Irritated Habits

Three choreographies of the Folkwang Dance Studio

Tanzdrama, 5/2002
Irmela Kästner

„Kolme” is Finnish for „three”. The title of the new programme of the Folkwang Dance Studio is a tribute to their guest from Finland, choreographer Sanna Myllylahti. It indicates only the number of choreographies presented in one evening, which could not be more varied. Artistic director Henrietta Horn left the choreographic field to Myllylahti and two members of her company, Gabrio Gabrielli and Manuel Quero. She herself performs only as a dancer, full of vivacity and an infectious joy of performing in Quero’s musical and dramatic trip to the Baroque age, „The Maids of Honour”. Gabrielli’s amusing and touching social study „tripum - sonst” (tripum - else) is made of quite different stuff. And Myllylahti’s „Explaining Impossible” clearly integrates representational aspects into her work.

The wooden boxes lined up at the back of the stage look like birdcages through whose bars flicker the weak lights of tea warmer candles. There are people crouching on those boxes, regularly changing positions. Suddenly the melancholy mood is shattered. Sirens howl, dancers hurry across the stage, always back and forth and always passing each other, like a bustling intersection. Someone tells a story about observing a man he says looked so normal that he thought it unusual. A matter of opinion, one is tempted to say, when the dancers have finally moved their boxes to the front of the stage and now watch it from the perspective of the audience. Again and again, dancers step into the middle, stretch their limbs in expansive gestures whose circular movements often end at the centre of their own body. It takes a long time before the first two dancers meet in a duet. The choreographer succeeds in filtering the unusual from everyday routines by her variable spatial design and a finely-tuned play of light and shadow rather than by the monotonous, quickly exhausted dance sequences.

Gabrielli’s charming backyard episode „tripum - sonst” tells a straight story about the power of habit and the irritations felt when the familiar suddenly seems different. The laundry is hung up, trash is scattered around the dustbin. One after the other, the bizarre cast of this neighbourhood idyll are introduced: a brat on rollerblades, a track-suited sports freak who likes to pose in frilly gowns occasionally, a nagging old hag, a tramp who upon waking up loudly belches into the audience - types whose laid-back, though still, in this piece, slightly wooden performances remind us of works by Alain Platel or another Folkwang graduate, Samir Akika. But unlike them, Gabrielli does not forego the moral of his tale. For all of a sudden the everyday chaos is transformed into a dream of a black Madonna whom everyone follows in a hypnotic procession. When the apparition is gone, the tramp is lying on the ground, strangely lifeless. Suddenly even the nagging hag expresses concern. The moment of terror doesn’t last, for the man soon moves and belches loudly. For one moment Gabrielli holds up the mirror of its own dubious charity to society, finding a humorous and charming narrative form for his tale.

Quero’s „The Maids of Honour” revels in luxurious robes and gestures. The company seems to feel right at home in the dancing here. Taffeta rustles, characters strike up bold poses, quarrel for the most advantageous position in a group picture, all to music by Georg Friedrich Händel. In the darkness, men and women alike gather up their billowing skirts, race around in wild obsession, lightning and thunder roaring from the loudspeakers. Quero finds a contemporary dance language tentatively approaching the exalted effusiveness and simultaneous longing for death of the baroque mind. His choreography shows musicality and unity, returning again and again to an endearingly powerful and ironic, tongue-in-cheek visual language.

70 years on in Essen, Folkwang Tanzstudio choreographies are still avant-garde.

A closer look at German expressive dance


Die Zeit , July 4, 2002
Evelyn Finger

An enthusiasm to represent paired with a sense for the ironic, has obviously out lived the master himself (Kurt Jooss) as the combination that nourishes the Folkwang Tanzstudio today. With an evening length programme entitled „kolme”, the company recently presented three premiers, all of which revolve around the pleasures of getting others to dance. ...

The Folkwang choreographers govern the playful art of appropriating reality perfectly: In Gabrio Gabrielli’s piece wildly mixes the earnest with the comical, banality with craziness, while his colleague Manuel Quero, also one of the company’s 11 dancers, flirts so brazenly with the audience in his baroque parody „The Maids of Honour” that one frequently questions what he’s actually sending up: courtly coquetry, craving for prestige in general, or, perhaps even oneself.

The theatricality of human behaviour is highlighted in exuberant dance cannons; we’re embroiled in a choreographic pandemonium where, nevertheless, there is room for the sublime and the simply beautiful.

It is this combination of nonchalance and conscious form, which makes the Folkwang Tanzstudio so special.

Folkwang with Finnish numbers

NRZ, June 22, 2002
Dagmar Schenk-Güllich

Two Folkwang choreographers and a guest from Finland have created the Folkwang Tanzstudio’s latest programme. It’s entitled &bdquop;kolme”, which is quite simply the Finnish word for „three”, and presents a spectrum of consistently excellent works that include a backyard social miniature, a Baroque study and a coded work of self-exploration.

The baroque piece „The maids of honour“ from Folkwang choreographer and dancer, Manuel Quero, was outstanding. Ladies of society are his subject and wonderfully affected and over mannered ladies at that.

„Explaining impossible” is the title of the work from the Finnish choreographer, Sanna Myllylahti, which didn’t seem so inexplicable at all. It is a sensitive work that circles around self-exploration, society and loneliness.

Gabrio Gabrielli takes a much less complicated approach: With plenty of humour and pep, he depicts a classic backyard scene complete with laundry clotheslines and people meeting up for a gossip. His delightful characters and cheeky dances proved totally enjoyable.