Ritter
BARCELONA -- While sharing
an interest in stylish works that integrate movement, video, and
impeccable performance, Tricicle and Mudances, both currently wooing
audiences with their experiments in form, provide a good example
of the wide spectrum of performance available here in Barcelona
during the first part of 2003.
The region of Catalonia
has long been an incubator of contemporary performance, with a surge
of collective creative energy in the 1970s and '80s that resulted
in the establishment of local groups. Barcelona nurtured local talent
with the influence of guest teachers from Ballet de Marseilles and
the London Contemporary Dance School, while young theater artists
learned from the theater-to street experiments of Joan Font and
Els Comediants. In the 1990s, struggles with funding caused many
artists and choreographers to leave the region and spread throughout
Europe to pursue other opportunities. The most stalwart artists
have stayed, carving out a niche for themselves through necessary
and relentless self-promotion and touring throughout Spain with
Carles Sans, Paco Mir
and Joan Garcia came together in 1979 to create Tricicle, a now
widely known clown-mime-theater group which is presenting its latest
work for the stage, "Sit," at the Teatro Victoria. Mudances, founded
and directed by Angels Margarit, celebrates its 18th anniversary
this year and has gained a reputation for work that skillfully draws
from a sense of female identity. Tricicle is more widely known and
commercial, enjoying a popularity that rides on hefty doses of humor
and a big public- relations engine (posters advertising the show
pop out from every corner in the city). Mudances has been a mainstay
of the Barcelona community, linking up with L'Espai, the only major
venue in the city that consistently features dance, to present "Origami,"
Margarit's first work created specifically for young audiences.
Tricicle's "Sit" is
a silly as silly can be survey of the simple act of sitting.
A packed house was introduced
to Tricicle through a grainy black and white film starring the three
middle-aged performers as the inventors of various ill-fated designs
throughout history. A steady stream of giggles filled the air while
the trio explored some spectacular oddities known as chairs and
the problems sometimes encountered when trying to deposit one's
posterior in one of these objects. I zoned out for a moment when
I thought of how many schemes, tricks and plans have been cultivated
while sitting and the hours that are consumed when a chair envelopes
our body so our eyes can work, soaking up the action. If you are
wondering whether Tricicle's take on the object included the conventional
clown tricks of pulling a chair out from under someone, putting
a foot through the seat of a chair or smashing a chair over someone's
head -- well yes, it's all here as well as saddles, lawn chairs,
dentist's chairs, toilets, and bidets. Yet Tricicle, with great
timing, physical prowess (particularly the wiry, rubbery, and suave
Paco Mir) and rapport among the performers and with the audience,
has a way of broadsiding onlookers with humor so all they can do
is laugh. While overall, an hour and 40 minutes was too long to
take in, I was enamored of the three men trying to dance a tango
and playing a complicated game of musical chairs with themselves
as seats, while four glimmering, silver lame chairs spun dizzily
in the background.
Angels Margarit enveloped
her 55-minute work for children in the concept of origami, slowly
revealing through a series of apertures a world of color and motion.
Margarit says the piece has grown from her interest in bringing
dance to young people, particularly boys. This is a visually challenging
and richly textured work that will get young (and older) minds musing
about the relationships created when opposite ends meet and edges
are defined. Margarit has scaled back her company to two men and
two women (Eneko Alcaraz, Vera Bilbija, Isabel Lopez and Marc de
Pablo), yet she effectively doubled the size of the ensemble by
augmenting the performance with Nuria Font's video. It is this collaboration
of live and projected action that is the most engaging aspect of
"Origami" began with
a continuous flow like the pouring of water, when Vera Bilbija,
in a red dress, scalloped her way across the floor on her knees,
framed by a large rectangle moved along the edge of the stage by
Isabel Lopez, in silhouette. Marc de Pablo and Eneko Alcaraz, dressed
in Ariadna Papio's bulbous, thick white costumes, rolled across
in a simple, sustained contact duet. They resembled people inside
rolls of toilet paper, yet the interesting shape and density of
the costumes was not explored fully. When we saw Alcaraz begin to
toss himself about, softly landing around the stage, the costumes
turned endearing, but the intent became confused when the dancers
took on monkey-like characteristics.
Throughout the intersection
of live dancers on stage and those on video, the images of movement
were folded out in front of us, like paper dolls stretched out in
brilliantly saturated colors. The score by Joan Saura is a pleasing
mix of techno bob and natural sounds, smoothly bridging the transitions
between sections. The quartet of dancers enticed when they were
reduced, replacing and consuming each other in the space. Yet too
soon it was a play-fight, with repetitive stop and go action ("Game
over- deposit quarter") and the partnering was too reminiscent of
Pilobolus's experiments with reciprocal actions. Break-dancing is
the ubiquitous form tossed into performances for children these
days, although here Margarit won with a brief interlude that effectively
captivated: Alcaraz was boxed within a sumptuous blue light by designer
Ernesto Fois after sharing the stage with a video of shadow images
of people running (why show this twice?). Alcaraz seemed to be pushed
through the light, and began a solo in which he was folded in upon
himself and turned inside out by some outside force. His movements
were sinuous, and the care of matching up the corners of his body
while turning out his core clearly echoed Margarit's conceptual
interests and gave a glimpse of physical virtuosity. As the work
ended, the dancers were framed by a slide of rapidly changing colors,
and swirled through the space on a diagonal. Seeing their obvious
beauty and skill as dancers, I wished for Margarit's strong, visually
intelligent hand to reach in and shape with more care their dancing,
as she had so ingeniously crafted the musical and visual interludes
throughout the work.
Public enthusiasm for
contemporary performance bodes well for companies from Barcelona.
Keep an eye out for the growth of performance and dance in Catalonia,
including the work of Dies de Dansa, an international festival of
dance utilizing the tantalizing architecture of Barcelona to present
dance in urban landscapes each July, and performances at the prestigious
Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, which continues to add dance to its
schedule, in the Salas Petit workshop space.
Tricicle presents "Sit"
at the Teatre Victoria through April 13. Mudances presents "Origami"
at L'Espai until February 2.
Julia Ritter is an assistant professor of dance at Mason Gross
School of the Arts at Rutgers University. She is working through
a Fulbright Scholar Award in Germany for 2002- 2003 and is the artistic
director of Julia Ritter Performance Group.
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