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A Mary Wigman Dance Evening by Dean

Dean Damjanovski

The performance “A Mary Wigman Dance Evening” of the young choreographer and dancer Fabian Barba was performed last night on the scene of MSUFA in the frames of the “iDANS” festival. It should also be mentioned that the performance is competing for the award Prix Jardin d’ Europe awarded for emerging choreographers.

What the small audience attending the performance had the opportunity to see were nine solos, which, according to the quite lengthy text that the author gave us prior to the performance, represent a reconstruction of the original solos by Mary Wigman (1886 – 1973), German dancer and choreographer, forerunner of the expressionist dance in Europe. It was obvious that the author has done his “homework” very thoroughly and that he has put much effort to get to the shown result. The reconstructed solos performed by Barba were very clean and precise and one could tell that the other elements of the performance – music, lighting and especially costumes, which were made with taste and sense of authenticity – were paid a lot of attention.

But, this is where the description ends and the problem begins for the performance remained on the level of a demonstration. The performer, quite selfishly, kept us away from the experience of what he was doing on stage by repetitively using the same sequence of “solo – pause with music – solo (with a different costume)”. That is why the first six pieces went without any reaction from the audience even though he bowed after each of them in the manner of Wigman. Maybe that was the response he wanted? Anyway, at the end, when we knew from the program that it was the end, we applauded and called the performer back on stage where he repeated two of the pieces (again, as it was said in the program). Maybe this contract that was made before the performance represented an additional barrier to the communication between the piece and us? Sorry, I almost forgot – there was a tiny and shy applause at the end of the seventh solo, but I’m not sure whether it was because of the effective costume or because of the fact that the dancer finally decided to “put himself” into the performance?

This performance raised a lot of questions for me. For example, whether we as audience should be satisfied with a mere “reconstruction”? And whether the reconstruction itself, understood in this sense, is sufficient or it takes something more to “jump over the edge” and become a performance? For me, personally, last night’s performance remained on the level of a well done homework, but it didn’t manage to transform into a performance…. I wonder how would the “ordinary” audience react without any previous knowledge of Mary Wigman or reconstruction as a method in contemporary performing arts? Perhaps then a real communication would be established? Maybe there is nothing wrong with the performance, maybe we were the problem?

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