The end of summer can be quite surprising for those who love performing arts and who are in Brussels, due to an international festival that happens to be at its 19th edition this year. Les Brigittines is a contemporary art center especially interested in movement and choreography that brings together all types of artists working on stage. The place is an old chapel from the 17th century that during the late ’80s became an important cultural space having the mission of developing new forms of artistic expression.
The International Festival started in 1995 and each year it has a different theme explored by the presented shows. This year’s theme sounds like this: “The crisis and the open sea” and might make us think that an overrated problem is brought into the spotlight. In fact, the crisis goes beyond the economical part and looks for a deeper and wider understanding. So here are some shows that deal with this issue, maybe not in a very obvious way.
The movement crisis – Anatomia publica
Tomeo Verges’ opening show of the festival consists of a number of repetitive movements in which the quotidian is decomposed in small sequences that become strange gestures. Everyday life actions like sitting on a chair, taking a newspaper off the floor, hugging and kissing your wife, putting your coat on the hanger, lighting your cigarette, opening the door, are repeated all over again just like someone is playing with the remote control pushing the back and forward buttons.
The body is tracing the expression of every change: the face muscles are holding a one second grin, the hands and the legs are tense, the body position is stopped in the least expected moment. But there is a story being told and it is related with a true story of the choreographer’s grandmother. She was living with two husbands: while the first one was at the war, his wife married once more… They decided to live together, the three of them, trying to find a new harmony.
The choreography and the title are inspired by the public human dissections from the 16th century seen as a form of entertainment, but also by the films of Martin Arnold.
The light plays an important role being synchronized with the dancers’ movements and creating a cinematic effect. The image is intermittent just like the image of an old movie. Everything is in fact synchronized: the music, the light, the gestures, the set, the plot, they all follow the same rhythm.
The colour crisis – Mystery Magnet
Coming from a visual artist, Miet Warlop, this next show is a colorful madness where some hard-to-define creatures are filling the space with loads of paint. If at the start of the show the stage was almost empty, only one big white wall standing in the back, as the ending scenes are approaching, the stage is almost flooded. The weird characters puke rainbows, fart pink, smash and crash and splash the wall with their hairy heads and a rain of multicoloured little arrows is attacking the stage from beyond the wall. But the performers don’t stop here and they disembowel themselves cutting out flocks of red cotton. Everything seems like an organic protest against symmetry and order, reminding of Jackson Pollock’s performances.
Some visual effects are created in order to break the colored violence: a girl seems to be hanged on a bouquet of helium balloons, a high heeled man is transformed into a horse, a kitsch painting of dog becomes a sparkling golden dress.
The final touch is an electronic acapella chorus (Laurie Anderson – like) of some white mannequin busts on a white plateau and controlled with a sort of vacuum cleaner that make their soft plastic necks move.
The love/sex crisis – 7 ways
Geumhyung Jeong is a Korean dancer and the choreographer of her own shows. 7 ways proposes a particular approach in which the object is incarnate and comes to life. The performer finds herself alone (and somehow lonely) on the stage, she hides and uses her body as a vehicle for creating 7 possible love stories. That’s how a mask put on a foot can caress a mannequin or a big-headed jellyfish hand can have sex with a melodica.
Each story is twisted and has powerful sexual connotations, some parts are poetical and kind and some others create the impression of a strange dream, or even a nightmare. Probably one of the strongest and disturbing images is the one with an old man-vacuum cleaner raping the “dead” body of the dancer.
The difference between the human and the object is blurred and creates an intended confusion, but after several sequences the spectator gets used with the convention and the performance becomes a bit boring.
The meaning crisis- Les Bouveuses de cafe
English translation would be “The coffee drinkers” and, of course, we have two women drinking coffee during the show in a very symmetrical and well calculated way. The set has something from Twin Peaks red room and even the mood is quite similar to the movie. But who would have thought that drinking coffee can produce such a mysterious ambient? Of course, the performance is not reduced only to this: after the first scene, things are getting ambiguous. A third women appears on stage and she is going through a strange ritual that makes her become like the two other women. There isn’t a clear relation between the scenes. “Hey, but that’s normal! Didn’t you hear about postdramatic performance?” you would firmly say. I actually did, but something, I don’t know what, made things illegible this time… The music remains a plus, it can be very catchy for the spectator.
The body crisis – Sweat baby Sweat
Probably one of the best “crisis”, a hard physical training with a man and a woman. In fact, a love affair that consumes itself on the stage. The choreography follows an approaching process between the two performers, everything is very intimate and touching. So the kissing scene comes as a relief, it is a waited, wanted, needed moment and a natural one. There is also a sort of exhaustion mostly because of the repetitive slow movements: the bodies are getting wicker and wicker and the muscles are shaking.
The second part contains a subtle irony that lets the audience to enjoy an endless romantic song. While the two dancers are crawling and almost fading in the darkness, some lyrics of the song are projected on the wall just like in karaoke. The funny part is when we notice that the romance is gone and we are starting to read what we might think in that moment.
Well, I guess this is where the crises end.
by Petro Ionescu
Petro Ionescu is a playwriter, still an unknown one, and she sometimes even performs herself on stage. For the moment she studies in Brussels trying to better understand the performance writing.