Fifteen years ago Swedish choreographer Mårten Spångberg created a solo based on reconstructed material from Steve Paxton’s improvisations on The Goldberg Variations. In his new solo 46, usually performed in open or public spaces, he reconstructs his own work. Part embodiment of the past, part exorcism of it, 46 incorporates bits and pieces of material produced and performed by his dancers over the years – a farewell to his own creative history, a manifestation of his theories and/or a way out of the dead-end street of style and its repetition.
Wearing hat and t-shirt branded ‘46’ (a direct if cryptic reference to motorbike racer Valentino Rossi), with glasses he often readjusts, greying hair and a piece of paper with the score in hand, Spångberg looks vulnerable – and at the same time grand, and is obviously fully aware of this. The delivery of his minimal material is far from precise, and sometimes intentionally clumsy – limbs extended into plain diagonals, torso inclined or curved, occasional glances towards the audience that sits dangerously close on blankets on the floor of Volksroom in Brussels.
Yet respect for the material, dedication to form and lack of self-indulgence let the dance be experienced, in the words of Susan Sontag, ‘against interpretation’, while also creating an empathic relation with the performer. Repetitive, circular, with no dramatic arc, these meditational 45 minutes of #lonelyformalism (as he calls it on Instagram) could easily become a durational experience, exploring ways to be together in time and space. Spångberg says he wants his dance to be observed as we observe a tree: always there, yet constantly changing, neither (re)presenting anything, nor aiming to impress. It’s not there to create, extract or exchange value, but exists uninscribed, allowing time and space for (self-)reflection.
I had started my day with Laurie Anderson’s advice for the young where she says she chose art to be free. Last night in Volksroom I saw Spångberg is free and his refreshing uncompromising work makes a lot of sense in our times.