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Posts tagged ‘Fabián Barba’

A dance-time-machine

Theresa Steininger

A Mary Wigman Dance Evening has brought the choreographies of the founder of the German Ausdruckstanz to today´s stage.

Why would a young man today dance solos that a 43-year old woman had done in early 30ies? Do we already need a living dance museum of modern dance, as Martha-Graham-Company-leader Janet Eibler suggested in an interview concerning her dancers` tour to Austria? If yes, young Ecuadorian dancer Fabian Barba, currently working in Brussels, can join it. He has put together an evening reconstructing important choreographies by Mary Wigman, founder of the German Ausdruckstanz. In his „A Mary Wigman Dance Evening“, he offers the audience the possibility to go back in history, also having the aim not only to copy and reconstruct, but to build something of his own. The difficulty of such a time-machine-performance is that the audience will more likely see the evening as a chance to imagine Mary Wigman dancing in front of them, not so much concentrating on the elements Barba has brought in.

So you surely will come up with the question if this evening is a creation or a carrying out. The audience will certainly notice how accurate Barba brings in typical elements of Wigman, but not see it so much as a creation of Barba´s.

In what concerns this accuracy, Barba has really worked very precisely. He has perfectioned Wigmans way of gliding, he has studied very accurately how she used breath for her choreographies, he brings in the praying hands in „Anruf“, the snake-like arm in „Gesicht der Nacht“, the strong and flowing arm-movements in „Sturmlied“. He has the costums, playing a huge role in Wigman´s solos. From the program, you may learn that Barba has worked with videos as well as with former students of Wigman, he has prepared very precisely. But when after each solo, he copies Wigman´s very self-confident, almost arrogant way to bow, you cannot be sure any longer, if he is just copying or ironizising it. A strange taste also remains, when until one of the last pieces, nobody gives an applause when Barba bows.

When you see this performance, you can sometimes not be totally sure if it is Barba or Wigman performing. If this was the performer´s aim, he has surely come up to it.

Theresa Steininger

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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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