Modern Dance Reviews

Tanzwoche Dresden

Projekttheater Dresden, April 2010

We attended seven performances, I will reflect on the first two. Many pieces had to be replaced because of the disruption of air traffic by volcanic ash and due to performers' illness. (Some of these changes are listed on the website of Tanzwoche.)

Maya Levy & Anando Mars (Israel): Kingsfisher

The performers in sport dresses stand on a trampoline in the backyard of Projekttheater, waiting while the visitors take seats. The trampoline starts to vibrate. The cause of the vibrations is not apparent; I check the frame for attached devices but do not find any. Vibrations wane and then begin again. They grow stronger. We recognize that the performers themselves drive the vibrations by rhythmically contracting their legs muscles. The frame and metal springs oscillate, generating a metallic sound. This is a resonance phenomenon: performers have to adjust their input to the characteristic frequency of the system in order to make the huge mass of the frame of the trampoline vibrate.

vibrating trampoline

If you were a choreograph, what else would you do with a trampoline? Surely would you avoid bouncing on your feet, side or back. You may grind your nose and face on the safety grid, use the canvas as a stage, have the performers walk around, chase each other and fight. Maya Levy and Anando Mars did it all. They were jumping while kneeling down close to each other, striking their breasts in the air -- first physically, then virtually. They were running towards the safety grid, hitting the wires and playing evil demons.

trampoline bizarre

Maya took off her socks and threw them on Anando, who caught them inside his pants. Then he threw one of the socks over the safety grid into the audience. A hissing sound of a missile was heard followed by an explosion. (This was the second time we encountered a creative use of socks in Projekttheater.)

sock grenade

Anando was killed in the fight and Maya pushed his body out of the stage. On the ground he recovered and crawled below the trampoline. There he placed his feet onto the canvas from below, just against Maya's feet, and lifted her body slightly. She raised her arms in a triumphal gesture. Here the piece could stop.

But it was not over yet, the performers added the icing on the cake. Anando climbed back. While the audience expected them to bow and leave, the performers began to take off clothes. Keeping only underpants, they started jumping. I have not seen a topless woman on a trampoline before. If you are a physicist, you immediately think of the effect of momentum and its conservation on the soft tissue. Forget it. Art beats physics. The scene was a beautiful, pure expression of relieve, freedom and happiness. The performers earned vigorous applause.

topless on trampoline


Nicole Meier: Unica & Therapie

Nicole Meier came on a short notice to substitute the piece "Life line" by Maya Levy Company, which was canceled because volcano ash prevented the remaining part of the company from traveling. Actually I came on Tuesday to Projekttheater primarily to see and meet Lazaro Godoy who dances in "Life line".

Unica Zürn was a painter and writer who suffered by depressions and schizophrenia. She committed suicide by jumping from a window of her apartment, as she envisaged in her last novel. The condition of schizophrenia allowed Nicole to switch personalities in a fast pace and exploit extreme tempers, which perfectly fits her talent as an actress. A dark-blue lipstick and black and red makeup around her eyes stressed the psychotic appearance, but they would be useless without Nicole's great pantomime skills. In a scene in which she was repeatedly responding to an imaginary applause, Nicole was also switching ages: as a young artist with exaltation, as a mature performer with satisfaction and eventually as an aging women who has lost interest and to whom the adoration became annoying. I encountered remotely similar ideas on stage only once, in a piece by Claudia Hanfgarn years ago.


The middle part of Nicole's performance was an abstract choreography made of series of repetitive movements: lying on the back with arms and legs stretched up, lying on the side, swinging one leg along the body, curling up to the erect position. I remember to have seen Nicole dancing a similar series before. Actually I have an old photo which has never been published:

Image: Nicole Meier in Projekttheater, 2005

This was Nicole Meier in 2005. If I made the photo this year, it would be exactly the same (except for the resolution which improved a lot in the last five years).

The last part was not announced at all, the amended program only reads "unica - Teil 1" (check the website of Tanzwoche). But is was "Therapie". I saw the choreography in 2005 and remember it well. It is built around Johnny Cash's legendary version of "Hurt" by Trent Reznor. Johnny Cash was 71 and seriously ill when he made the recording. It is a very strong piece. I you don't know it, get it from the web*. Pay attention to get Johnny Cash's version, he sings "crown of thorns" rather than "crown of shit". It's definitely worth listening.


Because the song is so strong, Nicole Meier merely illustrated it. Anything else would be futile. The bitterness of the recognition that the end is close and inescapable is hard to bear:

    I hurt myself today
    To see if I still feel
    I focus on the pain
    The only thing that's real
    What have I become
    My sweetest friend?
    Everyone I know
    Goes away in the end

The bitterness grows into hatred turned against oneself and everything. In Johnny Cash's version the words obtain a specific meaning as if Reznor had written the song for him. He sounds like someone who has never given up in life, and who is still unable to give up at the end.

    You could have it all
    My empire of dirt
    I will let you down
    I will make you hurt
    If I could start again
    A million miles away
    I would keep myself
    I would find a way

Nicole Meier's performance was light. You cannot add more weight to something that heavy. She did not trivialize or dilute the message, she just eased the pain and diverted the focus away from bitterness. I hope we will have opportunity to enjoy this peculiarly compforting piece again, whether in two or five years.


Petr Karlovsky

*I do not encourage you to unlawfully download a copyrighted song, though Trent Reznor who wrote the song urged his fans to "steal" his music from the web rather then buying it from the recording industry.