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Fabian Barba – A Mary Wigman Dance Evening

Lise Smith

A silver-clad figure struts across the stage, hands akimbo, to the sound of Chinese gongs. Ecuadorian dance artist Fabian Barba is performing an evening of solos by Mary Wigman based on her first tour of the United States, and the effect is uncanny – Barba inhabits not only Wigman’s choreography but her costumes, her delicate hand gestures, and her somewhat mannered facial expressions.

The performance comments on the enactment of a feminine persona on stage, but Barba resists the urge to camp it up. Dressed in female costume (but not in drag – he has shaved neither leg nor torso hair and wears no makeup) Barba enacts the graceful hip shifts and wrist flicks of Wigman’s short solos, effectively becoming the choreographer herself for the duration of the performance. The material is shown cabaret-style, with a costume change and a musical intermission between each piece, immersing the audience in the chandelier-lit 1930s ambience of the setting.

The movement palette is minimal; Wigman/Barba favours simple stepping patterns up and down the stage, shaping the space with liquid arms and hand flourishes that often appear oriental or tribal. One striking sequence,Sturmlied, features the performer in a diaphanous red cape covering the face, whirling the fabric through the air like dust in a sandstorm. FinaleDrehmonotonie finds Barba circling incessantly about the centre, pacing the stage like a caged beast in a silver ballgown.

Special mention must go to Sarah-Christine Reuleke for her loving recreations of Wigman’s costumes, a procession of backless silk gowns, Egyptian-inspired wraps and elegant shawls that are as fascinating to watch as the choreography itself.

Strange and oddly-mannered at first, the Wigman style has by the end of the performance become familiar, the final encore welcome. Just as Barba takes on the persona of Wigman in his enactment of her choreography, so we in the audience, gradually warming towards this unaccustomed style, become identified with her earlier audiences. This thoughtful, multi-layered recreation reveals the performance as not mere historical artefact but as a constant and living process refracted through both audience and performer.

Posted by LiseS
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