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Review: In Purgatory by Michael S. Zerban,

Visit on 22 October 2017 (One-time guest performance)

THE VASE (Gala Moody, Michael Carter) at Move!, Krefeld, Fabrik Heeder


Photo by Francesca D’Ath


[translated from German]

In principle, a great story, these Krefeld Days for Modern Dance, which have very originally given themselves the title MOVE! If we assume that more than half of Krefeld’s population uses English as their mother tongue, of course everyone immediately knows what it’s all about. The municipal theatre in Krefeld is supplemented in a meaningful way with its exclusive ballet offer and, in addition, funding can be raised for the Heeder factory. This is already working for the 16th time. More or less.

For all the joy of cultural diversity, it has to be said that most of the names on the programme of the festival, which runs from 14 October to 25 November, are already familiar from the Tanzhaus NRW in Düsseldorf. Whether someone from Krefeld travels to Fabrik Heeder or Tanzhaus NRW should make little difference in terms of time. Quite different synergy models would be conceivable here.

Instead, there is a conceivably uncharitable design, for example, an evening slip for which a back-office manager is presumably responsible, who is not able to translate an English text into German, but instead inserts it into a German template. And more information is then not provided. Audience interest is accordingly modest. But who cares about the audience when the funding is secured? Yet the programme is certainly top-class. Like, for example, on a Sunday evening when the Compagnie Ofen performs its current piece The Vase. In German, it is quite profanely called Die Vase, a title that is completely misleading. It is based on an artistic event from 2005, when Kris Martin destroyed a blue and white Chinese porcelain vase over two metres high, reconstructed it and then exhibited it. He repeated the process over and over again. This inspired Gala Moody and Michael Carter not only to deal with the metaphor of the object, but also to apply it to a completely different situation. They drew on the play Purgatorio by Ariel Dorfman, which in turn deals with the story of Medea by Euripides.


photo by Francesca d’Ath


The atmosphere on the studio stage in the Heeder factory is as cool as can be. A clay-smeared black sheet on the floor, a few chairs, a table with technology, that’s all that’s needed on stage to portray the worst imaginable situation of all. Jason has deeply hurt Medea by trampling her love into the dirt, Medea has taken revenge by killing his beloved. So far, so bad. You part, hate each other, maybe one will still kill the other at some point and life goes on. But what if there is now a renewed rapprochement, so the vase has to be putty again? It is almost unthinkable what the Compagnie Ofen wants to dance there. It can hardly be done with theatrical illusion, says Carter, who is a member of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. In order not to get completely lost in emotionality, there have to be anchor points. So the two operate the stage equipment from the stage. This creates distance and breaks, also lengths.

At the beginning there is an incomprehensible spoken text by Moody that ends with the words “Have you said any words of love today? There are no words of love today”. It is not about the meaning of the text, but about its effect. The coldness enters the action. In the following hour, the man and the woman, as they are called in Dorfman, will fight for their salvation. Constant attempts at rapprochement fail again and again, the horror of what has happened is too great. The mental exposure is expressed in the undressing, which then does not reach the final consequence. Subtle movement language that seems to avoid dance, only to break out again. Pounding beats, created by Sascha Budimski, underpin the insoluble conflict. Even hysterical laughter, which is discharged every now and then in between, does not provide relaxation.

There is no redemption through forgiveness. But there is no other solution either. The conflict remains when Medea or she disappears. In the end, no sympathy remains for the dancers. They have conveyed all too impressively what their concern was. Many audience members leave the performance frustrated after having applauded in a friendly manner. It is a pity, because they have just experienced a very strong piece of dance without being able to recognise it.

The cultural office of the city of Krefeld really doesn’t cover itself with glory as organiser. Of all the festivals visited this year, MOVE! is the most uninspired and loveless. And no English name and no exclamation mark will help.

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