Pure dance, obsessed frenzy

ZOLLVEREIN. The Folkwang Tanzstudio performs Rodolpho Leoni’s breathtaking piece “If and only if”

NRZ – Essen 12/06
Dagmar Schenk-Güllich

A purist among choreographers, a man who last brought a piece to the Choreographisches Zentrum four years ago and whose work made a lasting impression then: It was “Inherent Simplicities” which he presented, set to music by American minimalist Steve Reich. It was a dance marathon, an obsessed frenzy, every man for himself. He has not moved very far from this, Brazilian Rodolpho Leoni who made his debut appearance, as it were, as the new dance professor at the Folkwang dance talent hotbed. He created “If and only if” for the Folkwang Tanzstudio and it was this company, the majority of whose members are Folkwang graduates, who performed the work - a breathtaking première.

Breathtaking partly because the dancers perform at top speed for about an hour: running, moving every limb of their bodies, twitching, leaping. None of the movements is clearly definable, every movement consists of a cascade of sequences, there is no plot, no psychological moments, no emotions that could be put into words, and yet it is fascinating dancing. Pure dance which tolerates no props apart from the 14 large, semi-transparent boards surrounding the stage in a semi-circle and offering quiet corners for the dancers to take an all-too-brief breather. It is a kind of dancing that begins over and over again, makes lighting-quick, strength-sapping grabs, that demands supreme speed and endurance, in which every split second is codified. It is played out before our eyes like an eternal flow, a many-layered rhythmic sequence, a “symbolic picture of life” as the artistic director of Pact Zollverein, Stefan Hilterhaus, describes it. The movement vocabulary with its extremely detailed movement sequences was developed by the dancers of the FTS together with Robert Skatulla, Hyun-Jin Kim, Jana Griess and Rodolpho Leoni and is highly original and unique in the German dance landscape. Leoni could do without music for his dance. He added samba music only at the very last minute, explains Stefan Hilterhaus. Rodolpho Leoni who studied at the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance in New York and has been working as a freelance choreographer and modern dance teacher in Germany since 1988 is a valuable addition to the Folkwang Tanzstudio with its directors Pina Bausch and Henrietta Horn which has always been very open to new trends. “If and only if” is another great success for the choreographer who received the Deutscher Produzentenpreis 2005/2006 (German Producer Award) this year.

Dancing is pleasure

WAZ – Essen 12/06
Bettina Trouwborst

…wordless communication is Rodolpho Leoni’s passion and the Brazilian has never been as eloquent as in his new production “If and only if” with ten dancers of the Folkwang Tanzstudio. The première at PACT Zollverein was packed…

…the order of the day is casualness: wide trousers, wide shirts in shades of grey-blue. A couple takes possession of the space at the relaxed pace of a leisurely walk. Dancing is pleasure. Leoni’s lanky elegance radiates pure joy of life. And yet the air is electric: Swift as an arrow the Asian dancer’s arm shoots out like a knife to slap her partner. C’est la vie - her partner dances on, unimpressed. Another female dancer joins them in a bouncing leap, and then the three of them whiz across the stage like elementary particles…

K-West 01/07
Melanie Suchy

…First “if”: nerves tense, the impulse follows quickly. “Then”. Brief relief, passing on the tension. Rodolpho Leoni’s dancers are like fibres. There is a unique kind of ease twitching around their bones, hovering between heaven and earth, physical gravity and emotional buoyancy, without ever settling down. Between if and then. He developed the choreography of this indefatigable movement circuit - after “kess beton”, “baud” and “speak” - not with his own little company, but together with the ten professional members of the Folkwang Tanzstudio. In addition, this Brazilian-born citizen of Wuppertal, winner of the Deutscher Produzentenpreis 2005 (German Producer Award) is the brand-new professor of modern dance at the Folkwang Hochschule. Accompanied by Brazilian music, “if and only if” celebrates a cultivated joy of dancing, avoiding all clichés, posturing, and expressions of sentiment. What counts are the present moment and the next one, deciding in favour of this (and not that) within split seconds. Thinking without reflecting.”…

The magic of possibilities

The Folkwang Tanzstudio Essen gives a celebrated guest performance at the sold-out Kammerspiele

WAZ - Bochum 02/07
Sven Westemströer

…at the crossroads
It is similar with the supremely gifted Folkwang dancers from Essen: One finds in “If and only if” a plethora of these hidden moments which must be observed closely and decoded. An endless circling of the dancers around each other evolves between huge grey brushwood walls.

Apparently they move without recognizable aim and yet accident throws them together…

…But: Nothing about this performance is “accidental”. However casual the individual scenes may appear on stage, there is a precise plan behind all this. Every snapshot, every tiniest movement is rehearsed down to the last detail. Choreographer Rodolpho Leoni is just as happy to add infectious Latin-American rhythms to this as gently dripping rain.
It seems that the Bochum audience has long since grown to like the dancers from Essen who intend to present their pieces regularly at the Königsallee from now on. In any case, the cheers and applause at the end just wouldn’t stop…