OLEG SOULIMENKO MAKES CHAKRAS MARCH AT BRUT VIENNA
By Hanna Palme
The stage is steeped in glowing red light, music starts softly and gradually builds up a crescendo. Ten dancers dressed in white form a human chain and march in lock-step meanders, diagonals, circles. They hold on to each other and are connected so that a single wrong movement could throw them all out of step. The formation moves through the space like a machine until it dissolves. The dancers run to and fro, search for partners, build smaller groups which again break up. The music ends. The next scene is introduced.
In his latest performance “Walking Chakras” at brut Künstlerhaus, the Viennese choreographer Oleg Soulimenko (originally from Moscow) worked with ten dancers of the Bodhi Project, an advanced study programme for graduates of Sead (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance). The dancers of different origins – e.g., Japan, Singapur, Finland and Belgium – are especially featured as individuals in this piece which is designated as a “mass dance performance”. Each one is allotted time to talk – about themselves, about the performance and their attitude towards it, even about Soulimenko himself.
The cliché as colonialist abduction
“Walking Chakras” is constructed along the seven body chakras, each chakra being visualised in a scene of its own. In Hinduist teaching, chakras are centres of energy localised in a straight line from the lower hip region to the crown of the head. Each chakra is assigned a name (describing its quality), a colour, an element and a symbol. Soulimenko employs these assignations, e.g., by adapting the colour of the stage light to that of the respective chakra, and having the names and symbols influence the choreography. However, he doesn’t aim at mediating the body concept of chakras. Rather, he approaches its distance from body experience in western culture. Soulimenko takes up this lack of understanding and thematises it in a kind of profane variety show.
The foreign as a cliché-enriched event programme is part of European colonial history, perpetuated until today, e.g., in Mozart’s opera “Die Entführung aus dem Serail”. The procedure hardly varies: whether it be André Heller who wraps “Afrika” into an “Afrika! Afrika!” show, or Shaolin priests staging themselves in their spectacles for a European audience. However, Soulimenko does not moralise against this – what he implies can rather be seen as an ironical statement resulting from the performance. As soon as the spectators get used to the fact that this is not exclusively about chakras, the dancers become visible as the piece’s true topic.
More money and love for Jacko
The dictum reigning over the piece and especially the dancer’s spoken statements seems to be that no one step out of line – yet one notices that the ten young people not only make (consciously?) careless steps in the human chain mentioned before, but also come forth to make themselves the issue: “Who are we?” One of them proposes the “super” idea of implanting a chip into all dancers, by means of which choreographies could be played off at the push of a button: no more irksome rehearsals, every day a new piece – efficient, practical and beneficial to all parties concerned. After all, it is difficult if someone who has undergone years of dance training suddenly gets the instruction to just march around the room …
Is a dancer then more than just his ability to dance? Soulimenko gives the performers in his piece enough leeway to experience themselves as dancers who transcend their abilites: They are allowed to say “I hate you, Oleg Soulimenko!” and “We want more money!”, give tips for better sex, or confess – not without satirical exaggeration – their love for Michael Jackson. And with this “experiencing oneself”, the circle returns to the chakras (which are postulated as the key to self-awareness), which in turn Soulimenko finally transforms into a lightshow projected via a mirror ball.
(2010-01-25 / translation: 2010-05-21)