Projekttheater Dresden, April 2007
Choreography: Cynthia Gonzalez
Dance: Cynthia Gonzalez und Britta Gemmer
Percussion: Krishan Zeigner
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The new choreography by Cynthia Gonzalez starts by reading a police announcement asking for assistance: two young women on the run in the city are sought for unspecified reasons. After the announcement, the percussionist waiting in the dark launches a loud solo and both dancers enter the stage running, panting heavily and looking back anxiously. They stop in bowed positions at the sides of the stage as if they were hiding:
"Only if you jump with me."
"One, two, three..."
These are the only words that the dancers exchange during the piece. The story is about two women on the run, attached to each other by a common fate, and about their interaction. The character of their relationship was intended to remain open, as Cynthia revealed in a discussion with the audience which she offered after the performance, and it should leave enough room for the fantasy of the spectators. The announcement of the performance was more specific, stating that the women make use of the "animalistic and overwhelming power of the dance to find a way back to each other" (my translation from German).
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Scenes telling the story are scattered in short fragments throughout the piece. A common theme is that B (Britta Gemmer) is attracted by and attempts to come close to C (Cynthia Gonzalez), who responds reluctantly and often brushes her off rudely. A scene of the richest theatrical content is one in which B chases C, catches her, embraces her from behind and holds her firmly while C struggles to escape. After a while C ceases fighting, collapses into B's arms and lets B drag her body to where she likes. This is about giving in to obstinacy of a fatal obsession rather than about seduction and the scene testifies to the choreographer's success of making diverse facets of a complex relationship shine through the movement, rather than portraying psychological stereotypes. There is a playful scene in which the women imitate each other, one of the rare incidents in which C takes on an inviting and flirting role. On most occasions C rejects B's advances, the most conspicuous of them being a stunt in which C throws B onto the floor from such a height that the audience hold their breath until it becomes clear that B has not broken anything. The final part of the story makes up the closure of the piece. After the chase is over, C walks away without giving B a glance, who collapses in despair at being left alone. The ending thus defeated the assertion that "they find a way back to each other", made in the program announcement.
The story-telling passages make up only a fraction of the performance; the dancers spend most of their time crafting movement in its own sake. Fast and forceful gestures accompanied by coordinated loud breathing underline the theme of running for life, dominate the vocabulary of the piece and endow it with a distinctive style. I could not always recognize when the panting was intended by the choreographer and when it was caused by the physical effort, but in any case it controlled the pace and rhythm.
An element used recurrently by both dancers was balancing on one leg with the other leg stretched behind and arms outstretched to the sides, executed in a way conflicting dramaturgy with aesthetics. The pose itself was reminiscent of ballet (arabesque or attitude, depending on whether they kept the leg lifted behind straight or bent), but instead of arms creating an elongated line with effortless elegance, the dancers awkwardly struggled to keep balance. In an intention to illustrate a fuzzy story by waggling postures, the choreographer put the audience to test: will they understand why the ugly postures are there? A risky undertaking! Theater-goers with ballet experience were better off, noticing immediately that it was all intentional, but I am not so sure about the others.
Interaction between percussions and the movement in the second part of the piece was another feature which deserves mentioning. Percussionist Krishan Zeiger accompanied tender passages with gentle sounds, like by scratching cymbals with a mallet and tearing a piece of paper. His playing reminded me of Günter "Baby" Sommer's innovative accompaniment of Inge Mißmahl's dance performances in Konstanz, which I often enjoyed at the beginning of the 90s when I used to visit Konstanz regularly. When I mentioned this to Krishan, he revealed that he was indeed a disciple of Günter Sommer, who has been teaching in the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden since 1995. I regard it as a great example of percussion-to-dance connection being passed from the oldest to the youngest generation of German percussionists, though Krishan did not even know that his professor used to perform with dance groups.
Percussions and dance interacted even more closely by jointly generating the rhythm in slow passages in the middle part of the performance. The dancers lying on their back on the floor were hitting the ground with their legs at the first beat of a four beats per bar rhythm, while Krishan was accenting the third beat on a bass drum. In a variation of this theme, the dancers used their arms and after getting up on their feet. It is not unusual for dancers to keep rhythm pulsing by stepping or jumping loudly in a steady rate, but Cynthia and Krishan brought the idea a step further by directly interlacing body-generated rhythm with instrumental percussions. In line with the functional role of loud breathing in controlling the rhythm in the first part of the piece, the interaction between dancers and percussionist substantiated the way in which rhythm was generated as a central and distinctive feature of the piece.
Inventive interaction of dance with live percussion and vibrant but precisely executed passages are the major strengths of "Nicht fallen!!!". Cynthia Gonzalez enhanced her choreography with a carefully selected dose of dance theater, not too large to divert the focus from dance but sufficient as an impetus for those who look for a story behind it. She offered fragmentary glimpses into the psychology of her characters rather than a narrative, encouraging the audience to use their imagination. All seats in the Projekttheater were occupied, which rarely happens to modern dance, demonstrating that Cynthia has succeeded in gaining her audience and acquired a firm standing in Dresden's highly competitive dance scene.
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