Context is king

“Don’t worry, there is no problem. I want to say that today we perform the standard version. We could make this piece site specific and also with local dancers. We can perform it with or without costumes. And even with or without the public!” The words of choreographer Pietro Marullo, standing at the front of the stage, introducing his piece Wreck.

His words echo in my mind during the performance. A performance which is wordless, poetic, visually haunting. Six naked dancers are set in a dark place where a giant black bulky blob plagues them. The characters are petrified, lights and sounds are gloomy. With the theatrical elements carefully chosen, it is all the more remarkable that this artist makes a joke about the (potential) setting and look of the piece and thereby introduces us to a whole new world before letting us into the one he meticulously crafted through his dance piece. With a few sentences, he frames his artwork, and undermines the expressiveness of it.

His sales pitch intrudes his artistic universe. I know I am not meant to really envision clothing around the dancers’ naked bodies. This piece is clearly about the vulnerability of human beings. I know I am not meant to imagine what it would be like to watch this in say, a sun-baked festival area. But, Marullo’s introduction evokes thoughts about his suggestions, that give rise to connotations that the piece would not otherwise provoke.

Attending Aerowaves dance festival in Sofia is like being in a vacuum. Because of the density of it, I find it at times difficult to concentrate during performances. We came here with a group of ten writers with four mentors to watch 21 dance pieces in three days and write about them. The time in between performances is filled with walking to the next theatre. Maybe a lot of programmers are used to seeing this much at once, but we definitely are not. Walking to the other side of town to see yet another dance performance, no time to sit down, to stop for a moment and reflect or let what we just saw sink in. Let alone write! Springback writers divide their nights in the hotel room between desk and bed.

During Aerowaves, there are a lot of moments where I get the impression that dance makers try to sell their work, that they have to fit in into a certain format to join the game. Quite a lot of pieces seem to be stretched to 40 minutes, where 20 minutes will do just fine (possibly even better). Most striking though, is this introduction by Marullo.

To me, Marullo unintentionally rapes his own work of art. All aspects of his performance seem intentional, but his light-hearted introduction highly contrasts the following, earnest performance. Is he unaware of the effect of his words? Did he not take into account that we enter the piece with his message lingering on? Or are conflicting interests tearing the artist apart?

Cultural entrepreneurship becomes problematic when it invades the artistic realm. The entrepreneurship that seems to be expected from artists nowadays is onerous. I wish dance makers would just make and show work. Or at least not mix these two worlds.

Let art speak for itself!

Lotte Wijers