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Completing the Circle

Nóra Bükki Gálla

An obvious way for self-definition is to reach back in time and compare ourselves to what we find there. Or better yet, set past and present next to each other and let the comparison be done by the observer. This is exactly what Ecuadorian dancer Fabian Barba does; he takes one of the key figures of modern dance, Mary Wigman, and re-invents her figure with enormous care and historic accuracy, so that we have a precise base for comparison and a good excuse to re-think the present.

Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of the performance is the fact that a woman’s role is danced by a man. The series of solos represent a shift of Wigman’s attitude and compositional values from a strictly formulated and clearly genderless motion language to a more dramatic and emotional quality, but the basis remains the same: for Wigman dance is an act of worship, an ethereal experience which the dancer shares with her audience. This explains the lack of dynamic movement and the domination of expressive hand gestures. Circling motion is a representation of a divine perfection while spinning shows ecstasy.

The 5-7 minute pieces are connected by soft piano music from the background, as if Wigman was dancing on behind the stage and each piece is concluded by an authentic bow taken from films and other documentation Barba used to revive Wigman’s work. The same meticulous care is applied to costumes and music – several times we hear scratchy old recordings which add to the feeling of alienation and detachment.

We are not surprised when the applause brings the dancer on stage again only to repeat two of the etudes. Barba is true to the image he worked out for himself and interprets Wigman with extreme submissiveness. His is an analytical remake, not a constructive one. In Barba’s interpretation Wigman doesn’t want to impress – she simply wants to be. And that is what connects her to contemporary dance and contemporary dancers like Fabian Barba. Even though he lacks the charismatic character and does not feel like the powerful and mature performer we would imagine Wigman to be – still he manages to evoke the past and lets us compare I to the present. And that is the first step n the voyage. A good starting point.

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