Yet more Schlemmer creations graced the stage of Akademie der Künste on the final night of the 100 Jahre Bauhaus opening festival earlier this week. First up was “stick dance” (or Staber Tanz in German) which, visually, after the Triadic Ballet, is one of Schlemmer’s most iconic works. With wooden sticks fixed to his chest, arms and legs, performer Cesc Gelabert performed the choreography that was reconstructed in 1974 by German choreographer Gerhard Bohner, using original notes by Schlemmer.
To the sound of live, minimal piano notes and symbol clashes, Gelabert manipulates the sticks that are intricately interlocked. These cumbersome props appear to take on a life of their own, as the performer is almost invisible dressed all in black against the similarly dark background. Therefore, without the presence of his face and human features, the sticks become like a reduced form of the human, allowing the audience to observe the base movement functions of the joints without getting emotionally involved with a dancer on stage. It is impressive to see Gelabert seamlessly wield these expansive sticks, which make his arm span take up almost the whole width of the stage, physicalising the “imaginary lines” dance teachers often ask their students to think of when encouraging them to reach beyond the confines of their body, and out into space.
Schlemmer’s choreography moves from the angular to the circular in the following performance of “hoop dance”, which, as the name suggests, features a variety of different sized 2D wooden hoops. Again dressed all in black, Gelabert dances with his props, making them appear to float celestially through space, like optical illusions. The most mirage-like moment is when the performer takes 2 sets of concentric hoops, which he spins around his arms, the constant rapid motion makes them appear to be like 3D cones gliding through space.
The final offering of the eclectic evening was not dance at all (though this statement could be debated by non-traditionalists), and not even by Schlemmer, but in fact by modernist painter Wassily Kandinsky. His renowned “Pictures at an Exhibition” – with iconic music by Modest Mussorgsky – transformed the Akademie der Künste’s stage into a colourful theatre utopia, and brought his paintings to life in an unimaginable way.
This reconstruction by the Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine in Italy, saw a crew of young adults manipulate various geometric forms, scenography’s, and backgrounds to collage together triangles, squares, semi-circles and other basic shapes, creating intricate, complex scenes that you’d expect to see at an art gallery rather than a theatre. Illuminated by stage lights, it is amazing how these animated objects incited so much joy, emotion and laughter in the audience – who knew a slow colourful square moving in time to music could be so funny? But alongside this humorous touch, viewing the performance also raised some interesting artistic questions about what we view as dance and choreography – after all the stage crew had to execute some pretty tricky movements to slot all the scenography together correctly and in time with the music. And what is dance/choreography if not the organisation/planning of movement?