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Tanz im August: Reopening the old suitcase

Summer dance festival Tanz im August is back (Aug 11-Sep 2) at venues all over the city. Don't miss a retrospective of Spanish dancer and performance artist La Ribot (highlighted here) and read on for our editor's picks of what to see.

Image for Tanz im August: Reopening the old suitcase
Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Spanish dancer and performance artist La Ribot revisits her best work at summer dance festival Tanz im August (Aug 11-Sep 2).

La Ribot has been working on a series called “Distinguished Pieces” for 25 years. In one piece, she removes something like 40 articles of clothing in a distinctly unsexy striptease. In another, she binds herself with a ball of twine and then dons a sash, like a beauty pageant winner. In another, she wears nothing but a cardboard sign that reads “for sale” and stands against a gallery wall inside the hinge of a folding wooden chair. She begins to pump the chair away from her body: it creaks as she presses on it. Slowly, pumping the chair harder and faster, squeezing her body tighter within the frame and squeaking more and more furiously, she slides to the floor, finishing in a heap.

Suffice it to say that La Ribot is a pioneer of live art and a feminist performance art icon. This year, Tanz im August pays tribute with a retrospective programme of La Ribot’s work, called “Occuuppatiooon!”. Aside from films and installations showing throughout the festival, she’ll reprise her sixhour piece Laughing Hole (Aug 12, 14:00, Sophiensaele), in which three performers laugh continuously for six hours as they work through a pile of political slogans written on cardboard. In a more recent work, Gustavia (Aug 26-27, 20:00, HAU1), La Ribot and Mathilde Monnier use slapstick and burlesque to animate and investigate femininity in motion.

But, maybe most interestingly, La Ribot will re-stage Panoramix (Aug 17, 20, 23, 19:00, Sophiensaele), her 2003 retrospective event commissioned by the Tate in London: a retrospective of a retrospective, after 14 years. It’s intense, returning to such visceral, body-based work 25 years older. “Of the pieces this summer, Panoramix is the only one I haven’t returned to. To go back to emotions, ideas, ways of working. Now, I see things differently. But deeply in me, I think it’s the same. I haven’t changed that much.” La Ribot goes back and forth about how to describe her feelings about the piece: “I wouldn’t say excited is the right word. I’m much more stressed. No, I think excited is good.” She points to her goosebumps.

There are some obvious physical challenges – the rough-and-ready movements which characterize the explicit body in performance often belong to the young and angry. So some movements will have to be adapted for middle age’s creaky joints and back pain. But emotionally, La Ribot is excited to re-enter this world. “It’s like going back to a holiday apartment where you used to go. You recognise things. You know – like, I remember the smells, the dresses in the closet. It’s nice to go back. Like when you open an old suitcase.

Occuuppatiooon! Retrospektive La Ribot at Tanz im August Aug 11-Sep 2 | Various venues, see website for full programme

Image for Tanz im August: Reopening the old suitcase
Trajal Harrell. Photo by Orpheas Emirzas

Further Tanz im August highlights:

Rocio Molina is a force of nature. She’s not just one of the greatest living flamenco dancers, but one of the greatest living dancers. And an experimental feminist turning the form upside down and inside out. Equal parts wild and strong and sensual, it’s not just a meme: “Females are strong as hell.”

Caída del Cielo | Aug 26-27, Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Trajal Harrell rose to dance super-stardom by combining contemporary dance with voguing a la Paris is Burning. His latest research is on the Japanese form Butoh, abstract dance created to show the horrors of war through the human body.

Caen Amour | Aug 7-19, HAU2

Serge Aimé Coulibaly opens the festival with a tribute to Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, through which the Burkinabé dancer and choreographer raises questions about the role of the artistactivist in post-revolutionary life that linger throughout the festival.

Kalakuta Republik | Aug 11-12, HAU1