Tuesday, May 10, 2011

spoken en schimmen - ghosts and appearances

currently I am creating a choreography and joint dramaturgy for a performance of "Erste Walpurgisnacht" by Rotterdam choir Toonkunst, which is to be presented on June 25th in the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam. The story tells of two tribes, one Christian, one (formerly) pagan, oppressed by the Christian tribe. In order to continue their old tradition of honoring their superior deity, the pagan tribe assembles torches and rattles etc. to create the impression of a Devil's Night in the mountains, howling and making lots of noise. the strategy works: the Christian guardians run away in horror and the pagan tribespeople can put up a great flame (bonfire?) to honour their Superior All-Father. this story was written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and put to music later by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

I realize as I go along that I, too, am touching upon various cultures.
the piece is created within the inofficially still ruling Dutch bourgeoisie, who are (for the most part) comfortable enacting such a story from their understanding. some Christian members of the choir however, chose not to participate in this performance.

now I am looking for pieces of religions that today I perceive as having a similar quality: bringing to the edge of understanding, practised by a socio-politically oppressed group of people, often defamed or denied - Candomblé in Brazil, Gnawa music in Morocco - Afro-American Spirituals? Celtic rites? Trance-music from the Raves of the 1990's? or "just" left-overs from e.g. Spring processions and Masked Dances from many parts of Europe with e.g. the advent of Spring, Epiphany (around January 6th) etc etc.

and I realize that I, too, must be very careful towards my commissioners who asked me to merely create dance that accompanies their vocal-performance: how far is it reasonable to go? how much light, challenge will be OK, what will be too much?

can I insert a reference to Palestine & Jerusalem without, figuratively, blowing up the Church and risking to 'bore' the expected audience of 800 people?

I do want to make a re-interpretation from and for the 21st century, but obviously I must not simply force my views on others. (that would be soooo 20th century and before that ...)
and although it was agreed that it is OK if I create a dance that questions the more simplistic, paternalistic perspective of the original story by Goethe from the 19th century, how to make that real?
I find important to challenge those points of supremacy, while the story itself is a perfect example for the unwillingness to give up traditionally inherited patterns, actually the necessity to continue practicing them, especially when they are connected to one's endangered survival due to oppression by another group.
being an intercultural person myself, I have experienced many times how important it is to re-iterate and re-perform certain songs, words, poems, records, videos that have been imbued with so much emotional content in my own past. (obviously not nearly being so threatened as countless other people on this planet at the same time)

do & see ~