“Up the Walls!”
“The most athletic choreographer in Germany, Constanza Macras, performs her brash reality pastiche Brickland in Berlin.
In earlier times when stage dancers did not wear bathing suits and prima ballerinas did not wear kneepads, when there was no drum set in the ballet orchestra and there were no climbing robes hanging from the props, ìBewegungskunstî (art of motion) was classic and ancient. It followed the Greek cosmology of every thing having its place in the universe, every event having its time, and every action having its goal. Platon believed, where Gods ruled all was in motion, and what moved by itself, was alive. For him, the greatest living thing was the cosmos, a worldly body with a worldly soul. Imitating its eternal motion had been the utopian promise of the ballet. Todayís dance theaters strive for the opposite, and Constanza Macras is a choreographer who accomplishes that: She shows the aimless spinning of man in a godless world.
Because there is a high risk of injury, kneepads are obligatory. Again, in Macrasí new production at Schaub¸hne Berlin men in bathing slips and girls in bikinis crash loudly on the floor, they bang against walls, they bump into each other. Like planets off track they dash through a space without a center of gravity, but with lots of points of intersection. Everything travels far, but nothing has got an origin. Even the fixed props (a terrace with plastic chairs on the left, a zebra and the band with a drum set on the right) appear as coincidentally arranged, and they run the risk of being deliberately knocked over or being swept away by stumbling dancers.
In Constanza Macrasí choreographies unpredictable powers are at work. Right at the beginning of Brickland there is a powerful ensemble scene, nine muscular bodies collapse rhythmically, their arms stretched to sky, their hands folded as if in prayer. Their faces turn to a hidden Zeus or a Zebaoth of the gridiron, their thighs are spread and their lower legs are bended in the fall, so that they do not collapse like rotten trees; instead they break down like blown up towers. The sound of angels sighing ñ and in this brash performance we see a heretical rite for our post-religious epoch, and above all shines in bright letters: ìFog of Confusionî. This preludes the evening: It is about nothing less than mankindís futile search for a place in the universe, a place in history and an aim in life.
This reality pastiche is wild, diverse, fast, philosophic, dadaistic, and funny. It is a bit political and a bit pornographic, and it also provides modern self-help phrases as well as a specific topic. The evening is called Brickland, because it is about the increasing social segregation in global capitalism and the self-ghettoization of the rich in ìgated communitiesî. Why does anybody wealthy voluntarily want to live behind high hedges, fences, or walls? Why does he long for a neighborhood of equals? Why does he subjugate himself on an everyday basis to lawn mowing regulations and party prohibitions? Because he gains security, urban sociologists say. Authors such as Margaret Atwood and James Graham Ballard have given other answers to these questions. In their novels they diagnose a remorseful retreat, a perverse desire for social adjustment, and a sadomasochistic fixation on a massive scale. The rich senior citizens in Ballardís novel Cocaine Nights for example are only able to torment each other in a repressively organized luxury estate. Only under constraint they are able to acts of gaffe such as devastating the neighborís garden, setting the neighbourís house on fire, and killing the neighbor. Without it, their lives are empty.
There is a note of such violent motives in Constanza Macrasí production. The anarchistic choreographer, born in Buenos Aires in 1970, has become Berlinís most famous Argentinean. Since 1995 she has been living in Germany, but she knows the opulently set up ìbarrios privadosî from a closer observation. And she gives another explanation for the gated community phenomenon: Only in that prison, in close tormenting contact with the other inmates, the inhabitants of Brickland seem to feel homey in their own bodies. At first, they do not dance like themselves, more likely like machines, they are rather being moved then they move themselves; in a Platonian sense they are ìnot aliveî. But in an emotional outburst, in the escalation, the victims of prosperity gain conscience of themselves again. Then, they literally go up the walls or they climb on robes to the sky, or they rape a couch, or they tear off each otherís tennis skirts just for fun, or they take a bath in a puddle of cocoa. Of course, they never forget to glance ironically at the audience.
There is no real shelter for these beautiful bodies and these lost souls in our universe. After a moment of being themselves, they stand beside themselves again. Just like in Funny van Dannenís song about his eurhythmics shoes: And the people pass/and they shout: Damn it!/Another idiot/in harmony with the cosmos/Their envy makes me sad/and sadness turns into rage/and I become very angry/and that feels really good.” DIE ZEIT Nr. 52, December 2007
“On the Wall, Lurking”
“Gaping in Astonishment: In Brickland Constanza Macras lets a gated community dance at Schaubühne Berlin.
