Cindy Van Acker is thought one of the moving spirits in the transmuting of abstractions into dance performance gold and Zaoum, featured at Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales 2018, is an avatar. Zaoum works like one of those constructivist paintings of lines and triangles on a piece of wood or cardboard, forcing the spectator into a Baroque Mass of feeling and meaning.
From the beginning to end Zaoum played on my senses as pictures at an exhibition. It is expressionist in performance, evocative in music, constructionist in set. My eye senses the presence of Klimt, Franz Marc, Gontcharova, Lyubov Popova and Kandinsky – artists whom I know and who all point outside from speech to a language of intuitions and unique or personal meanings, I think, rather than sign and gesture. Memory and intelligence construct meanings and perspectives: symbols from postures, legends from physical tropes.
“Zaoum” is the name Russian Futurists gave to their “pure sound” poetry, “za” beyond and “oum” mind. Van Acker remarks in her notes that zaoum points her vision of dance as “a force of possibility, liberation and life”. In Zaoum, choreography plays against scenography to evoke mood or stoke the sense; building a strong link between set esthetic and choreography concept seems one of Van Acker’s trademark abilities, as the mix of set geometry and slow body movement in Lanx (2008), or most other of her pieces, suggests. The choreography is accompanied by Luigi Nono’s 1982 Quando stanno morendo. Diario polacco N. 2 (“While they die. Polish Diary”), a tribute to and remembrance of Poland’s Solidarity worker’s movement, dissolved by a Soviet-inspired military coup d’état in 1981.
Zaoum is intensely visual, for both the outer and the inner eyes.
To remind spectator eyes that black is a not a color but the absence of light, the auditorium is plunged into absolute darkness. As well as by a strange vocalization, the blackness is penetrated by apparently body-less limbs suspended in space. The black space also suggests itself as a sea, perhaps Hades’ sea is black and slick, like a gout of raw petroleum.
The black waves propel the dance forward into a space that radiates intense white light from above and below, a sort of waffle iron. The dancers arrive as couples, one of whom becomes boneless and seemingly lifeless. An amplifying manipulation from an animate partner seems to awaken the lifeless one into a relation and intense gesturizing animates many of the unique scenes that ensue. Taken together, the scenes brought to my mind’s eye Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze. This sacralizes Beethoven’s music as well as the composer himself, but also spotlights the myths and legends whose essence Klimt’s expressionist approach was building on.
Individual scenes are tinted by the expressionist color: two struggling performers/figures for me point “sacred doubles”: Gilgamesh and Enkidu, light and dark, Abraham and Isaac, Romulus and Remus… When the performers take up different postures in a stage lineup, for me they signify: I find myself picking out “propitiation/expiation”, “sin”, “longing/anguish” (Munch’s “Scream(s)”). A final scene turns the waffle iron of white light into a workshop where the performers, or are they have now become, mythical figures, lay and check and measure and design the stage floor as if it were the whole world – which, perhaps, it is. Wheels within wheels within circles within circles, Zaoum ends with a concentric circle flag, so that when I walked out I was thinking of Kandinsky.
ZAOUM (2016) • Cindy Van Acker • 65 min • MC93 - Nouvelle salle, Bobigny • Performers 1 June 2018: Stéphanie Bayle, Marthe Krummenacher, Gennaro Lauro, Francesca Ruggerini, Raphaëlle Teicher, Elia Van Acker, Rudi van der Merwe, Daniela Zaghini/ Scenography & set : Victor Roy / Reader : Elia Van Acker / Costumes : Kata Tóth, Ni Zhang / Lighting : Luc Gendroz / IT programming : Khalil Klouche / Musician : Samuel Pajand / Sound engineer : Denis Rollet / Production: Cie Greffe