March 3, 2008

Vollmond

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Today I finally attended the highly anticipated performance of Vollmond, the production from Tanztheater Wuppertal choreographed by Pina Bausch. The production is part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival and tickets were extremely hard to come by (I have a few very jealous colleagues...), so I am especially glad that Quintessentially came through for me.

I am a novice when it comes to dance or dance theater - I can count with one hand the performances I've seen. But I really liked what I saw today.

The running theme (no pun intended) throughout the performance was water. It was everywhere - raining down from the ceiling, being poured from bottles, spat from the dancers' mouths, gathered in the stream on stage, and being splashed about by the bucketful... It was like no other performance I have ever seen.

The whole piece talks about the relationship between the sexes. The title says "full moon", so what exactly happens during a full moon? A bit of madness perhaps? Things get out of control? There was certainly a bit of that on stage.

Something struck me about the different moves of the male and female dancers. For a large number of the male solos, the accompanying music was edgy, quick-paced, with lots of distortions. Corresponding to the music, the male dancers' movements seemed to consist of lots of frantic twitches (as if in epileptic fits), self-scratching, neurotic repetition...etc. Not exactly beautiful and elegant, or even dignified. The mood was one of confusion, frustration, angst...

For the women, most work through the production in beautiful evening dresses. Quite a few have long, flowing hair which add a lot to the movements. Naturally their movements are less frantic but much more elegant in their fluidity. The smooth, flowing movement of the hands of some of the dancers were quite pleasing. And the long hair...ah! the hair! How the hair swings through the air with a sharp flick of the neck! And in the latter part of the production, when one of the dancers purposely dips her long, flowing locks into the stream, and flips them about, what beautiful splashes are made when the water droplets sped away from her hair...

Of course, the women aren't without their neurotic moments: the girl who keeps planting kisses in quick succession on the lips of her male counterpart, driving him backwards across the stage; the woman bathing her arms and neck in lemon juice, holding a knife in her hand while recounting her agony in waiting for, and later crying about, her man...

And then there was the part when the dancers "swam" along the stream on stage. A female dancer is doing her solo, and out of the corner of our eyes, we notice that a male dancer, dressed in his dark costume, appears face down in the stream. We barely make out his silhouette in the dim rear portion of the stage. He slowly makes his move to the right end of the stage. Another male dancer appears, swimming behind the first one. And another, until we have four swimmers in the stream. Later it would be the female dancers' turn. But interestingly, the stage is well-lit by now, hence the women in the stream are clearly visible to the audience. Why the different treatment?

Clearly there are many elements in the production that are used to represent the agony and suffering we experience in a romantic relationship. At one point, a female dancer races quickly across the stage, only to be repeatedly dragged back by her male counterpart. She cannot seem to escape from him. Each time, just as she seems to have broken free and reached the edge of the stage, he gets the better of her. The process is repeated and ends in tragedy - eventually she is dragged into the water and pushed down, kickin and screaming as she splashes water about, helpless about the fact that she is going nowhere. Finally she gives up - all movements cease, and she lies, face down, silently in the stream. 

Am I painting too grim a picture of the production? There are light-hearted moments, for sure, and happy music to lift up the mood. But over all the tone is dark. And the finale is an orgy of frantic, erratic deterioration into a giant confusion - all 12 dancers are on stage, running around and splashing water about like a school of mental patients - while the music enhances the mood. Quite a scene to behold.

I must say that this production is very thought-provoking. I can see why Pina Bausch is seen as such a pioneer and visionary, and why people clamor for tickets whenever one of her production is staged. Time for me to do a bit more homework, and reflect on this performance...

2 comments:

jen testing said...

Hey there!
I went through your old entries on dining in HK and though you might be the person to ask. I'm looking for your favorite restaurants in HK that are under 400 HKD. What do you think?

Visiting from NYC, favorite restaurant here is Jean Georges.

Thanks,
Jenny

Peech said...

Hi Jenny, can u email me or leave me ur email? will send u my thoughts.

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