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Fabian Barba – A Mary Wigman Dance Evening

Maxime Fleuriot

One of the particularities of dance is that we do not have direct access to the works of the earliest dancers. What do we know of Nijinsky’s dance for instance that revolutionized dance history ? Some photos, some testimonies and that’s all. As dance is developing, scholars and dancers feel the need to investigate their own history. One recalls the efforts of Quatuor Knust (Emmanuelle Huyhn, Boris Charmatz…) to recreate L’Après Midi d’un Faune de Nijinsky. Here, Fabian Barba, a young Ecuadorian dancer trained in PARTS, has chosen to recreate Mary Wigman solos, one of the pioneer of modern dance. Basing his work on pictures and videos of that period, on testimonies – among which the one of choreographer Susane Linke who used to be a student of Wigman – Fabian Barba has recreated as series of nine solos created by Wigman between 1925 and 1929. He has also paid attention to make the whole program seem like a 1930 theatre evening : curtains, chandeliers, the music that is played on an old gramophone evoke the 1930s. Even the programs have a 1930s look. This coherence in aesthetics is one of the major qualities of this work. The major interests one can find in Barba’s work is to grasp something of Mary Wigman’s dances. Where else do we have such opportunity ? This way of re-actualizing historical works, of making it present, vivid is fascinating for one who is used to photos and videos. This impression is increased by the attention paid by Barba to the costumes and quality of movement. One is not used to this graphic quality of movement, this length, these geometrical shapes, the suspension of an impulse on time to increase its dramatic tension. Actualized in a young body, this quality of movement seems absolutely peculiar and contemporary.

And maybe that’s more true that one could think first. The graphical, almost pictural quality of the dance reminded me some of Raimud Hoghe’s recent performances – the German choreographer (For instance this performance based on Maria Callas ‘s pictures36, avenue George Mandel). And the reference to an canonical figure of dance history pointed all the more the very personal dimension of the work of Barba. The way this Ecuadorian young dancer embodied a forty years woman living in the 1920s. Or also, the stress on bows which were performed at the end of every solo in a different style every time. This was a very contemporary way to stress the choreographic quality of something usually considered as non choreographic.

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