5: ECHO

Hirina is both medium and muse, which she projects with great conviction ***

from: Theaterkrant 8/7/2014

In her ongoing exploration of the history of dance Nicole Beutler has already presented her own take on two existing choreographies: one by Michel Fokine, in her 2007/2008 production Les Sylphides; the other by Lucinda Childs, in the 2010 piece 2: Dialogue with Lucinda. For 5: Echo Beutler has turned her attention to Dutch dance history.

For this piece, Beutler drew on the work of Koert Stuyf and Ellen Edinoff. No video recordings exist of their legendary shows of radical and experimental work performed in the 1970s and 80s at the Dutch National Ballet and Carré theatre, so Beutler had to make do with descriptions and photographs. She uses dialogue spoken by the dancer Kelly Hirina to convey how powerful an impact Ellen Edinoff had on audiences of the day. ‘By simply standing there’ Hirina becomes the single point in space, front stage and behind the microphone, that draws in everyone’s attention. Either naked – but for high heeled shoes, a feather headdress and a shawl in her hand – or veiled by a transparent robe, she speaks, describes, repeats and transforms. Hirina is both medium and muse, something which she projects across the footlights with great conviction. Only later does she vacate her place to dance and take possession of the space. The other five dancers draw open the translucent scrims behind her, opening up the stage and revealing the circle at its centre. This is where Hirina dances; initially she is tentative and restrained, but once freed from her heels, barefooted, she becomes increasingly free and wild.

A spellbinding set change by Theun Mosk connects the two sections. Five semi-transparent scrims are hung one behind the other in sequence. The projection of a red circle at increasing sizes on these translucent screens creates a three-dimensional image that imprints itself on the retina.

The second section of the evening is based on Bianca van Dillen’s 1978 choreography Vermiljoen and could hardly be more different. Six dancers walk in formations around the space, adding simple movements to their steps. It takes a while to spot Hirina among them now that she has discarded her headdress and become part of the homogenous group. The single point of focus in space has been subsumed by the whole, of which the circle has now become the centre. Skips and twists gradually further increase the vocabulary and a little later the group fragments into a variety of formations. When footage of Bianca van Dillen’s original choreography, filmed from above, starts being projected, the movements in it flow over to the dancers in and around the circle on the stage floor. Once the film footage has been replaced by shifting kaleidoscopic shapes, the variations on geometric patterns are executed by increasingly large bodies, and gradually the material takes on a different character, culminating in the combative poses of an Eastern movement style. A reddish-orange vermillion glow fills the stage.

Nicole Beutler has drawn her inspiration from a rich source in Dutch dance history. And it will be familiar even to those who have not seen Bianca van Dillen’s work because her work clearly exerted a powerful influence on subsequent generations. Beutler’s choice is therefore an interesting one, but it is not entirely clear how the final section of her choreography can be traced back to the original. The brightly coloured short trousers, shirts and long socks, as well as elements such as the kaleidoscope, appear to have been the result of primarily aesthetic choices. Something else that doesn’t help is Gary Shepherd’s sound score, its solid beats sometimes pounding through the carefully timed movements of the dancers, making it appear difficult to build up a constant rhythm.

© Marcelle Schots