By Agnieszka Ryszkiewicz
Between October 9 and 10, Poznań invited to
the Polish Dance Platform 2008. Those three days were dedicated to updating the Polish map of
contemporary dance and to presenting the international dance community with the
most interesting performances created within the last three years both inland
As an old saying goes: I ja tam byłem, miód i wino piłem[i] - and we would like to report what follows.
Part one – Solo
A very important, yet differentiated group,
are those young choreographers who went to get their education abroad and who
most possibly remained there. Nowadays, they slowly become more and more
present on the Polish scene. Settling back in the country or trying to get
programmed in festivals, it seems relevant to them to bring their work back
home in order to contribute to the Polish dance discourse.
The Austrian exile, a soil fertile in
Polish dancers, was represented at the Platform by Radek Hewelt and Ewa
Bankowska. Bankowska, who has already presented her pieces both in Austria and
Poland, kept to her usual ironic sense of humor. While exploring the impact of
computer jargon on her own body, she amusingly questions the place of the
public and the theatre space today.
Hewelt, on the other hand, approaches the
theme of closeness between the performers and the public with serenity and
seriousness. In "Close-up" the three dancers, in order to perform, are forced
to enter a narrow corner space encircled by the public. Nevertheless, they seem
unconscious of their "cornered situation", or act as if they did not care.
Paradoxically there is no over-exposure of the body, no violence through the
imposed closeness. The dancers light themselves up with simple Ikea lamps
creating a fake home feeling. With subtlety, they invite the public to sit
back, relax and simply look at them while they unhurriedly move, breathe or
laugh, a couple of centimetres away from the public's nose. An Antonioni odour
floats in the dense, nearly palpable air that appears to be made of heavy film grain.
Another interesting proposition importantly
impregnated by the conceptual trends is "Vacuum" by Maria Stokłosa. Stokłosa
has been studying in London and Amsterdam; anyhow, one could easily draw a
connection between "Vacuum" and the last installation of another Polish slash
Austrian dancer and upcoming choreographer, Agata Maszkiewicz. In the framework
of the Movement Museum
at Salzburger Sommerszene 2008, Maszkiewicz dressed up
a washing machine with prints of a famous picture of the Swan Lake's corps de
ballet. The inside of the tumbler was filled with flakes. The machine was put
on rollers, switched on and left alone to dance throughout the museum space. Whereas Maszkiewicz's washing
machine tried to resuscitate Petipa-Ivanov's choreography through a bleaching
program, Stokłosa hoovers the dance space with her friendly vacuum cleaner named
"Vacuum", she takes literally the notion of cleaning the space of its heavy
baggage of history. The next step is to also literally and desperately dive
into it, researching for new possibilities of creation. Finally vacuuming
herself, she sadly surrenders to the physical impossibility, allowing at this
time the spectator to drift away and dive into the void, populating it with
his/her thoughts. Is there no more hope for the young generation of
Mikolaj Mikołajczyk, the so-called enfant terrible of the Polish dance scene, also
deals with history. He decides to come clear with his own past that was crafted
by a long career as soloist with the Wielki Theatre in Poznań.
fiercely starts his solo "Waiting" with a ballet bar. Only after a while, one
is starting to believe that he will probably go through all of it. Mikołajczyk
actually does go through all the exercises – and soon his furious ronds de
jambe, followed by different cambres abundantly watered with sweat, look more
appealing than La La La Human Steps. While his angry pliés make the room
vibrant, the pressure grows higher as he waits for the music to dance the
adage. The real-time events that happen on stage drag behind them hours of
preparation, of craft, training and waiting. A ritual head shaving, the traces
of sweat and hair on the floor mark the blurry border between art and life.
Nevertheless let's not forget that we still are in a theatre. A brand new
Stary Browar Art Center – a place for chance
The first edition of a Polish dance
platform was organized in 2003 in Warsaw. The event called taniec.pl was part
of the International Contemporary Dance Festival Body_Mind regularly curated by
Edyta Kozak. Still, it took five years and the appearance of a new dance center - Stary Browar - to bring the platform back to life.
Led by a dynamic young crew, the Stary
Browar Art Center together with the Cultural Center Stary Zamek host 14
performances, several discussion panels and video projections, all in the
framework of the Polish Dance Platform. The Performative Arts Program Coordinator
and head of the Stary Browar dance programme called Old Brewery – New Dance,
Joanna Leśnierowska congratulates herself for having received 60 applications
for the platform, which seems really impressive in a country with hardly any
institutionalized education in contemporary dance.
Her dream is "to finally jump onto the train of European contemporary dance and stop
running after it"[ii].
Therefore, over the period of the last four
years Stary Browar not only has invited the contemporary dance classics (Yvonne
Rainer, Jerôme Bel etc.) together with some younger names (Alice Chauchat, Alix
Eynaudi etc.). It also organizes many events inspired by western propositions
(coaching projects, residencies, research programmes etc.) that help pointing
out the importanceof the process
within a creation, and supporting that period. Leśnierowska and her co-workers fight to
create stable bases that would allow the nomadic Polish dance artists to rely
more on the possibilities of a constant working situation, better working
conditions and some transparency in their unstable and neglected field.
Second part of the
programme – group pieces
Girl Killer is a young collective formed by two dancers and two musicians. They
travel smoothly between dance and theatre trying to transcribe Sam Shepard's “Action into” a dance performance. An intriguing
and singular way of inhabiting the stage allows them to maintain fantastic
intensity and high concentration even when nothing happens on the plateau for
momentarily hypnotized viewer observes the inner struggles of the four characters
that are waiting for an official dinner. Although it is not a wait for Godot, a
Beckettian spirit of suspension persists throughout the whole performance. The
words of the original drama are smoothly replaced by gestures, looks, pauses.
The struggle between an emotional overactivity and the bodies restricted in
movement, create an uncanny atmosphere of holding back.
seemingly passively sitting at the table, the four performers watch TV in turn.
The public can only grasp glimpses of the set, where joyfully dancing couples à
la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers swing around a ballroom. Finally, encouraged
by the mirage-like pictures, the performers initiate some weird couple dance. A
duet with a broom between them, another with a huge toilet paper tube, the
characters launch bizarre attempts to reunite their egos and bodies in dance.
not least, the Gymnastic Society is present as host at the platform with a very
interesting proposition - "Nothing". A strongly
dance-based performance that shows maturity of thinking about dance and theatre
offers to its viewer a mirage of moving bodies constantly reshaping itself.
Whereas nothing more seems to happen besides those somehow banal movements
reproduced by different dancers, who from time to time leave the stage to
change their unmeaningful clothes, the spectator is invited to play around with
his/her own perception. For a short moment, the phrase "The show is upstairs" is readable across the dancers' T-shirts. A
tribute to Jerôme Bel: does the show really happen on the 3rd floor of the
Stary Browar, or did I maybe just imagine it?
[i] Typical ending of a tale, paraphrased and made
famous by Adam Mickiewicz's oeuvre Pan
Tadeusz, Book XII, w.862-863 „I ja tam z gośćmi byłem, miód i wino piłem, A
com widział i słyszał, w księgi umieściłem" – And there
I was, honey and wine I drank, and what I saw I put into words.
[ii] Interwiev with Joanna Lesnierowska,