THE DANISH CHOREOGRAPHER WRITES DANCE HISTORY WITH HER WORK “EVAPORATED LANDSCAPES”
By Helmut Ploebst
There was a moment during Hortensia Völckers's path-breaking "Body Currency" at the 1998 Vienna Festival that would anticipate a decisive aspect of choreography in the years to follow: A lanky man in a room at Vienna's Sofiensaal presented a choreography from which one of the icons of conceptual dance would emerge that same year. The man's name was Xavier Le Roy. His solo piece "Self Unfinished," along with Jérôme Bel's "Jérôme Bel," was meant to permanently unhinge the European dance scene. Bel and Le Roy introduced a new notion of dance in which the "linguistic turn" popularized by Richard Rorty in 1967 would finally find its choreographic correlate.
11 years later, Joachim Gerstmeier, of the Siemens Arts Program, invited the young Danish choreographer Mette Ingvartsen to participate in "Gravity," a project he curated together with Sigrid Gareis at Tanzquartier Wien. Ingvartsen's contribution is a preliminary study for a piece scheduled to debut at steirischer herbst 2009 titled "Evaporated Landscapes." The choreography includes fog, lighting, sounds, and soap bubbles. There is a control panel for the special effects, and an antediluvian-looking dry ice machine in which the choreographer herself stands. On the flooring there are islands of flickering LED lights covered with white piles of foam.
Dance without Dancers
In this dance, the human body no longer intervenes. While still a student at P.A.R.T.S., Ingvartsen extended on Le Roy's "Self Unfinished" (2003) with her second-ever choreography, "Manual Focus." Around this time, Jérôme Bel had the idea of choreographing theater machinery without the use of performers but was unable to find a satisfying result. Now Ingvartsen suggests another solution. She cites theater-connoting effects and lends them their own dynamic. In this way, she calls to mind Kleist's idea of the marionette (that here no longer assumes human form) while alluding to the electronic medium through the use of green, blue, red, and white lights.
Ingvartsen is the first to understand how to live-choreograph elements equivalent to meteorological satellite images (the foam mounds and the fog) and swarm phenomena (the soap bubbles), while limiting herself to just these elements. The technically complex performance (light: Minna Tiikkainen; sound: Gerald Kurdian) makes an airy and poetic impression. Ingvartsen has chosen the form of a study, not a manifesto-but the consequences for contemporary choreography are no less weighty. The "Gravity" project ends with a work that posits a fundamental shift in the idea of what dance is.
In this "positing" Ingvartsen radically expands contemporary dance, allowing choreography to become more than the organization of body movements and processes in live performance. Her sketch-like ideas thus fulfill the promise of bringing to choreography the post-anthropocentric notion of dance that Rudi Laermans addressed in a lecture during "(Precise) Woodstock of Thinking" at Tanzquartier Wien in 2008. At the same time, Ingvartsen writes the final chapter of Gerald Siegmund's analysis of "absence" in contemporary choreography. And last (but not least), she provides the missing link between investigations undertaken by corpus magazine's "versehen" laboratory a year ago (also at Tanzquartier) and concrete contemporary dance production.
Ingvartsen already initiated the current dominant trend in dance-the rediscovery of dancing and emotionality-with her works "50/50" (2004) and "to come" (2005). "Evaporated Landscapes" puts the 29-year-old on the same level as other standard-setting choreographers: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at the beginning of the 1980s, Meg Stuart at the beginning of the 1990s, and Jerome Bel, Xavier Le Roy, and Boris Charmatz today.
This is happening in a field that has postulated such a development for several years but has otherwise been unable to complete it. Hiroaki Umeda is the lone exception apart from Ingvartsen, and both his installations also appeared at "Gravity." This future-forward field was prepared by artists like Bel, Charmatz ("héâtre élévision," 2003), the figure-extinguishing experiment filmmaker Martin Arnold (in a 2003 collaboration with Willi Dorner), Superamas ("High Art," 2006, a choreographic installation), the Romanian Manuel Pelmus ("preview," 2007, a choreography in absolute darkness ), and Christian Rizzo ("100% polyester," 2009-which appeared at "Island: From a piece...," curated by Boris Charmatz at Tanzquartier).
Ingvartsen's work, at once logical extension and artistic coup, opens up fantastic possibilities to contemporary choreography that go well beyond anything that has come before. And with Umeda and Ingvartsen in its line-up, Tanzquartier Wien's "Gravel" program has begun a new chapter of dance history. We can only wait and see how its story will be written.
(Translation taken from: http://www.aisikl.net/mette/html/articles.html )