Dance as the Poetry of Action and Negotiation – Dancer and Choreographer Antje Pfundtner
“Who am I? Who knows? I’ll do it again better.” A dance follows the question, a question follows the dance, until word and movement have formulaically taken on their own life and obsess into absurdity. Nevertheless, for the Hamburg dancer and choreographer Antje Pfundtner, the question about identity is always an act of communication, if not even one of negotiation. People like to talk today about complicity in contemporary dance. But this does not quite go to the core of the matter and is too narrowly conceived. For here nothing less than art itself is being negotiated, in particular dance, its laws, its forms of presentation and narration, its frictions with personally and commonly experienced history, until in the end dance has become an assurance of life.
Collaboration as motor
In the end there is an idea of identity, which is founded on collaboration. Collaboration forms the structure, is the engine of Pfundtner’s work, shapes the process, breathes the spirit of each piece. Whether in the inter-cultural exchange of the Chinese-German encounter production Outlanders, the artistic re-purposing of the discarded ideas of other choreographers in RES(E)T or the ironic self-discovery studies in a dance solo such as the recent TIM ACY.
In 2003 Pfundtner’s first solo work, eigenSinn (obstinacy; literally, own sense), soon became a worldwide success. At the time the then 27 year-old artist, who had studied modern dance from 1995 to 1999 at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Amsterdam, began working with language in her choreographies; ever since then she has been experimenting with words and narrative styles. She likes to target the spectator, upfront as is her charmingly stubborn way. She gets close up, confronts, poses questions, makes cunning sidesteps, and again distances herself. Then behind this still negotiable world there opens up another universe, in which poetry alone rules.
Magic in realism
Pfundtner believes in the intrinsic power of dance and of the theater, whose mechanisms she reflects on critically, and whose ancient languages of poetry and magic she re-negotiates by means of contemporary artistic strategy. Objects such as pen and paper, a cream siphon, periwigs and plush fur, which Pfundtner carefully sorts on a table in the solo piece TIM ACY are not mere signs, symbols or stand-ins. Her cosmos allows them their own life. Her magical realism ironically captures the pitfalls of everyday life and weaves them stubbornly further, creating evocations such as those that do their compulsory, affectionately regarded mischief in very normal neurotic life. But psychology interests the choreographer only so far as it paves the way to myths and fairy tales, with all their wondrous transformations, wistful promises and sardonic prophecies.
Myth and dance theater
The integration of the mythical in the everyday, with an unprejudiced and often unmasking eye, the animation of the inanimate, the ceremony of repetition, the ritualization of movement and language, are characteristic ingredients of Pfundtner’s dance theatre. Essential to her work and downright liberating in effect is also her sense of humor.
She is decidedly a precision worker, both as dancer and as choreographer. Dynamics and form are essential, aesthetically and thematically; dance never dissolves into a state of pure affect. And Pfundtner takes her time. She transforms the happening through duration. The attention with which she treats things, and lets them dwell in their own quality and poetry, previously had something about it of defiance, of Beckettian theatre, and in recent years has become more and more redolent of Pina Bausch’s inner landscapes. And Bausch too of course likes to rely on complicity with the audience.
Music: the key
Again and again Pfundtner goes beyond the boundaries of the representational and allows herself the liberty of abstraction. The key lies in the music. The composers that she incorporates in her choreographic work, and who often appear live (the Hamburg musician Sven Kacirek, the American composer-performer Dayton Allemann), contribute more than merely a well-rehearsed soundtrack. The pulse of their compositions permeates the whole piece, bears the arc of suspense from beginning to end, even when the music can be heard only sporadically. Pfundtner owes her development from acclaimed young talent to marvelously matured dance entertainer not least to these musical collaborations. In her most recent piece, VERTANZT (Danced), a duet with the dancer Silke Hundertmark, the protagonists interleave voice and song along with dance and word.
The author is a freelance writer and curator, and artistic director of the Tanzinitiative Hamburg.
Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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