Brickland is a vacant residential area in Buenos Aires, given up by the inhabitants because of failed infrastructure. Or because authority got out of hand. Or both. The Argentinean choreographer Constanza Macras gaped in astonishment through the lens of her video camera at these expensive houses with mowed front yards which have something that is not popular in Germany yet: a high wall surrounding an estate of equally rich people, a warden in front – for security reasons. The ìcompoundî, as Americans call it; the camp in Constanza Macrasí newest dance production Brickland at Schaub¸hne Berlin is equipped with all you can associate with a camp: cabin fever, camp fire, camp warden, played by the Israeli dancer Nir de Volff.
Two jumps and De Volff is up at the brightly lit hide to ensure order and security on the stage. Two jumps and two sentences are enough. None of the nine dancers of Macrasí company Dorky Park has more steps and text, when Jared Gradinger runs around the stage with burning grill gloves. He cannot really decide whether this is a typical BBQ accident or whether it is already a signal of setting fire to oneself, a powerless protest against the voluntary caging of a security driven society.
Brickland is a tragedy. There is no guilty person of the violence that, despite all security measures, breaks out right in the middle of the protected luxury: at the plain badminton game, at the inmatesí meeting where walking speed is democratically agreed upon to protect the children. But tenant Hyoung-Min Kim is denied to speak – she is just a tenant. Not more than two sentences: ìIím not a Chin-Chin. I am a pussyî, the Korean sings awkwardly. Knut Berger, rolling on the floor with stretched legs like a Yogi, answers: There is no identity, just identification with the strong ones like us. Because no ego thinks by itself.
Carnival of Climate Change
The musicians at the corner of the stage start a CD, Carmina Burana, the roaring national anthem of this allotment in the microstate of Brickland. For two hours the punch line beats the punch line: Donít call me a house wife. I didnít marry a house. The dancer chases the dancer, incessantly. Ronni Maciel runs up Christof Hetzer´s stage, a half-pipe, and stays there in a 90∞ angle, supported. And again, he drops like a real estate investment, the US-Dollar, a Federal State bank – everything that threatens this idyll of fountains, tents, garden chairs and leather couches. The promised security is as wavering as are the dancing feed of the incredible Ana Mondini, the former head of the ballet in Kassel; the older one barking at the accompanying youngsters: Soy clears the primeval forest. Soy, that brightens up the anti-globalistsí coffee.
The orderly ones teeter around prohibitions as if they were landmines. In order to adjust, one gets harmed by every other new prohibition in this camp life that is supposed to show a certain similarity to Germany. The dancers hit each other round the head with them. There is more rage than the astonished audience is able to comment with laughter. Angela Schubot flings her arms childishly around the security´s neck, naked, to be raped. Jill Emerson gets laid by the climatic disaster: She dies of thirst, precautionary, so she wonít pollute the environment. And Gail Sharrol Skrela dances like an airy ghost, carefully. It doesnít look good for the air as well.
That´s how the real Brickland perished: The inhabitants sold their cars, they did not leave their covered houses anymore, they lost their jobs and went bankrupt. At the same time authority got out of hand, and turned against its society, which beat each other with prohibitions until they were black and blue. And until they could not raise up against the torture of prohibition. What would have helped? Just a carnival against the cannibalistic authority, as an art kicking over the traces just like this grandiose company named Dorky Park.” Sueddeutsche Zeitung, December 2007
“Premiere of the Week”
Dance theater Brickland
“The guarded, fenced-in ghettos for the rich, still rather uncommon in Germany, are the theme of shows at the Schaub¸hne twice this week. In his premiere, Falk Richter shows marriage in a ìstate of exception,î fear of decline and cooling off. Constanza Macras, in her work ìBricklandî, offers a glimpse into a deserted luxury settlement in her hometown Buenos Aires, turning it into fast-paced dance-theater with her Dorky-Park ensemble fresh, chaotic, tender, endearing, and in all its diversity of temperament and style a unified whole. On a video screan are bleak and deserted background filled with mansions; garden landscapes with noble yard kitsch and a steep face of wood and glass are both battle-field and living quarters. Over the course of two hours (without intermission) the constraints from oneís societal position, success and private crises are celebrated with singular dancerly and disciplined virtuoso, brought to the point of explosion, infinitely joyous and exalted. Parts of Schubertís ìWinterreiseî and Orffís ìCarmina Buranaî build a contrast to soft and hard rock. Disarmingly tender love stories alternate with manic nonsense. Pseudo harmonies and smug arrogance are exposed. Bought security protects against nothing, not even against oneself. The impulsions are unavoidable, the explosions painfully healing. Constanza Macras at her best. Financial Times, December 2007