Orsolya Kelemen: Insect, bird, hat, coat

Memories of the I. Monodance Festival

According to the introducing words of the organizers, the aim of the I. Monodance festival in Dunaújváros was to provide an opportunity for solo productions otherwise falling into oblivion. Though solo dance festivals are organized elsewhere too, the Monodance Festival with photo exhibition, dance films and critics seminar is the first festival of this kind. It is a great opportunity to popularize the genre in a town where the traditions of dance go far back and the renovated theatre of Dunaújváros can be the centre of dance life for three days. Undoubtly it is a bit risky to organize a festival on the last days of the year, in spite of the fact that during this time there are not many programs either in Budapest or in the country. The date proved to be a good choice as many people visited the performances from Dunaújváros and other towns.

The vivid palette of the festival included the older and the younger generation as well. We could see the cross-cut of the national choice and virtually all those artists were present who had made solo pieces in the previous years. The performances of the festival represented the genre of dance in a comprehensive way and this diversity can be the emblem of the three-day long program in many respects.

Solo dance – compared to other genres of dance – requires patience and openness from the audience. The performances are usually not coherent, linear narratives, but they can be interpreted through the atmosphere, the narrative elements of a world of peculiar atmosphere radiating from the stage. The performances contain elements of several other genres too, even if we cannot solve every single detail.

In case of dance the dancers’ body is the means and object of representation, and in a solo performance this can be applied so much the more. The dancer shows something, but it always implies his/her own revelation too. The dancer’s ego is in a complex and complicated interrelationship with the role. If we can talk about roles at all. This is an explicitly self-reflexive genre, the dancers’ relation to themselves and to the world is demonstrated from moment to moment. Mono dance is nothing else but the dancers’ constant reflection to themselves, that is continuous self-representation. The desire of self-revelation and manifestation, and its possibilities place the genre in an unusual frame. The communication or incommunication of the EGO is in the centre of the performances, even if we don’t see clear dance on stage. Every muscle, vibration, wrinkle of the dancer works as a sign, thus the body itself becomes a work of art.

In case of solo productions the performer and the choreographer are often the same person. This was the case in the program of this festival: most of the performers were their own choreographers. On the basis of what we have seen, we can reinforce our presuppositions that solo dance does not only require a dancer and a choreographer. It requires The Dancer. The dancer him/herself. A really exciting performance does not only require thorough professional training and accomplished talent but representative, charismatic personalities as well. Their performance, presence on stage is genuine only from that time on when they cannot be separated from the production, when we can envision the performance then and there with that very performer, that is they are not interchangeable.

At the I. Monodance Festival the audience was the jury, and the most votes and the award of the festival was given to Finita la Commedia company. Ferenc Fehér performed two pieces, but this is probably not the only reason the audience liked him so much. Besides Exit-Kaspar variations he also performed a new piece called Book of Man and he saved the official program as the next artist, Krisztián Gergye did not arrive in Dunaújváros because of the snowstorm. Both performances are choreographed by O. Caruso. The company’s performances consist of very similar elements and movements. In Fehér’s production the worn small hall with the mysterious lights filtering in from beneath the door, with the electric switches, with the white radiators, has become part of the scenery. It is like a deserted station, where the passenger is waiting in a hat, with a walking-stick and a suitcase. Fehér’s face is painted white. There is something burlesque-like in his stage appearance, his mimicry and some of his movements recall the world of silent films. He often looks at his audience oddly, making grimaces, with a malicious grin on his face, and these gestures further increase the comic effect. In case of the most upsetting stage happenings this self-ironic smile is still on his face resulting in a strange mixture of aesthetical qualities. In one of the most important scenes of Exit, after the quiet, hesitating suspense, he begins to spin his walking-stick madly, as if it were some weapon. His shadow is cast on the wall, so he seems to be fighting with his own shadow, his dark, instinctive ego. Then what we see is a kind of transubstantiation, as the man provided with objects is getting naked. As if we saw the evolution backwards, when the passenger getting rid of his clothes, social conventions, gets rid of human motions and features as well and becomes more and more fierce, brutal but defenceless at the same time. As if getting off his clothes meant his dehumanization, as if his real self were only seen without clothes. This defenceless, downcast Being devoid of human features is painfully human at the same time. The result and object of stage happenings is the body itself, the most genuine manifestation of it. Perfect self-representation.

