Raimund Hoghe 20 Years, 20 Pieces

„Cantatas“ (2013); Photo: Rosa Frank
Photo (detail): Rosa Frank

Much has changed in Raimund Hoghe’s own work in his two decades of stage work. But he remains eternally faithful to his stage designer, his photographer and his most sensual muse, music.

Music is as transient as dance, yet it is inextinguishable. It endures time and stands above it. Polyphonies, symphonies, songs and rhythms of the most diverse epochs and cultures can be performed or played back here and now. A few choreographers are to be found among the melomanes who dig for forgotten treasures. One is Raimund Hoghe. As a schoolboy, he was already making regular trips to Paris to get hold of chansons by Bécaud, Piaf and Aznavour. In the 20 Jahre - 20 Tage festival held in November 2012, he presented an insight into and survey of his world as an artist and human being. It is no coincidence that he chose to call his twentieth stage creation Cantatas. One cannot imagine Hoghe’s career without his organic and intellectual relationship to music.

Josef Schmidt, Maria Callas, Judy Garland

The solo Meinwärts (Towards Myself) of 1994, in which Raimund Hoghe took to the stage himself for the first time, was about the tenor Josef Schmidt. In 2007, he devoted what is currently his most recent solo, 36, avenue Georges Mandel, to Maria Callas. A 2012 performance of Cantatas featured a young soprano together with Hoghe and seven other performers. Here, for the first time, the music did not come only from Hoghe’s extensive record collection. And that work was followed in 2013 by a tribute to Judy Garland: AnEvening with Judy. Three pieces about vocalists and their tumultuous fates. Raimund Hoghe is changing by remaining true to himself. His scenographer Luca Giacomo Schulte and his photographer Rosa Frank are fixed stars in his cosmos: “Apart from Luca, nobody is there when I rehearse with the dancers. I don’t present work in progress to friends to get feedback. I talk to Luca or watch the rehearsals he has filmed.“

His anniversary „Cantatas“

Yet in the beginning was the sound. The rehearsals of Sans titre (Undocumented), a duo with Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula first performed in 2009, began by lengthy stints of listening to music. Hoghe’s penchant for melomania and his touch of Romanticism will probably continue to be the basis of his pieces for the next twenty years. His 2002 creation, Young People Old Voices for thirteen dancers, his largest cast to date, marks a development in his work in its encounters with new personalities and reunions with old acquaintances. His anniversary work Cantatas, featuring Bausch performer Finola Cronin, is the latest example of this, which bears out his statement: "I start from the dancers, their story, and their experiences. Everyone is different and everyone respects the others. That is something I find important.“ Hoghe and Linyekula could hardly be more different. But they share a will to perform poetic acts in which they put the fragility of their own bodies at the service of people who are suffering. It was in this piece that Hoghe bared his back for the last time, at least for now.

The lost back

An overpowering influence on the reception of his works, usually against his will, is disappearing more and more from the field of vision. Der Buckel (The Hump) was the title of his self-portrait filmed for the WDR in 1998. In his first pieces, he bared his back, using it as a symbol. It was a litmus test for the way society viewed its outsiders. It was not well received in Germany, as it seemed too explicit an admonition. In France, the dominant reception was purely aesthetic. There, Rosa Frank’s photograph of Hoghe’s bare back was displayed on a large poster in front of the Centre Pompidou and became a natural part of the urban art scene. At the time, he commented: “For me, art means putting something existential at stake. When I take off my T‐shirt on stage and show my back, it has nothing to do with exhibitionism or therapy, but with the form of the body beyond common pigeonholing.“

Hoghe 2.0

Over two decades, Hoghe’s relationship to his own body has quite clearly changed. Today, it is no longer its form that matters, but how it moves. In Cantatas, the performers pace up and down the square of the stage, with Hoghe at the front, defining a marching speed not previously seen in his works. On the contrary: “My long pieces are like a journey together, stepping through time together. That leads to a direct connection with the audience,“ he said in 2011 when he became the first artiste associé of the Montpellier Danse festival.

Another aspect is that Hoghe now has a sense of humour! In the second part of Cantatas, he stages himself in burlesque, stirring images with Finola Cronin, and the two of them evoke the good old days with Pina Bausch. There is a lot of self-irony here. Gender jokes pervade the duo he created with Takashi Uneo back in in 2011, Pas de deux/Schritte für zwei, in which Hoghe puts Uneo’s black and gold kimono sash on his head and flourishes the white rose Uneo had previously given to him as if it were a cigarette holder. A pair of sunglasses makes him into a narcissistic diva.

Hoghology

Hoghe used to write himself. Now people write about him. The publication of three works within a year speaks for itself. In 2012, Schreiben mit Körpern (Writing with Bodies) was published by the publishing house Kieser Verlag. That was followed in 2013 by an opulent book of photographs, published by the Arts Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia, and the first foreign work about him, Throwing the Body into the Fight, in which performers and constant companions put their relationship to Hoghe into words. The British subjectivity of these sensitive and often poetic glimpses of the man and his work makes them refreshing, so that a German edition, too, would certainly be attractive.

Recommended reading:

„Throwing the Body into the Fight – A Portrait of Raimund Hoghe.“
Mary Kate Connolly, Intellect Live, 2013; 140 pages, in English
www.intellectbooks.com; www.thisisLiveArt.co.uk

„Schreiben mit Körpern: Der Choreograph Raimund Hoghe“
(„Writing with Bodies: The choreographer Raimund Hoghe") Katja Schneider (editor), Thomas Betz (editor), Rosa Frank (photographer)
Kieser Verlag, 2012

„Raimund Hoghe“
A book with photographs by Rosa Frank, Luca Giacomo Schulte, Jacqueline Chambord, Raimund Hoghe
Edited by the Arts Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia
Verlag Theater der Zeit, 2013