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BERLIN INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL.

BERLIN INTERNATIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL HEBBEL THEATER, KOMISCHE OPER; AKADEMIE DER KUNSTE BERLIN, GERMANY AUGUST 12-29, 1999

Featuring workshops, panels, improvisation, seminars, and concerts, Berlin's twelfth annual "Dance in August" festival brought a stunning array of contemporary dance to near-capacity houses.

The four performances I attended featured choreographers with parallel interests (ensemble work, abstraction, performers onstage as themselves in between spates of dancing) but vastly different perspectives. The overall performance quality was high, and three female dancers had a riveting presence: La La La Human Steps's Yvonne Cutaran [Montreal]; Rosas's Ursula Robb [Brussels], and Rui Horta stage works's Bertha Bermudez [Munich].

Horta's The space of time was humorous and ominous in the same breath--not an easy accomplishment. Whereas Prague's Deja Donne company offered wonderfully comic sight gags in Aria Spinta, the humor in Horta's work is dance-based. Horta's style is a mix: modern, contact, acrobatics, capoeira, and what I can only call "Horta-isms." This segmented-fragmented movement idiom frequently features buckling knees as the center of attention, if not the center of gravity. It is juxtaposed with stretchy (but not languid), sensuous (but not touchy) movement--flexible and physical, but restrained in intent. The result is a fabulously contradictory, eclectic, innovative style. One example: Bermudez and Olga Cobos coupled hyperextended limbs with crumbling joints in a duet that was a paradoxical melange of helping and hindering mutual progress.

Horta brings his architectural background to bear on this task-oriented work. Detachable metal poles, portable screens, and a dolly-mounted film projector showing a hypnotic loop of a racing, white-capped current of water are central to making the stage a world. In conception and execution, this was an admirable performance--one of the best I've seen in many a moon.

Far from collective fragmentation, Rosas's beautiful Drumming, by choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, is quintessential ensemble euphoria [see Springdance, Dance Magazine, August, page 87]. In contrast to La La La Human Steps's Salt, by choreographer Edouard Lock, with its torqued, tense, densely gestural movement idiom, Drumming features straight arms, simple leaps and leg swings, and real running. It was redolent of Paul Taylor's Esplanade. The simple movement vocabulary followed complex spatial pathways that echoed the multi-layered percussion of Steve Reich's eponymous score.

Salt succeeds in accomplishing what choreographer-artistic director Lock set out to do--to create "a dark environment, a controlled gestural language." The work is charged with energy, kindled by the power of repetitive movements, adding up to the kinesthetic equivalent of emotion. Lock's gestures bespeak frustration, obsession, anger, despair, and yearning in ways that a 1990s club dancer--or a 1960s disco hippie--may have experienced these states in the course of a night on the dance floor.

Deja Donne's Aria Spinta is Salt's opposite--purposefully, delightfully anarchic, messy, silly, retro-tech, and anti-fashion. The dancers are a poster for thrift-shop chic--a new-vaudeville troupe of zanies doing old-time comedy. When they let loose, the humor (in the likes of Simone Sandroni, co-artistic director and master of physical comedy) and the dancing (especially a fine duet by Teodora Popova and Ondrej Vajsar) are top-drawer.

All four companies presented evening-length works without intermission. Although they could use some editing, all are well worth seeing.
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Title Annotation:Berlin, Germany
Author:GOTTSCHILD, BRENDA DIXON
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Words:522
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