5: ECHO

Polished reimagining of the power of the past ***

from: Trouw 11/07/2014

Although reinterpretations of existing work are common in theatre, one seldom encounters them in the modern dance world. Choreographer Nicole Beutler thinks that’s a pity, because good art always builds on what preceded it.
She has previously linked her own work to historical choreographies – to the extent that she might now be considered the voice of dance history in the Netherlands. In preparation for 5: ECHO Beutler, working in collaboration with ICK Amsterdam, immersed herself in the Dutch modern dance scene of the 1970s through work by Bianca van Dillen and by Koert Stuyf and Ellen Edinoff. These artists had been invigorated by the ideas of dance pioneers such as Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, and by the ‘anything goes’ attitude of the era’s avant-garde New York avant-garde.

Beutler’s two-acter partially succeeds in translating the revolutionary potency of these historical works into a present day theatre-based experience. Kelly Hirina’s solo is overly polished in comparison with the gesamtkunstwerks made by Koert Stuyfs and his muse Ellen Edinoff. The words spoken by Hirina are a collage of newspaper articles about the artists published over a number of years. They evoke the past in a cut-and-paste style that becomes increasingly poetic as it progresses. Where the solo succeeds is in Hirina's expression of Edinoff’s urge to move – full of fiery passion, naked beneath fluttering translucent fabric. The set design certainly warrants praise. Following the solo, as a prelude to the group dance from the 1978 work Vermiljoen by Bianca van Dillen, a red circle projected on the floor comes to life as semi-transparent gauze drapes are drawn across the stage, duplicating the circle of light to create a tunnel, a wormhole in space and time.

Beutler has transformed Van Dillen’s abstract-minimalist piece for women, using a mixed cast and fresh, bright blocks of colour instead of the original red. Beutler’s approach is equally fresh when it comes to building on the ritualistic aspects of a dance that demands complete and utter concentration to avoid losing count. There’s also plenty of room for Beutler’s fascination for geometry, with patterns of duos and trios moving in unison, in figures derived from the same circle. The essence of Van Dillen’s work remains intact: the collective collaborates within the limitations of the form, and in the process give a face to the individual. Faces from yesteryear, including Van Dillen herself, attended the premiere. And they saw that their echo was good.

© Sander Hiskemuller translation: Steve Green