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From cave to concert hall

Clad in latex body suits, dance stalwarts Two Fish take the stage with their latest show Halt mir meinen Platz frei bis ich anders da wieder bin. Then rock outfit Formelwesen's animated puppet steals the show.

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Photo by Florian Braun

“Go on,” says the giant animated puppet, dark eyes grinning at the audience, “take one.” In the middle of the shiny black HAU2 stage are two crates of beer. We – the audience – are being taunted. After a minute of nervous sideways glances, a girl strides down and takes one. “Ah, sie vertraut sich,” murmers our puppet host, causing an outbreak of giggles. Then two more people make a break for the booze. In a minute, all decorum is abandoned, and the crowd leap from their seats into a makeshift moshpit.

It’s a novel way to change the mood in the middle of a show that has two completely different and somewhat jarring components. First comes an engrossing performance from Berlin contemporary dance stalwarts Two Fish, Angela Schubot and Martin Clausen, which then morphs quickly into a dark-ambient rock concert as Formelwesen take over.

Clad in hairy latex body suits created by Anna-Lisa Kentner and Malena Modéer, Schubot and Clausen are arresting performers. The movements have an effortless synchronicity, and it is intriguing to watch them explore the dynamics inherent in simple gestures, extending and dramatizing them from everyday action to epic convulsion. The evocative costumes situate the characters in a caveman context but, by the end, they are so much more; they are weeping, yowling, philosophizing, disco-dancing souls.

The piece is about the struggle to define life, love and relationships, to try to pin them down when language can’t. The monologues have a lyrical call-response quality. Text is not the focus but rather another texture, blending with the squeaking and slapping of bodies against the polished floor. Ultimately Clausen loses the capacity for speech; he is reduced to the roars of a wounded animal.

And before you know it, a hooded band has taken the stage. Formelwesen provide an low-key sonic finale for Two Fish – whose performance ends with a whimper, not a bang – and you realize that this show is actually a live concert following a contemporary dance piece, not an integration of the two.

The band is introduced and hosted by a funny, cynical puppet who informs an agreeably bemused audience that he always wanted to be a rapper. It’s voiced by lead singer Nicolas de Leval Jezierski, who produced the childlike, macabre animations with Sven Mücke and Mixi Alker. As Formelwesen’s dark ambient rock blasts the crowd, the puppet takes a rest and Jezierski takes over, prancing, dancing and generally entrancing in his grinning monster mask and stuffed red dress. It feels like the wrong venue to showcase Formelwesen’s musical talents – you get the sense that the crowd wants to dance instead of sitting, as the music shifts from epic rock to funky pop, and Jezierski lets loose his honey-covered voice.

If you’re up for an evening of existentialist-tinged contemporary dance followed by a rock band with a kooky puppet frontman – and who isn’t? – this might be right up your alley.