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A Mary Wigman dance evening by Fabián Barba

Martina Rösler

In A Mary Wigman dance evening, the young Ecuadorian choreographer Fabián Barba is dealing with the “historic” figure Mary Wigman, one of the pioneers of expressionistic dance in Europe. He graduated from P.A.R.T.S. (Brussels) in 2006 with a first version of his occupation with Mary Wigman. For this performance Barba chose nine solos out of the dance cycleShifting Landscape (1929) as well as parts from Visions(1928,1925) and Celebration (1926) and put them together.

A playbill in the style of the 1930’s, two crystal chandeliers, a red nostalgic curtain, as well as delicate background music are trying to create an atmosphere that aims to bring the audience back to the original event. The constant changing of light and black (which also means light in the auditorium), defines the structure of the evening. One solo after the other is presented to the audience, followed by taking a deep bow after each short dance.

Taking a closer look at the movement quality, the following words occur to me: rhythmical swinging of the body, strong and powerful gestures, changing of tensions, turning, body weight and gravity, expanding in space throughout the materiality of the costume. The whole pathos and emotionalism seems nowadays quite overacted and excessive, but the way how Barba is performing makes it possible for the spectator to overcome this first sensation. The fact that a male body is representing an original female body is also changing the spectators gaze.

As written in the program, Barba is trying to breath new life into some of the dances of Mary Wigman. But can an absent body which is not available anymore be revitalised? In that regard the problematic of re-enactment becomes an issue. Questions concerning authorship and the affiliation between the original and the copy arise immediately. In addition to using photographs, fragments of video recordings, texts as his research source, Barba also worked with contemporary witnesses Katharine Sehnert, Irene Sieben and Susanne Linke. The process of reconstruction can also be considered as a process of communication. Barba presents a detailed, serious and accurate reconstruction of Wigmans solos, but maybe there is a lack of an attempt to translate and transfer the original into the context of contemporary dance and art today.

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