Andrea Ladányi’s performance, Tutyila is a kind of metamorphosis, transubstantiation. Ladányi shows many of her faces during the twenty-minute long piece. She chose very intense music: sacred music all though the performance, but these are different works in tone, one of them is European, a rather dissonant one, whereas the other seems to be from Latin America. In this sacred space Ladányi appears, like a mythical bird goddess, in a shining, tight costume covered with feathers. This bird is her metaphor. It seems divine as its face is not human-like and it is not clear at first whether it is a male or a female. It is attractive and repulsive at the same time. Ladányi’s muscular body radiates strength and severity but it is remarkably graceful and fragile too. She startles and fascinates the audience, her movements are glamorous and provocative. Ladányi dances her own requiem, she performs the death of the swan with an ironic gesture. The fringes and feathers covering her face are removed, there is no more costume on her body. She is a goddess at one moment, then a broken-winged bird, locked in a cage at the next, or a bare chicken deprived of its feathers. There is no such movement she could not dance, yet she tries to rise, but in vain. She concentrates on the task with every single muscle, but the slippery, greasy substance covering the front of the stage prevents her from doing so. The oil covers her body entirely and thus she is shining more and more. Her agony graws halo around her, so it is her glorification as well. The Thousand-faced Bird Goddess is immortal. In this version of Tutyila there is a man who is a supporting character actually and the performance would work without him. Though the man gets in the spotlight, Ladányi remains in the centre, watching his reactions. It’s obvious that the man depends on her. The presence of the other supposes relationship between the dancers, though there is no apparent communication between them.

We meet the Other Character in Gábor Katona’s choreography, After rain. The Other Character (Kitty Fejes) has very important dramaturgical role, her presence is essential, though it is not exactly obvious who the main figure is. The woman with red hair is the centre of the stage and the man tries to make approaches to her awkwardly and clumsily. In the end the woman immerses in the water dipping on the verge of the stage like the mythical stag that tempts her pursuer to follow her and the pursuer can’t escape from her anymore. Then she leaves the stage and we are not certain whether she will be available for the man sometime or she has only showed the way. The choreography is full of ideas and very spectacular. The water is shining just as the silver buckets or the woman’s red hair is shining. Katona is approaching the woman, but he always loses his balance, and is bound to step down on the floor. This uncertainty, though part of the choreography, seems defects of technique. What does it suppose to mean if a non-solo production is also part of the program at a solo festival? Where can the line be drawn between solo and non-solo performances?
There was a dancer who didn’t even dance at the festival. Szúnyog László Kocsis’ performance attracts attention with the dancer’s motionlessness. Thanks to his motionlessness the moving of his smallest muscle becomes visible. The most successful scenes of Day-Labourer are when Szúnyog moves his fingers mechanically, like an instinct its feelers. Sharp blades are fastened to his feet emphasizing his insect-like nature. Every vibration of the outside world is important for him, he stops and listens, concentrates and looks around, tries to realise his position, like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s novel. This exciting spell is broken when the human insect suddenly stands up and begins to move, he starts off, steps off the mound and takes off his masks. He throws away the hat covering his face, he takes off the blades put on his face and becomes quite human. The way he takes leads to a piece of rope. There is a sack at the end of the rope with the prey, raw meat, in it. The ending can be interpreted in many ways, maybe too many. The insect becomes a predatory human being who is desperately waiting for the answer of the outside world: Is this what you want? Is this I have been fighting for? Or he cries quietly: Here it is, I have found it. At the beginning of the framed performance, Szúnyog sits in the first row of the auditorium wearing outdoor clothes. He must be noticed as he is in the spotlight and he goes backstage from here when the music starts. If it symbolises, he is one of us, he belongs to us and we, who are sitting there, are the same, then it is a nice idea, but he sits back there at the end of the performance in his costume, suggesting he is not the same any more, so he should clap his hands too or leave the stage without applause. In silence. As we took our seats at the beginning. Without Guns ‘n’ Roses.

Gerzson Péter Kovács’ performance is also about a symbolic way, but of an internal one. There is projected background behind Gerzson. We are moving forward along a corridor, but before reaching the person sitting at the back, the film cuts off and we return to the beginning and everything starts over again. The dancer remains motionless for a while, though his face is not silent, he is concentrating and focusing his attention. He is making attempts, he is awkwardly looking for the way of expressing himself. This attempt may remind us of folk dance most of all, but there are no entire, clear steps. His steps are discontinuous. He starts from the beginning again and again. He tries something else, a little waist shaking, some hip twisting, but this is not what he wants. We can suppose that the figure on the screen is Gerzson himself, and later we can make sure of it. Thus the exciting uncertainty hiding in the performance stops and we can get close to Gerzson’s face in the film. He is the one who is sitting at the back of the corridor. In the end he gets as far as he wanted to get and finds himself. The joke of the performance is that his steps are still discontinuous and he falls back to motionlessness. Coda means to finish. Is there no way to go on?

