All of the above doesn’t mean that I wasn’t able to enjoy or appreciate some of the productions, or elements of them. For example, Amanda Piña and her company nadaproductions would have surely kept me on the edge of my seat – if I’d had a seat. Instead, I was standing in one of the exhibition rooms of Mumok (Museum of Modern Art), watching the museum version of their show Danza y Frontera. This year, ImPulsTanz teamed up with museums to create co-productions (yes, this has also been done quite often now, even by the Viennese festival itself). Part of nadaproductions’ Endangered Human Movements series, Danza y Frontera is based on a dance that has its roots in an ancient pre-Hispanic dance form that was later used by the Spanish Crown to depict the conquest of Mexico. Nowadays, this dance is mixed with pop dance moves and re-enacted in border areas of Mexico plagued by violence related to narco trafficking, militarization and cheap labour industries.
Piña’s black-clad dancers create an atmosphere full of tension and threat, facing the audience with their hypnotic back-and-forth waving moves, their shoulders leaning forward, constantly alert, ready to attack. One by one or in small groups they slowly progress from the back of the room up to the audience, then disappear to put on new pieces of costumes or accessories before appearing again. As their costumes become more colourful (traditional clothes or t-shirts decorated with the Mexican flag appear), their movements open up and are spiced with elements of folk dance and street dance battles. Suddenly, Christian Müller’s partially live soundscape is interrupted by a scary and loud percussion solo, accompanied by a manic group dance to finish the performance and leave the audience with a sense of shocked relief.
Another show that took place in a museum setting was Stand-Alones (polyphony) by one of Austria’s most popular contemporary dance companies, Liquid Loft, founded by Chris Haring in 2005. Taking place in eight separately accessible, empty rooms in the Leopold Museum, Stand-Alones is a series of acoustically interwoven solos. In the building that exhibits some of the most important works of Vienna Modernism and has the world’s biggest collection of the works of Egon Schiele, Haring and his co-creators seem to be most inspired by the latter painter’s vision. In short scenes set to background noises, text fragments or music, the dancers evoke the once-scandalous Schiele with grotesque, distorted facial expressions and disfigured body postures. Movements and sounds are often repetitive and compulsive, paired with piercing, somewhat desperate looks. But compared to Schiele’s paintings, Haring and his company’s exploration is too direct, too obvious, and the solos are too much alike, quickly running out of new impulses to offer.