Quoting Michel Foucault in the promo text of a contemporary dance performance is risky: “The body of the dancer stretches out beyond the room, which is at the same time an inner and outer space for him” reads the description. You’re immediately left wondering how the late French philosopher’s critical theory will translate on stage and whether this is deep or just prentious, and how it can ultimately pay off. By the end of shifted realities – a “double solo” performance by Toula Limnaios and her long-time dancer Hironori Sugata – you’re still left somewhat undecided.
Limnaios’ latest choreography at the Halle Tanzbühne sets out to probe how only our reflections can enable an understanding of our whole form. Foucault’s inner/outer dichotomy materialises in the shape of a square “room” constructed from transparent veils in the middle of the stage, which the dancers cannot inhabit at the same time. The hour-long episodic performance oscillates between tension and intimacy: the former created by the duo’s physical distance on stage, the latter through synchronised scenes. Whether performing separate choreographies entirely or responding to one another,
Limnaios and Sugata possess an impressive synergy. Their exploration of mutual influence is particularly powerful in Limnaios’ striking “double solo” with herself – a sequence in which she wears a boot on one foot and a ballet shoe on the other…
Limnaios and Sugata possess an impressive synergy. Their exploration of mutual influence is particularly powerful in Limnaios’ striking “double solo” with herself – a sequence in which she wears a boot on one foot and a ballet shoe on the other, thus dividing her body into two different physical capabilities. A power play takes place between her feet as one stamps and the other flexes, taking it in turns to lead and follow. This moment adds to a gendered dialogue between the dancers, which runs quietly throughout.
Elsewhere though, the use of props feels unnecessary and becomes distracting. After a slow start involving Limnaios chanting with a lamp on her head, a sequence in which she becomes possessed by a golden insect ring and adopts ragdoll-like gestures appears relatively am-dram for what this accomplished choreographer is capable of. Numerous episodes fragment the performance and break the spell created by Limnaios’ formidable stage presence and emotional energy. The scrappiness of the theatrical narrative leaves you desiring a purer form from the experienced dance duo, whose professional relationship dates back to 2005. Atmospheric lighting and stirring electronic rhythms keep the piece cohesive however, and effectively transform the space – an old gymnasium, part of the historic listed building on Eberswalder Straße that Limnaios took over and renovated in 2000 to become the successful Halle Tanzbühne and her company’s permanent rehearsal space. While the philosophical dimension of the piece does shine through, it would have been more rewarding had the pair explored Foucaultian theory within a more unified structure through what they do best: highly emotive choreographies. And that in itself is an enviable skill.
shifted realities Apr 4-6, 20:30