5: ECHO

Beutler’s contemporary piece echoes with dance’s past ****

from: Volkskrant 11/07/2014

Sometimes you need background knowledge about a work to assess its true value. For her new choreographic work performed as part of Julidans festival, Nicole Beutler drew on two important examples of Dutch dance from the 1970s: dancer Ellen Edinoff and her husband Koert Stuyf’s radical – often silent – solos performed at Amsterdam’s Carre theatre; and Bianca van Dillen’s sextet Vermiljoen, with its steps, leaps and kaleidoscopic figures around a circular form. But Beutler wasn’t about to do a remake. Using photos, reviews, notebooks and the scant video footage as her reference material, she has made a contemporary work that echoes the past.

Stage designer Theun Mosk has encapsulated this in a set with real depth, a gleaming grey space in which circular projections (in vermilion) appear on drawn sheer drapes, forming a lens into the distance – or the past. Sometimes we glimpse shadows behind the veils: of times past, or of Kelly Hirina in her magnificent opening solo, proudly naked as she slowly envelops herself in diaphanous white fabric.

She plays with her pink-feather headdress as she quotes cutup lines from reviews of Edinoff's work: 'There’s no such thing as lost time' and 'Skin and muscle; steel and rubber; dust and walnut wood.' Those who don’t make the link to historical dance criticism see a ranting but nonetheless intriguing dancer. Those in the know see a strong woman, conscious of her legendary predecessor, self-contained as she sways around in her capacious strip of fabric.

One’s full attention is required for the transition into the second act with its six dancers; 5: ECHO is not yet a unified whole. The three men and three women glide about, not entirely steady on their feet or in their steps. The brightly coloured costumes contrast with the grey surroundings. Only when film footage appears on the backdrop from a late version of Vermiljoen do we make the connection: these dancers are performing variations on the original dance figures.

Although this gives the leaps and floral patterns an origin, there is a lack of character and conviction – something that can still come if the dancers dare to embrace the work more fully. The past must not be permitted to become a millstone. At the start of this week, the Israelis Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor also presented a reinterpretation at Julidans – of the 1987 piece Two Room Apartment. They fully engaged with the duet in a playful way, and the underlying subject of drawing boundaries gained real topicality with the recent flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities. It lent the piece a sense of urgency that would benefit 5: ECHO.

© Annette Embrechts translation: Steve Green