In the Vortex of Ecstasy

Henrietta Horn presents “Itambé” at the Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen

Tanz Affiche 6/99
Andreas Meyer

This was a première in more senses than one: With the first performance of „Itambé” at this year’s Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, Henriette Horn also introduced herself as the new director of the Folkwang Dance Studio. The increased pressure on the choreographer, however, had an extremely positive effect on her work. With „Itambé”, Henrietta Horn presented her richest and most successful dance piece so far. Ecstasy, myth, religion, and rhythm provide the associative cornerstones of „Itambé”, a word which, as Henrietta Horn puts it, „by itself evokes associations of mystery, Indian culture and ritual.” And the artists makes good on her promise, for the piece which lasts a little less than one hour is indeed mysterious in the most exciting way.

From the darkness of the stage, the sounds of drums and meditative chants float into the auditorium. Next one sees Henrietta Horn’s hands beating the drum, then her whole figure and at last the complete company. The stage is a simple black space, the set design austere. The only props are a few stools covered in black which double as percussion instruments. The deliberate simplicity of the stage is set in impressive contrast to the wealth of forms and expressions offered by Henrietta Horn’s dance language. „Everyday” activities like walking, running, or getting up serve as starting points from which she guides the dancers into recurring passages of pure dance. She needs nothing but focused and extremely precise single movements to generate the emotionally dense atmospheres that are so typical of Henrietta Horn’s work. She knows how to pack the force of pain into a single turning of the head or the movement of a hand as well as how to focus the eruptive force of bodies in ecstatic abandon into powerful, expressive movements.

She is also very adept at detaching dancers from the group, letting them dance alone, as a couple or a trio, with or against each other. This leaves no room for monotony at all. Instead, images emerge whose multi-fragmented complexity sometimes brings the eye to the limits of perception. The choreographer deliberately contrasts such moments of visual „overkill” with spaces of rest in which the audience is allowed to recover. When a couple of dancers enter into a quite funny and brilliantly performed fight over a stool, for example, or when Henrietta Horn and two of her dancers sit down at the edge of the stage, drumming, while nothing else dances but their six hands on the percussion stools. But this is never anything but the calm before the next storm or the finale, in which the choreographer gathers her company’s dancing power into an increasingly delirious dance whose last movement, when all sounds have ceased, slowly reverberates in the silence.

Presse Bremen, March 2000

Rainer Donsbach

From darkness to light: Before they even see a thing, the audience are sucked into the play. Soft singing which gradually becomes polyphonic. The sound of drums swelling into a beat. Only then do tentative spotlights appear on stage. They focus the attention of the audience. On the only thing that counts today: on movement. The dramaturgy of the opening is a good example of the structure of „Itambé” at the Theater im Fischerhafen (TiF) with which the Folkwang Dance Studio and its choreographer Henrietta Horn presented a highlight of „Tanz Bremen 2000”.

Westdeutsche Zeitung, Recklinghausen, May 7, 1999

Bettina Trouwborst

The young choreographer is a master of building up suspense over long periods of time. She follows strict formal principles in the use of space and choreography, while the bodies express themselves with great emotional power as if their pent-up energy was released in a dance storm.

NRZ, Recklinghausen, May 8, 1999

M.-Georg Müller

What makes this original mixture of light and shadow, high and low unusual is that every emotion is delicately suggested, lightly sketched. No pose, no hunt becomes exaggerated, unnatural or dramatic. Everything flows by itself, though no one knows where the journey will end.