Sunday, 14 May 2017

Down To Earth – Shifting Perspectives, (HdBF, TT17), Berlin

[seen 12/05/17]

Shown as part of the “Shifting Perspectives” strand, I idly wondered if the shift in perspective that Theatertreffen is hoping to effect here is from “typische Andrew Haydon” to “Charles Spencer” or “David Hare” or “Quentin Letts”.

If you’d asked me at 9pm (i.e. just before Down To Earth started) if I liked contemporary dance, I’d have said, “Yes! Quite a lot, actually.” One hour of two naked blokes rolling round on the floor – seemingly with the aim of expressing their gap year – I might have been a bit more frosty.

But let’s not throw out an entire artform on the basis of a particularly mediocre example of it. Contemporary dance is a toughie, right? As I suggested in my Real Magic review:
“Thousands upon thousands of people go to the Tate Modern a year and quite like looking at the Rothkos, I think. And they get something from them. And they don’t all get the same thing. But Rothko’s popularity is such that clearly a lot of people find what they get out of his paintings rewarding. We know it’s ok to get “a feeling” from it.”
But, equally, it therefore follows that it’s also ok to get nothing from them. Or purely negative associations. Or simply iterations of aesthetics that one variously finds witless, condescending, reactionary, and dull. (How I feel about Paul Gauguin, for example)

And so it was here. From my resolutely unshifted perspective DTE was naïve to the point of near-racism (interestingly, the production hails from South Africa), and (super-)narrative-led to the point of stupefaction. Which is interesting in itself, since it was just two blokes rolling around the floor naked, with the contents of a couple of bin liners (various oddments of clothing and kitchen appliances mostly, it seemed).

The blurb for the piece asserts:
“In an interplay of socially coded dance forms, music and cultural artefacts, Down to Earth uses the human body as a projection screen for the investigation of constructed identities. Assuming that the universal questions of “Where do you come from?” and “What do you do?” no longer suffice to reflect the complexity of this issue, the performance examines which effects and actions we can employ to break through the attributions and projections that are levelled at us.”
Their answer seemed to be something along the lines of “we’re all Zulus under the skin!” and looked for all the world like some staggeringly unsubtle and unstable bit of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation which, in this context, felt about as appropriate as that “Africa” party that Prince Harry once went to (dressed as a Nazi?).

I could have happily lived without ever having seen this. Or without it ever having been made.

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