Review Mixed Emotions (Artez), by Elien van Riet

Mixed Emotions: The Best of Two Worlds
Seen in Arnhem, May 28, 2009

Elien van Riet

The dance-triptych Mixed Emotions, which Artez hoge school voor de kunsten will present at ITs Festival, is effected to a certain extent by the law of the handicap of a head start. Dutch historian Jan Romein coined this law in his 1937 essay “The Dialectic of Progress”. Artez, which is located in Arnhem, has managed to come up with an interesting collaboration. For the triptych, ArtEz has provided the dancers, theater studio Generale Oost three young choreographers, and orchestra Orkest de Ereprijs three equally young compositional talents. Unfortunately, the pie has been divided unevenly. Artez has assigned senior students to work with choreographer Roverto Zappalà, whereas Gabriella Maiorino and Sacha Steenks have to work with juniors. Yet, only Maiorino and Steenks manage to let their students shine. In the end, Zappalà fails to keep hold of its initial head start.

Robert Zappalà sets off with Corpo/cage. Dancers in black dresses stand in a red frame; hair is swaying back and forth accompanied by loud moans. It is supposed to be bestial, however the students come across merely as mildly savage. They lack the velocity in their movements to become hazardous. This might be result of Zappalà’s decision to scout young students for his ensemble. His choreography seems to be fit for professional dancers, while these younger and less experienced dancers seem to approach the piece as an audition rather than as their own performance. Nervously, they try to be something they have yet to become. The music rectifies the lacking ability of the dancers. Paula Matthusen’s composition is full of energy and tension. The rustling of paper and music boxes manages to surprise and a big drum keeps the tempo up. Matthusen’s music goes beyond the experimental and invites the audience to engage emotionally.

Choreographer Gabrielle Maiorino chose a more contemporary approach. The conceptual choreographies of Jerôme Bel have inspired her piece Love_about. In the piece, dancers appear one by one from all directions in diverse sets of sports clothing. They form a circle in which they trail each other, constantly looking at the crowd. The audience gets to know them. In the composition by Carlos A.I. Álvarez an electric guitar sounds, which repeats endlessly. This repetitive pattern enforces the dancers’ circular ritual. In Love_about, the students expose themselves, although some remain hidden behind a theatrical mask.

The only piece in which music and choreography truly unite is Breeze by Sacha Steenks. Walt Disney’s hilarious animation sequence Skeleton Dance serves as the foundation for her work. In a rhythmic death march, eight dancers form a single body. One female dancer stands outside the group and guides the body created by the others through the performance. Steenks’ interpretation occasionally is in danger of becoming purely an illustration of Disney’s animation. Yet, she manages to circumvent this by having the dancers seek contact with the musicians. The dancer’s airy play of sound and movement interacts with Pete Harden’s accompanying musical composition. The rattling skeletons remain enthralling. How loud can bone sound?

Mixed Emotions
Generale Oost, Orkest de Ereprijs en ArtEZ hogeschool voor de kunsten
June 24 – ITs Festival, Amsterdam

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