In Csaba Horváth’s performance, Metropolitan icons, the film projected on the white screen has a very important role. Sacred atmosphere, white, sterile space, Bach’s music and sheep standing about on the rails, angels playing the trumpet, urban emblems such as the underground, animals, a monkey looking at panel blocks of flats, thin dummies and a paunchy, bearded man in the swimming-pool. Csaba Horváth also has a partner, Bori Blaskó, who is not really a dance partner, but someone who assists at the stage happenings. She prompts, sets everything in order, takes photos, arranges the projector or prepares Csaba’s shoes. She is always there when she is needed, unselfishly, wordlessly, with a serious face. Like a resigned parent who let his/her child play. The main character is lonely, he tries to tell a short text as a dancer, he is also experimenting: a posing star, a peeing boy, a rock star playing the guitar. He makes an attempt and starts everything over again. The outer world is present in the pictures projected on the canvas and he is there with them trying to compensate for this claustrophobic space through the freedom of his movements. It is impossible to leave this place. The only thing he can do there is to dance. The squirt-gun, as a means of fight or escape, is a toy with which he can only splash. One object, one word, one movement. Naked, minimized, condensed. Just like Pilinszky’s poems. The infinites written on the mirror (to lie, to cheat, to hurt) don’t refer to a subject or a period of time, so they confirm the inseparability of the inside and outside, of now and always, and suggest losing track of time or, on the contrary, eternity. The tragedy of being an outcast is continuously resolved through self-irony. Csaba Horváth gives the technicians instructions or looks daggers at those in the audience who dare to cough. The applause is funny and moving, during a loud R.E.M. song, Horváth makes a bow to the audience like a celebrated star, then he sprays an inscription on the mirror: Happy New Year.

Several artists of L1 Workshop performed their solo pieces at the festival. Michaela Pein attempted a difficult task when she was dancing or rather performing some gymnastics show on the empty stage in everyday clothes without any scenery. Maybe in a more intimate space the performance would be more exciting, but neither the title ("transitions change developments") nor the description helped the interpretation.

In Andrea Mészöly’s solo performance, Ada, the checked coat hanging from above (often in the spotlight) has such an emphasised function that it is very disappointing to see that she doesn’t exactly use it. Though it is a very nice moment when she stands behind the coat and takes it on without doing up its buttons. She is lying on the floor with a bunch of flowers in her hands, as if she were dead, but the sound of waves brings her to life again. The most beautiful parts of the performance are when she measures her body with her fingers as if awakening symbolised expecting a baby or the desire for it.

Márta Ladjánszki’s solo piece starts with bubbling, waking memories of the already lost childhood. The pieces of stone placed on the stage can remind us of tombs and/or foundation-stones of a new building. Ladjánszki is also driven by the passion of playing, just like a child when he/she is becoming aware of the parts of his/her own body, begins to discover the outside world and tries what he/she is capable of.

Dance can also be performed with humour and solo dance can be self-parody as well. Réka Szabó succeeded in convincing the audience of this thesis. The guitarist, standing at the side of the stage, beats the rhythm with his head. His mechanical and awkward movements are in contrast with those of Réka, who is jumping about in pyjamas, spinning several times on the stage, then disappears behind the scenes. From this time on only her shadow is visible. The shadow’s movements and shape is scamped, the dancer composes her own caricature. There are only silhouettes instead of her body. A grotesque counterpoint of the previous performances.
During Ákos Hargitay’s performance (Neo-Post-Modern Few-Minute Dance Fantasy) the audience were having a very good time. The dancer in green underpants may remind one of a circus clown or a humorist of mediocre quality. We can see similar shows on TV on New Year’s Eve. Following a long and complicated arrangement procedure (carrying of a big box, installing a TV set, choosing people from the first row), different choreography pieces can be seen according to the demands of the audience. Instead of transmission, as the red TV set doesn’t work, the frightened spectator, forced to come on stage, tries to tune the TV aerial, but in vain. Dance of course requires a cultic object, in this case it is a red track suit left behind by Scott Wells. Hargitay puts on the track suit, then performs football scenes, imitates a pioneer or the Bee Gees, to put is more precisely he shows some movements these words may recall. The order of movements is determined by the audience. The source of comedy is the sequence of the scenes, but the spectators, who are supposed to keep time, turn the aerial, switch the TV, are only invited to the stage because it seems funnier this way. Hargitay defines the genre in a very broad sense, he actually undermines it. The only purpose of the performance is to entertain the audience using the emblematic objects of mass culture and star cult. Parodistic bluff.

Yvette Bozsik performed an old piece called Emi. She wears a very long, white, low backed dress with a trail. The huge skirt covering the floor is a prison for the dancer, as it keeps her confined. Her feet seem to be tied to the floor and only her upper body can move. Bozsik covers herself with the trail, wraps the long skirt around her body, but she can only trot about this way, like Japanese women in tight kimonos. She cannot move in an enthusiastic way anymore, the fan she is holding in her hand could be a stagger with which she is going to commit hara-kiri. Getting out of the constraints of the dress, the desire for freedom results in the liberation of the body. The performance is about the development of the dancer’s femininity, beauty. Her movements are exceptionally feminine, captivating, ethereal and graceful like a butterfly. The dancer standing with her back to the audience can also be seen on the pictures projected on the background. The pictures multiply her and we cannot take our eyes off her. Beauty turning into itself.

The performances remark upon each other unintentionally, get into context that is interpret each other as a whole. Dance and non-dance, serious and ironic, vivid and static as many personal reflections to the possibilities offered by the genre. Solo dance is true subjective poetry, though its source can come from hip-hop, folk dance or ballet, the Dancer always gets back to him/herself.

The audience, though they had a very difficult task, had a delightful experience during the last days of the year. What could we say in conclusion? We are looking forward to the next festival.

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