An interesting evening of contemporary dance, featuring performers from the Swiss company Prototype Status, took place in Pozorište Mladih on Saturday night, touring to Mostar on Sunday. Contemporary dance in Bosnia-Hercegovina is a frail plant, and Tanzelarija, who organised this weekend event, are doing their best to keep it in the public eye. The theatre was reasonably full, for three short solo performances, a mixture of resolved solo pieces, and impressionistic sketches and notations.
Perhaps the most striking piece was the second of the three dances. Entitled “Frozen”, the solo performer, her back turned to the audience, was illuminated by a solitary shaft of chilly white light. The light exploded off her neck and shoulders, making her jerking, frantic, self-flagellatory movements all the more stark and affecting. The piece dealt with the theme of the transformation of the body from one state to another; a movement between living and dying, between dream and reality. the intense, self absorbed, atavistic movements of the dancer were captivating, and the overall effect was akin to having a Bill Viola video piece put on stage, without the intervening television screen.
Throughout the performances there was a studied informality, a breaking down of the mythical barrier between stage and audience. In the opening performance, Caso & Caos, soloist Elina Mueller Meyer defined a circle of sand in the centre of the stage as the audience were taking their seats and exchanging small talk; the work had begun without anyone noticing it. Slowly, the dancer transformed herself from stagehand to solo dancer, using the circle of sand she had made on the stage to build a challenging interchange between revelation and introversion; a staccato sequence of expansive manoeuvres and curled-in-a-ball horizontality.
The final improvisation, Perpsective(s) d’une existence fictive, had more of an experimental, work-in-progress air; a series of notations that will no doubt form part of a more resolved piece in the future. An exciting use of lights and a dramatic, red-outlined triangular space encasing the dancer suggested an exciting passage of movement and straining against the limitations of these red lines. “Everything begins and ends with line”, the dancer informed the audience, in a self conscious soliloquy. It will be interesting to see this again, when the choreography and use of music have been more resolved by the company.
The dances were carefully thought through and accompanied by the most beautiful ambient, atmospheric soundtracks. An evening like this, showcasing the power of dance to lift an audience out of itself, however briefly, gives a tantalising glimpse of what might be possible in Sarajevo in the future. A city with such a rich performative history, in art, music and theatre, should be capable of growing a contemporary dance scene, too.
You can read more about The “Prototype Status” dance company on their website. You can also find put more about the work of Tanzelarija here, or join their group on facebook to find out more about helping their work.