Grupo de Rua in Bruno Beltrão’s Inoah

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Tanz im August talkabout #1: Inoah (Bruno Beltrão) and R. OSA (Silvia Gribaudi)

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Grupo de Rua in Bruno Beltrão’s Inoah. Photo © Theater der Welt/Kerstin Behrendt
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Springback’s Berlin Three – Annette van Zwoll, David Pallant and Evgeny Borisenko – went to four performances at the Tanz im August festival, then met up afterwards to talk about what they had seen. Read on to hear their angles and attitudes on the first two performances, Bruno Beltrão’s Inoah and Silvia Gibaudi’s R. OSA.

 

Bruno Beltrão: Inoah


Grupo de Rua from Brazil in Bruno Beltrão’s Inoah

Two male dancers stand in near darkness, an electrical hum droning through the speakers. The sound glitches and they take it into their chests, echoing the discord with jerking spasms. The stage slowly brightens and larger groups of dancers are illuminated. They ramp up the energy until ten men are flipping and skimming across the stage with breathtaking agility. In INOAH, ostensibly a reaction to the recent corruption scandal in Brazil, Bruno Beltrão takes hip-hop pyrotechnics and dresses them in the more muted trappings of contemporary dance, inviting us to view his firework display from behind a soundproofed window.

David: I think we can say that the combination of street dance, breakdance and hip-hop with contemporary dance was a major focal point of this piece. Did that work for you?

Annette: The combination was aesthetically pleasing, you could see the roots of Beltrão and his dancers’ training. They were referencing it, without using typical hip hop movements.

David: And the dancers themselves were extremely impressive.

Evgeny: They executed the choreography very well, but there was a lack of intention, of the political agenda set forth in the programme.

David: Yes, the unrelenting virtuosity of the dancers distanced me from finding the search for meaning within the piece. If you aim to show these political themes on stage, especially if the piece doesn’t involve more concrete elements of communication, such as text, the movement needs so much intention behind it.

Annette: Because the programme notes describe it as a political piece, it means we go in with a certain expectations. What I saw didn’t add up with the information I was given. Everything on stage also changed very quickly, without making these constant changes part of a choreographic strategy. The phrases were short with a lot of repetition, and they didn’t seem to go anywhere. The dynamic was quite flat. There were hints of aggression for example, or intimacy, or defeat, but they were never pulled through.

Evgeny: It was so testosterone-fuelled and so ‘masculine’, as if Beltrão wanted to escape his own fragility. It was only about power and sweat for me.

David: There were moments that could be read as showing fragility, but I think that connects to what Annette said about this lack of dynamics. The powerful, testosterone-fuelled dancing was so much the main point of the piece that all the parts in between felt like waiting. I wanted more subtlety, or surprising moments where I could think, “There’s something going on here, I want to know what it is.”

Evgeny: But I felt there was a gesture to moving towards something more subtle. Beltrão stamped the show with these silent interludes, using as little music or video projection as possible. I felt that he had intended to bring hip-hop onto the big stage, to inject an artsy ‘contemporary’ feel into it. But at the same time, it was very crowd-pleasing. The dancers throw loads of energy into the audience and execute crazy hip-hop sequences. In that sense, it was masterfully made.

Annette: Although I saw that energy on stage, I felt at a distance from it. I linked this to their use of intricate micro-movements. On a big stage, with those movements improperly internalised, its hard to communicate a certain energy, emotionality or meaning. I wonder if his work might be more effective on a smaller stage, with closer proximity between the dancers and the audience. Then you could feel the sweat, and you could see the dancers’ bodies and their hard work.

David: And their bodies were so conventionally beautiful, you couldn’t escape that. It went some way to breaking the convention of similar pieces, which put even more emphasis on these impressive bodies. But I’d still rather see different bodies on stage, or bodies presented from an entirely different standpoint. There were moments that worked but, in the end, they really felt just like moments – they stood out because, as a whole, the piece didn’t sweep me along.


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Claudia Marsicano in Silvia Girbaudi’s R. OSA_10 Exercises for New Virtuosities
Claudia Marsicano in Silvia Girbaudi’s R. OSA_10 Exercises for New Virtuosities. Photo © Laila Pozzo

Silvia Gribaudi: R. OSA_10 exercises for new virtuosities


Carolina Marsicano in Silvia Gribaudi’s R. OSA

Claudia Marsicano enters the stage in a bathing suite. She is big. Fat. She takes us, the audience, through several exercises, singing, talking, and dancing. In two exercises she makes us stand up and move with her. The movements of her face, neck, arms, hands and fingers are articulate and her presence full of charm. Half way, she takes off her bathing suite and continues in underwear. She invites us to look at her.

