New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a
list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance at its best.
Go back to Flash Reviews
Review 2, 1-23: Tanz Can Dance
In "NoBody," Waltz puts the Body Back in Dance Theater
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
PARIS -- Sasha Waltz
is a trickster, a tonic of a physical poet operating from deep within
the territory of an otherwise increasingly bodyless German tanztheater
who, in "NoBody," the final episode of the triptych begun with "Korper,"
has rejected prop-induced hysteria in favor of controlled kinetic
kaos. Experienced -- and that's the proper word for it, because
this work cannot be observed in reserve or remote -- last night
at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt in its Paris premiere,
"NoBody" is in fact the most beautifully body-full modern dance
work to hit this town all season.
Arriving at the theater
last night, I was a bit in a New York state of mind, slightly regretting
that I wouldn't be across the ocean to personally witness the rebirth
of the Martha Graham Dance Company. Earlier in the day, my colleague
Darrah Carr and I had been talking about how, as much as Modern
Dance has spun out since Martha Graham gave it its first vocabulary,
it is important to be reminded of the roots. In some parts of the
world -- Belgium and Germany come to mind -- Modern Dance has spun
out so far that it has unravelled. Dancers talk, they stand around
as breathing components of an installation, they sing, they play
music instruments -- the healthy impulse to use the other arts as
devices or even partners has become perverted until even self-identified
choreographers don't show much by way of choreography, or the dance
cannot be heard above the multi-media racket.
Another colleague opined
that Waltz is her generation's Pina Bausch, and that's true to the
degree that she has her devoted adherents; no spectacle here produces
"Cherche une place" signs in front of the theater like Sasha Waltz.
But unlike Bausch, while Waltz certainly can dazzle with prop bazaars,
she has not relegated choreography to the role of second-class citizen.
Dancers (and some dance critics, including this one) like Bausch,
but I'm not sure how much she dances anymore.
Waltz, by contrast,
at least as seen by this critic last night, not only works at choreography,
but makes her audience and critics work to apprehend it. During
most of the first part of "NoBody," created last year in Berlin,
my first thought was how inadequate a dance critic I am. Except
for the three sets of lucite windows in which dancers were occasionally
seen to assume tableaus, the vast stage was propless -- but not,
with a cast of 26 (twice that of "Korper"), peopleless. The best
description I could think of was 'ameoba' -- which, as it was explained
to me later by a company member, is in fact what Waltz was going
for in this chapter of the triptych. "Korper" aimed to be about
the body, often separated out into parts (confirmed by the observations
of my colleague Nancy Dalva in her
review in these pages), "S" about the feelings associated
with the body (my
own review is mixed on whether she got this across),
and "NoBody," about the bodyless body, if you will.
The pattern here was
for large groups of the performers, usually encompassing all but
a a couple of the 26, to move about the stage clustered together
and in evolving, amorphous shapes. In one of the most engaging segments,
they congealed downstage left and, keeping only their toes glued
to the stage, shot out heads or arms in unison or canon in various
directions. Torsos dipped. Heads riveted robotically. In another,
25 of the 26 played pile up. What impressed was not so much what
individual dancers were doing, but the way Watlz deployed them all
around the stage, the way she used it and the way she arranged her
This is not to say there
were not smaller moments that gripped. For much of the first part,
a single performer detached from the ensemble -- often Junko Wada,
riveting in her slow, single-minded walk around the circumference
of the stage.
I should mention, too,
that -- though I didn't get that this was the intention until it
was explained to me later -- for the first part of the spectacle,
all of the dancers were facially detached from what their bodies
were doing, displaying neither the somber nor the cold face of post-Modern,
but rather visages out of which the life had been washed.
Nancy Dalva noted in her review that Waltz's "is a kind of participation
metaphor." Two times last night, she seemed to respond to my silent
queries. In the first part, just as I was internally remarking on
her spare use of props, a giant white fabric dropped from the catwalk
and inflated, prompting general panic from the performers, who for
the first time oralized, screaming en masse as they scrambled around
trying to take care of each other until they fled into the wings
or up the aisles. (I thought of the Orange balloon in the '60s television
show "The Prisoner.") But then suddenly -- as if, the hard work
over, Waltz had released them with an "Okay, now let's play," the
mood changed. Costume props were injected, the dancers were permitted
to smile, and I started seeing things I recognized, albeit slightly
After a male dancer
had torn off his shirt and stuffed it into his mouth, followed by
a colleague stripping down to her underwear and stuffing the rest
of her vestments into his mouth also as he continued to try to speak,
suddenly a man in a triangular wooden dress glided onstage and rang
a bell. Five more performers entered and minced/cascaded around
the room: Intended or not, it was a total parody of the "Nutcracker"
dance in which Sugarplum's minions glide over the stage in floor-length
dresses. Only these 'dresses' were wood, enabling them to serve
also as percussive instruments, whether beaten by the hands of their
wearers or echoing when the performers fell backwards, like dominos.
Heads would also submerge into the necks and between the straps
of the gowns and then pop back up.
Later, or I think it
was later, and as the rest of the dancers looked on, engaged, Juan
Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola, harumphing, slid onto the ground next
to Nicola Mascia and slipped himself into the latter's sleeveless
pullover -- while Mascia was still wearing it. Then Kruz Diaz de
Garaio Esnaola frantically removed his own pants, and fitted his
legs into Mascia's expanding white trousers. Pilobolus fans will
know what happened next (although I've never seen this on Pilobolus):
"He" arose and suddenly a four-footed, eight-limbed human was trudging
around the stage. (A creature apparently also conjured in "Korper.")
The beast took on a lyrical aspect when Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola
nudged his partner out of the pullover, leaving his naked torso
swinging behind him. At one point, the ensemble picked him up lengthwise,
leaving Mascia's torso to swing under him perpendicular to his partner's
body and the floor.
Later, the ensemble
picked them both up, at either of its ends, obscuring the lower
body of one and the upper body of the other, the effect being, especially
when the one's upper body rose at one end of the group and the other's
legs fell at the other, of a super-long body.
There was still that
white balloon to contend with, though, and as it got bigger and
more and more rambunctious, everyone skeedadled until only the diminuitive
and girlish Claudea de Serpa Soares was left to engage it. This
she did charmingly, standing between the object and us in a bullet-riddled
white dress and then commencing to ride it like a giant wave, reacting
wondrously -- with widened eyes or whistle-forming lips ("Oooohhh!")
-- to how it lifted her. The sphere formed a cushy chair and lifted
her into the air, it made a giant beanbag which subsumed her, and
finally became a wave which submerged her.
Then, remarkably in
touch with their bodies, everyone circled the giant white balloon
and collapsed it then scrunched it to a tiny bundle. But not before
a shower of shredded black paper rained down on them, washing all
Helping to set the insulated,
magical mood of the evening was Hans Peter Kuhn's ambient soundscape.
The rest of the spirited
performers, all of whom were also credited in addition to Waltz
with the choreography, were Mikel Aristegui, Rita Aozane Bilibio,
Hsuan Cheng, Clementine Deluy, Lisa Densem, Luc Dunberry, Andreas
Ebbert, Su-Mi Jang, Hans-Werner Klohe, Thusnelda Mercy, Grayson
Millwood, Michal Mualem, Sasa Queliz, Laura Siegmund, Norbert Steinwarz,
Takako Suzuki, Mohan Thomas, Laurie Young, Matan Zamir, and Zuan
Sasha Waltz's "NoBody"
continues at the Theatre de la Ville - Sarah Bernhardt through Sunday,
and returns to Paris March 19 - 22. For more information, please
Go back to Flash Reviews