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Tanz im August: Trends and final performances

The latest batch (and continual undercurrent) of Tanz im August pieces address collectivism in one way or another. Emily Hoffman sums them up.

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Photo by Thomas Bruns

“Is collectivism a historical delusion? Is it possible to think a collective and yet non-anonymous body? How could individuals create a collective, but do so through egalitarian negotiation between the selfish selves?” These are questions posed by Saša Asentić and Ana Vujanović in On Trial Together, their deeply intelligent offering in this year’s Tanz im August festival. They are also questions taken up in some way by all of the better works performed last week.

A high point of the festival at the other end of the tonal spectrum from the discussion-oriented On Trial Together was A Coming Community, a raucous spectacle of masculine collaboration performed by Pieter Ampe, Gui Garrido, Hermann Heisig, and Nuno Lucas. The piece is really an extended roughhousing session between four overgrown brothers who’ve spent a whole lot of time messing around with latex and leaf-blowers. But the roughhousing is strange and virtuosic and compelling: the longest section of the piece involves an enormous blue latex balloon that various performers get into and out of with the aid of a leaf blower and a lot of powder.

Sometimes two of them disappear into the ball at once, sometimes one is left alone in the deflated balloon like a supermarket turkey, sometimes only an alien arm protrudes from a small, cavity-like opening. The balloon isn’t a metaphor; it’s nothing as trite as that. But as these four guys play around with this strange, organic, sometimes violent object, the nature of collaboration is revealed: the way the four performers do begin to come into a community is just as compelling as the balloon, the gold lamé jumpsuits, the smoke machine, and the final rousing rock number.

Unfortunately much of the festival has been plagued by a kind of punning wit, which makes good pieces tiresome and bad pieces unbearable. Passo, by the Italian choreographer Ambra Senatore, began as a promising riff on the female replica, as more and more dancers appeared onstage in the same blue dress and black bob wig. But as men joined the performance, what could have been an interesting variation became a simple drag gag – from there the piece devolved into coy clowning. Ship of Fools, by Israeli choreographers Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, was excruciating for its ratio of knowing looks to actual action.

The worst culprit, though, was the P.A.R.T.S. showing. The Belgian school is famous for its strength in teaching theory along with technique, but the painfully self-important showcase for the graduating class felt like a bad seminar presentation on critical theory. One hopes that the P.A.R.T.S. students, upon leaving their hip-ly academic milieu, might discover their own point of view.

Tanz im August continues until Saturday. Particularly promising performances include Deborah Hay’s No Time to Fly, and X-Choreografen, also part of the Tanznacht Berlin festival which follows on the heels of Tanz im August. Presenting work by Berlin-based artists, Tanznacht provides an interesting cross-section of the local dance community. More information at http://tanznachtberlin.de/tanznachtberlin2012/.

X-Choreographen, Aug 23-24 from 19:00 with tours beginning every 15 minutes. Reserve a place by calling 030 25 900 427. Meeting point: Maison de France, Kurfürstendamm 211