Memories of THE PAST and the presence

Kako to sonzai-kan no omoide

Memories_of _The_Past_and_The_Present
A dance theater adaptation on the base of the notion of the art of memory? Good choice. Like remembering this Japanese translation of the title with dancing only. Like leaves they fall and lie there, hanging on the ground, blown around by wind machines and the limbs of fellow dancers. Limbs, positioning, tension may embody trained memory, moreover their own physical one. But is this the memory of a dance lesson, a detailed choreography, representations of mental concepts about memory or acting out memories of others? We get left puzzled by the intermingling of all these layers if they are there or not and I wonder if dance-professionals could read what is going on?

Macras seems to have worked here to preserve more, more than bodyily interaction – she lets the dancers speak, too. This may have formed the strongest moments of the play, when words and physical movement collide, coincide, intervene. Topics are getting presented but not much represented – of course, the curse of representation has to be avoided – but still there is this title…”The Past”. And then, isn´t it all about memory? The decision to even make a movement at a certain stage, this stage, at a certain time, this time, untimely as it refers to THE PAST may carry menaing for an audience watching it. It is what interested me, what brought me to the stage in first place. No, only close, sitting in the dark, 9th row, seat 8 – I had to chase somebody up who occupied my space there to better talk to his friends who where sitting in front of him. The topology of an audience? We did not matter much and the fact that we were there seemed not to have influenced the result we get presented much. Of course we are not dancers – but we are space. We are the sponge you form with your feet and hands.

Rather it seemed all about the flow of movement, the sequence of steps, the choreography of temporary graphical nudity and partial flesh, a yellow leg (of a very thin man) in a pantyhose, the other leg naked, a naked girl in a bathtub, a scream with a towel wrapped. Who saw it first, that this man, this flexible young dancer has the quality of a stork? Who chose to be naked, who to be pinched in the bum, a rpetitive general memory? He is let to be a stork, in a colourful bag, indeed interesting when moving all within this tiny compartment, becoming a funny asset in all the normal body fluidity of contemporary dance. She fits in a bathtub, he fits in a bag. A memory to carry home.

Unfortunately it evokes the memory of a circus trick. Already in the beginning it points to the impression building up throughout the piece that somebody let loose a zoo full of expressive action, but less coherence in meaning. How to tie this piece together? Is it the given time, the agglomeration of chunks of scenes which forms the/a piece, is it the space and the actors/dancers compressing themselves and the movement on stage or is it our presence, the audience? And we are sitting there, watching the playground, silently. Nothing wrong with that, but why so much movment (I mean the quantity) in such a structured theme like the theory of loci and strong images forming and enhancing sequential memory skills like an architecture?

The musicians played a crucial role and this was indeed a relief. A highlight Michael Weilacher playing on two satellite dishes with a Vioin bow and using them as percussion instruments as well – Telesat music with great media theory repercussions if you will so. The highly talented Maiko Klein with her Recorder and additional sonic presence gave structure to the turmoil unleashed by a jolly dance company blending Hip-Hop schemes, knowledge recitation, second-world war stories as well as giving speeches. Actuallly the speeches and acting were good – especially the self-reflection of Fernanda Farah on what to expect from a dancer, e.g. negative space, happy movements in the shower and hanging as a prequel to falling.

As amusing as the powerful presence and performance of Johanna Lemke. There was much about the gruesome past stories of people like the references to the phosphor-bombed Dresden. The difficult topology of a carpet-bombed city overlaid by the notion of Simonides who invented the art of memory through identifying dead bodies of his audience in antique Greece by remembering where they were positioned during the banquet of Skopas, where he gave a speech. A banket, a German city during a world-wide war? Greek Gods and Allied bomber squads? Trümmerfrauen and dead poets? Could it be a bit straightforward, a bit too much twisted to match? Where are all the good memories, which we would like to keep in mind? Why all this negativity, negative space, the art of memory got invented to form long speeches, politics, poetry, remembrance of important content by heart, not only to identify the dead.

Why not using this given space, he whole room, its corners and edges to perform a living memory palace? Would that be too straightforward? Giving e.g. the different actors a kind of meaning that sticks, not only talking about meaning. Something for an audience to remember, not only for those who have insight in the production process. After all, dance theater seems to be expressing something here, not only teasing us with elaborate hand movements and flexibility. One brilliant moment was to disclose that dancers always want to give out their hands, so easily, then maybe their knee, then maybe the hips. The hands, hands of human dolls, hands which folded into the back can reach to the frontal part of the torso like hands of another person. An age-old tivoli show-trick which ignites amazement also in people who frequently go to circusses – like a memory of the colours, the tent, the odour of wooden chips on the floor, the lions piss, the spectacle, the snake woman, the snake man. Why so much spectacle? Has Guy Debord written everything in vain?

You will not find the genius loci in THE PAST but much entertainment through live-action, in its best moments it radiates with the energy of flying bodies, almost weightless, communicating with each other, excercising their craft through using the cage, the bars, the ladders and platforms built to playfully accomodate their movements. Theory and practice of memory might not get found in a rotor wind of artificial turbulances, but in the history of a green bag being thrown around extensively and elaborately. The shoes, which do make sounds even if you tip-toe off the stage, the breathing which gets initiated by 10min work-outs in capoeira-ballet-infight without loosers. A nice round dance overall, but not much of the possible substance, the potential of the a verb-noun marriage rendering memory palpable. We were amazed and amused, listened closely to hair and cloth being thrown and mopped through the stage, supported by an intriguing soundtrack of Oscar Bianchi. Only, where does the present start, based on this past? What playgrounds do we envision, and how to get the audience deciding to take control of their past and not outsourcing it to the new digital lifestyle, getting nurtured by the illusion of the cloud and its memory capacity – big data, much movement, but no conclusions. Lets read more Byung-Chul Han, and lets dance more, and more slowly…

With: Louis Becker, Emil Bordás, Fernanda Farah, Luc Guiol, Nile Koetting, Johanna Lemke, Ana Mondini, Felix Saalmann, Miki Shoji

Musicians: Michael Weilacher / percussion & Miako Klein / Violin & Recorder

Director: Constanza Macras | Dorky Park

Link to the production:

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