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Flash Review, 4-24: Encounters
Tanz-Miniatures from Wolfl and Neuer Tanz

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider

(For more than 12 years, the Dance Insider has been the leading English-language source for reviews of the European dance scene. Help the Dance Insider return to Paris and increase its coverage of European dance by finding us investors. For more information, e-mail publisher Paul Ben-Itzak. This Flash Review was first published on April 24, 2003.)

BOBIGNY, Seine-Saint-Denis, France -- Sure, I kept re-inserting noise-muffling bits of wetted toilet tissue in my ears to save my hearing. Sure, the constant quick black-outs and lights back up were giving me an eye-ache. Sure, the repetitions were at times exasperating, and sure, I was watching the clock. But by the end of "Greenspans Aktentasche," VA Wolfl's 2001 tour-de-force not-about-Alan Greenspan's briefcase dance on the astonishingly and specifically virtuosic Neuer Tanz to open the Rencontres Choregraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis last night, the only reason I was watching the clock was to be sure I made the Last Metro, for I had been transported into Wonderland.

I did make the Last Metro, but breaking news has left me with less than an hour this afternoon to Flash this watershed work of dance theatre -- not enough time to display before you all the intricate miniatures, on individual bodies and in ensembles and in the often divided cavernous MC93 stage. But you've got only two more nights to see this spectacle of specificity -- it repeats tonight and Friday -- and if you're reading this anywhere in France, I'd advise you to hop on the TGV and get your butt to Bobigny.

In 'Greenspans,' Wolfl, who trained with Oskar Kokoschka, has created -- with the invaluable aid of his focused and rigorous cast -- an opus that singularly justifies that yes, there is a place in dance as in the other arts for sequences that confound and for almost endless repetition, if it can only enter a Zen state in its construction and be delivered by interpreters who take you there.

How do they do that? Let's take just the virtuosic Izaskun Abrego Olano, a multi-talented star to make even the most versatile Pina Bausch performer cry. Olano begins the spectacle as part of a Yamaha duo -- the keyboard, not the motorcycle -- in tight red-sequined dress and on high heels, her dark hair fastened in a long pony-tail. Just when you're about to scream at the repeated short sequence of notes interrupted only by booming organ jolts which made me start out of my seat every time -- in other words, when you're asking WHERE'S THE MOVEMENT? -- Olano contracts over the keyboard and starts playing it with various parts of her body.

Later, in one of several repeated ensemble sequences which rely more on timing and synchronization than you at first realize, Olano keeps bumping into a person when she crosses the stage, her shoulder jerking back, triggering a contraction which in turn causes her to rise on her feet. At first you herald the instinctive reaction to contact. But when she goes through the same motion even when there's no one there to run into, you realize it's integral to her own body control and how she's mastered its reactions. And -- and this happens throughout the 100-minute work -- just when you've become exasperated (not by watching her, but by the repetition of the group passage in which this happens), after bumping into someone she stops (before now she's only been briefly glancing over a shoulder at the person who impeded her), turns, freezes, and catches everyone in a "you bumping into me?" glance, and you understand why they all tremble.

In between, she rattles in Spanish, she sings solos and duets from (Richard Strauss's) "Rosenkavalier," and in her spare time, Olano trundles over to the keyboard, now at the lip of the stage, to start up a pre-programmed snatch of Bach. (Snatch because no one I spoke to afterwards could identify it.)

A star is born. A movement is validated. But they're all good: Christine Bai, Armin Biermann, Laila Clematide, Assaf Hochman, Annerose Schmidt, Dominique Wenzel, Judith Wilhelm "and," as the program puts it, Jurgen Grohnert, Jennifer Jones, Walter Nagat, Thomas Schneider, Johanna Peine, Andrej Klahn, and VA Wolfl.

"Greenspans Aktentasche," choreographed by VA Wolfl on Neuer Tanz, continues tonight and tomorrow night at MC93 in Bobigny, and will be performed next month in Germany. For more on the festival, please visit its web site.

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