Dance Scene and Trends in Germany

Neuer Tanz and “kurze stücke / short pieces” – Installations for the Stage

CHOR(E)OGRAFIE / JOURNALISMUS: „kurze Stücke“ (i.e. CHO(I)ROGRAPHY / JOURNALISM: short pieces) by VA Wölfl; Photo: © VA Wölfl

With VA Wölfl everything revolves around the audience. Its reaction to what is happening becomes an active component of the performance. Whether in Paris or Benrath, “CHO(I)ROGRAPHY / JOURNALISM: kurze stücke / short pieces” turns the spectator into a reflecting observer.

VA Wölfl choreographs. One may just declare this - as a statement or simply as a pronouncement, brief and unembellished, like a shot from a revolver. For this assertion is by no means as self-evident as it seems. Are the pictures in his pieces not more like living sculptures or graphics? Take weapons, for example: here they are used not to shoot with, but as antipodes to the pointe shoe, lengthening the arm instead of the foot.

Although he created Bauhaus-inspired pieces for classical dancers at an early age, Wölfl’s path was by no means predetermined. He studied Art, originally wanted to become a painter, then went to the Folkwangschule Essen and studied photography there. Up to the present day his creativity is not limited to the stage. Wölfl paints, photographs or designs installations. He fills empty rooms with shapes and signs that question observers directly as to their kind of perception. One can also say that a genuine Wölfl is for the stage an artwork that produces a conscious connection to time, similar to that one develops when viewing an exhibition.

Everyone decides for themselves on the duration of the piece

In this spectacular theatre of operations there is no fourth wall. The most consistent form would be „in fine“ a suspension of the temporal linearity. Kurze Stücke / short pieces comes very close to the model of a dance installation in different rooms. The sequence of the scenes is variable. The company changes it not only in deference to any spatial dictates of the respective performance venue. “In the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris we changed the sequence every day,” explains Wölfl, with a jovial and roguish air, in his domain near Benrath Castle. There the dancers were already celebrating in the foyer with the audience while a last group was still waiting in the theatre for the Xth restart. NEUER TANZ – this means: everyone decides for themselves how long the short pieces last. In May 2013, as part of the festival tanznrw13, there were two versions. “The Paris version lasted about 1½ hours. The Benrath-line version lasted about 3 hours,“ the programme explains. However, the version shown in January in the Théâtre de la Ville did actually last about three hours, at least for those members of the audience who were willing to participate in Wölfl’s game with them to the end. Or did short pieces last here for a year and three hours? The Théâtre de la Ville mistakenly put the year 2012 on its posters.

Waiting is worthwhile

Wölfl confuses. It already began on the street. In stretch-limousines they cruised around the theatre forecourt with its fountain, as if it were a castle garden. “Where else can you do this nowadays?” he rejoiced. In glittering silver costumes they got out of the cars, strode through the foyer and led the audience into the theatre. On the left side of the stage a row of electric guitars. To the left, two ball machines firing their yellow tennis balls erratically through the room and hitting random targets, which set the guitar strings twanging. These two “pieces” were indeed in themselves very short. Much longer pieces followed, some of which contained hardly any external action, alternating with sudden, verbal outbursts of direct narration. Sometimes stretched, sometimes squeezed, time developed an accordion effect, just as the audience itself did towards the end. The light went out, the stage emptied. But then nobody appeared for the applause, and the baffled members of audience gradually started to leave the theatre although they sensed that something special might happen there. Those who waited longest saw the next “short piece” from the beginning. Many then returned. Yet many others were already sitting in the metro.

This game was repeated several times, and NEUER TANZ reserves the right to continue it for any number of times. The fact that in Paris he succeeded in creating a real choreography of the audience for hundreds of persons fills Wölfl with a sense of pride – and amusement. In Benrath they already knew his tricks and reacted in a more relaxed fashion. Yet whether surprised or practised, the spectator is prompted to ponder about the picture of the empty stage on which the only movement is that of the guns on their turntables, which are scattered over the floor. This is subjectively the longest short piece. Members of the audience may draw on their experience in order to anticipate how things will proceed, but the cunning tactician Wölfl is always one step ahead. Should I stay? Should I go? The more compelling the question becomes, so the extent increases to which each spectator becomes a player for him or herself. In weighing up the reasons there emerges a revelation of a different kind. One becomes a journalist reporting what one has seen for oneself, live from the theatre or from the foyer. Is this why it is called CHO(I)ROGRAPHY/JOURNALISM: kurze stücke / short pieces?

Thomas Hahn
has been living in Paris for over 20 years, he is the France correspondent of the journal “tanz” and also works for the French cultural journals “Danser“, “Cassandre“, “Stradda“ and “Ubu“.

Translation: Heather Moers
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
July 2013

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