Figuring Age

Boglárka Börcsök & Andreas Bolm

Fancy a shared audience with a trio of dance ghosts? This obliquely political, gently interactive performance installation-cum-film by Berlin-based Boglárka Börcsök and Andreas Bolm fits the bill. As an homage to Hungarian modern dance history, and to the legacy of three real-life but now-deceased, 90+ female dancers, it held me rapt. Leaving shoes and coats outside, we’re invited into a bright, sparsely-furnished room of white-sheet walls. There Börcsök awaits, strangely stylish and, as our spirit guide, avid to introduce us to Eva, Iren and Agnes. She is also their incarnation. Based on recorded interviews with those ladies, and marked by laboured breathing, trembling yet forceful gestures and the dispensing of both stories and wisdom, this is performance as possession.

The live portion of Figuring Age lays the groundwork for a short, beautifully low-key and moving split-screen film that completes the entire experience. Happy haunting.

Donald Hutera

As we enter a snow-white space, a woman invites us to take a seat. One moment she appears to be in her thirties, but in the next morphs before our eyes into someone 90 to 100 years. Figuring Age plays with transformative physicality. Boglárka Börcsök’s body seems to be completely replaced as, trembling, she reaches towards audience members for support. Taking her hand, I feel the immense strength she exerts struggling against the limitations of a pretend age while holding back her own, younger energy. The paradox of this effort is captivating.

The ghosts we encounter speak to us first through Börcsök and then from a screen. Although the slow, restricted movements of the elderly dancers seen in the film reveal the impossibility of a perfect metamorphosis on Börcsök’s part, the two halves of Figuring Age work in complete harmony. I feel touched as the past of my native country, the socialist Hungary, emerges before us through the dance and tales.

Zsófia Bálint

What does it take for a significantly younger performer to revive the memories of three elderly artists? That is the challenge Boglárka Börcsök sets herself in Figuring Age. Gathering the audience in a circular room, where everything is white except for her crimson red lips, she alternately impersonates late Hungarian modern dancers Éva, Irén and Ágnes. Slowly transforming herself into this small series of stiff, hunchbacked ladies, Börcsök goes back as far as the bygone days of their childhoods to portray their subsequent artistic paths and personalities. Her impersonations are amplified by an intense look, shaky hands or the help of spectators to move her around.

Filmmaker Andreas Bolm takes us further along this journey with fifteen-minute footage of the actual dancers’ daily lives. Despite remaining silent and flat on screen, these glimpses are more vivid, moving and insightful than Börscök’s previous embodiments, which can border on caricature. But since transgenerational memory cannot live on by itself, her and Bolm’s efforts deserve recognition.

Callysta Croizer

All is clad in white in the tent where a pale-faced, animatronically smiling woman dressed in vintage garb gestures for us to sit down. She tells us about three near-centenarian vestiges of Hungarian modern dance and shares a thought: ‘Graveyard for ghosts, our bodies… This can be terrifying, but it is when things start to happen.’

Boglárka Börcsök exhales a painfully long breath as the weight of three lifetimes compresses her posture. Transfiguration complete, she starts to move towards ‘her spot’ on the couch with wavering determination. ‘Dear… could you help me?’ I gladly oblige. Possessed by centuries of anecdotal and physical remembrance, Börcsök shares the women’s lives with us before putting the ghosts and herself to bed with a final tale.

In Figuring Age, working with Andreas Bolm, Börcsök materialises the spiritual by embodying three deceased dancers. A touching film followed the immersive performance, offering wordless glimpses of the lives of Eva, Iren and Agnes during their final years: slow-paced and desolate, but reinvigorated through as-present-as-ever performative gestures as they relive their past.

Djalil Sultani