Note: we have made a decision to use the word ‘fat’, embracing the argument it is a merely descriptive word and not a slur or a term that contains moral judgement.

Annette: What were your first responses when Marsicano entered the space?

David: It felt unavoidably like a statement, or a subversion. She has the sort of body you don’t usually see in dance or, when you consider how revealed it was, in our society in general. I did feel fairly quickly that we were invited to view a body, not a fat body. She was very charming and personable, spoke to us directly, laughed and invited us to laugh.

Evgeny: The first scene positively shocked me. It was entertaining but also dark somehow, how she slowly moved on the stage, stood en profile and started singing Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’. I was quickly drawn to her face, which contained so much charm that it absolutely distracted me from her body. This charm, however, also negatively affected me. The performer was very nice, smart, talented and entertaining. When installing a place for fat people on stage, why do they have to be cheerful, nice, entertaining and smiley?

Annette: I just read that ‘Osa’ means ‘dare’ in Italian. I found her courageous, but Marsicano didn’t present herself as being courageous. She seemed to feel comfortable in her body, and already being surprised by that reveals how we unconsciously assume how fat people should feel and behave. She also sang Britney Spears’s ‘Toxic’. Both Parton and Spears were sex icons, and both were shamed for their bodies when they couldn’t keep up the sex icon posture anymore. In the same way, fat people are often shamed in our society, and are expected to feel shame. Marsicano was on stage for an hour, inviting us to watch, without embarrassment or shame.

David: There was a constant contrast with the norms. Not only her physical appearance, but also how that affected the movement. For example, when she referenced classical dance, doing a long sequence of ‘floaty’ ballet arms to a piece of Baroque music without a hint of irony or parody, the traditional movements looked new because they were being executed by such a different body.

Evgeny: She used tropes often used in a one-woman show. She interacted with the technician, someone we couldn’t see, and also with us, the audience. She had a lot of space to question that form, as well as to question the theme – but she didn’t. The piece was very entertaining. I had a nice time, but for me its effects will disappear quickly.

David: Yes, I think it’s hard to describe it as anything other than ‘feel-good’.

Annette: Which we shouldn’t underestimate. It is a trap to consider everything that is dark or torturous to be deep and of quality.

David: We were confronted with some of our expectations and assumptions around body types and beauty norms, but it was subtle. We saw a woman enjoying herself, and inviting us to enjoy ourselves. I appreciated that a lot, but I agree that it’s not a piece which called for revolution.

Annette: It might also be a different way of engaging with the political. It was revolutionary to have this non-normative body taking space, visible and demanding attention.

David: And being confident, and being joyous. If I were to consider this piece as a whole, I would say it set itself very modest and achievable ambitions, but achieved them completely. 

In Part 2 of Tanz im August talkabout, the Berlin Three watch The Waves by French choreographer ‘and trained philosopher’ Noé Soulier, and Nora Chipaumire’s Portrait of Myself as My Father, an exploration of black masculinity…


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R. OSA, 31 August 2018, HAU 3, Berlin, Germany. Inoah: 29 August 2018, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany.
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Inoah
Artistic direction: Bruno Beltrão
Assistant to artistic direction: Ugo Alexandre Neves
With: Bruno Duarte, Cleidson De Almeida ‘Kley’, Douglas Santos, Igor Martins, João Chataignier, Leandro Gomes, Leonardo Laureano, Alci Junior Kpuê, Ronielson Araújo ‘Kapu’, Sid Yon
Lighting Design: Renato Machado
Costume Design: Marcelo Sommer
Music: Felipe Storino

R.OSA_10 exercises for new virtuosities
Concept, choreography, artistic direction: Silvia Gribaudi
With: Claudia Marsicano
Lighting design: Leonardo Benetollo
Costume design: Erica Sessa
Artistic consultance: Antonio Rinaldi, Giulia Galvan, Francesca Albanese, Matteo Maffesanti

Inoah is at the Festival d’automne, Paris, France, 6–10 November and 13 November 2018

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