Dance Scene and Trends in Germany

Raimund Hoghe – in France adored, in Germany ignored

‚Sans-Titre‘ – a piece for Faustin Linyekula by Raimund Hoghe; Festival Montpellier Danse (2009); With: Faustin Linyekula and Raimund Hoghe; Foto: Rosa FrankThroughout Europe, and above all at France’s leading festivals, Raimund Hoghe is given rapturous reception, year after year, from Montpelier to Avignon and Paris. Only in Germany does he encounter a rather tepid response. There must be reasons for this!

For ten years in succession Hoghe has now been celebrated and revered at Montpellier Danse. The only other artist to exhibit such consistency at Europe’s greatest dance festival is Mathilde Monnier, the director of Montpellier’s Centre Chorégraphique National.

Raimund Hoghe; Foto: Rosa FrankAnd in 2010, when Montpellier Danse takes place for the thirtieth time, the festival will of course feature once again Pina Bausch’s former dramaturge. Then he will be entering into a dialogue with Dominique Bagouet who, working from Montpellier in the 1980s, gave wings to the French nouvelle danse, i.e. at the same time as Pina Bausch in Wuppertal was shaping the German dance theatre of the post-war era. What is it that Hoghe with his pieces of quiet contemplation gleans from Bagouet’s legacy? His work was infused by a mood of nonchalant, heady awakening and effervesced with joy in movement. However, when Bagouet died of Aids at the end of 1992, this was a blow from which dance in France has yet to recover. And Meinwärts (Toward Myself), 1994, Hoghe’s first solo piece, was a reaction to the deadly impact of Aids in the dance scene. Thus it would be no surprise if Hoghe were to take this shock as a starting point.

Two angels, entirely different

‚Swan Lake, 4 Acts’ (2005); With: Lorenzo De Brabandere and Raimund Hoghe; Foto: Rosa FrankThere is a second parallel, and it has to do with wings. For since his death Bagouet has been venerated as a kind of angel. When, in 2005, Hoghe created Swan Lake – 4 Acts (in Montpelier, of course), he found himself focused in a gaze that transfigured, desiring to see his folded arms as a pair of wings – and these not of a swan, but of an angel! This says much about the insouciance with which an audience in France enjoys Hoghe’s pieces. But why is this not the case on the other side of the Rhine? Hoghe seems piqued when he addresses the lack of interest displayed in his work in his native land. He complains about metaphors that imply a subliminal rejection of his hunchback. He was once described in the press as an “ugly duckling”. He feels vilified by headlines like this. Yet it is precisely here that one of the problems may be found. For Meinwärts revolved unequivocally around the theme of vilification. The piece focuses on the tenor Josef Schmidt, who became a victim of the Nazis. Thus Hoghe built up an identification in which his hump took on the form of a monitory finger. When he took off his T-shirt (“After all, the others do it too, should I hide my back?”) he exposed what had been repressed and clashed with the surfeit of feelings of guilt from Germany’s coming-to-terms with its past. Of course, it was immediately clear that Hoghe identified himself with the victims of the Third Reich since physically handicapped persons were among those regarded by the Nazis as having no right to live. In France, however, this theme plays only a minor role. It featured only in a book – unfortunately out of print – by the author Marie-Florence Ehret. Its title is Raimund Hoghe, L’ange inachevé. Ehret’s tender glance reveals that Hoghe’s unclothed hunchback can also have a therapeutic effect on the French. The sight of his vulnerability liberates them from the complex evoked by German economic power which was still a dominant factor in the mid-1990s.

Going “Meinwärts”

‚Young People, Old Voices’ (2002); With: Raimund Hoghe and Ensemble; Foto: Rosa FrankHoghe himself actually delivers the most trenchant analysis when he describes how his body acts vicariously for the viewer, inviting members of the audience to set out on a journey into their own innermost self. In Germany this raises the spectre of a self-appointed guardian of the moral high ground. In contrast, his pieces were received in France on a purely aesthetic basis from the very beginning. And there those who have no wish to go “Meinwärts” simply transfer the debate to the terrain of art and discuss the pieces in the context of the creations by Jérôme Bel or Xavier Le Roy. Moreover, in France there is a far greater reservoir of viewers who have experience in the reception of performance art and who are willing to call into question their customary viewing patterns. It is not the first time in his career that Hoghe makes the experience that new forms are far more readily accepted in France. He recalls his time with Pina Bausch: “At a time when she was already being celebrated in Paris, for example for The Seven Deadly Sins, she was still receiving anonymous hate calls in Wuppertal.”

Encounter with Africa

‚Sans-Titre‘ – a piece for Faustin Linyekula by Raimund Hoghe; Festival Montpellier Danse (2009); With: Faustin Linyekula and Raimund Hoghe; Foto: Rosa FrankAdmittedly he gets no hate calls, but it is high time that the disparity evened out. For in the fifteen years of his own creative work Hoghe’s art has changed and liberated itself. He testified to this in July 2009 with Sans-Titre – une pièce pour Faustin Linyekula, which was premiered (of course) at Montpellier Danse. Here the dancer and choreographer from the Congo engages in a discourse with more tranquil musical worlds (Bach, Purcell) than, for example, with the Congo-punk which his musicians invented for More, more, more... future, a performance that Linyekula created at the same time as his work with Hoghe for the Kunsten Festival in Brussels. Sans-Titre is Hoghe’s most floating and most mobile piece up to now - for the very reason that Linyekula constantly breaks the lines of his body. It shows symbolically how the outcasts of society in Europe and Africa ignore one another. And this is in its origin a French theme, where a German audience could concentrate without any inhibitions on the encounter between two persons, an issue thematised here with great perspicacity.

Thomas Hahn
has been living in Paris for twenty years, is the France correspondent of the journal ballet-tanz and also works for the French culture journals Danser, Cassandre and Stradda.

Translation: Heather Moers
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
October 2009

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