By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By Lilly Lampe
I saw Hoghe's beautiful and provocative Swan Lake, 4 Actsat the International Dance Festival Ireland in Dublin three years ago, so I was prepared for the poetic austerity of his collaborations with artist Luca Giacomo Schulte and for the intensity of Hoghe's own onstage presence. In the DTW program, Hoghe says that hea journalist, a writer of books, and, for 10 years, a dramaturge for Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertalwas inspired to go onstage by Pier Paolo Pasolini's words about "throwing the body into the fight." He presents his small, hunchbacked body fearlesslyboth on equal terms with the taller young dancers with whom he shares the stage and also, at times, as a kind of silent narrator or guide.
He prepares us for the slow pace and minimal actions of the hour-long first half of Boléro Variations by tracing the perimeter of the stage, leaning into his slow, lunging steps. The music (by Ravel, I believe) is sweet, the overhead white lighting (by Hoghe and Dimitar Evtimov) uncompromising. The other performersOrnella Balestra, Lorenzo De Brabandere, Emmanuel Eggermont, and Yutaka Takeiwho gradually join Hoghe also move quite minimally, but their every small gesture is arresting. Nabil Yahia-Aïssa was to have been there too, but to our shame as U.S. citizens, his passport was not returned to him in time by the Department of Homeland Security; a member of Hoghe's group for a number of years, he is a French citizen of Algerian descent.
Balestra, the only woman, wears high heels and a black, form-fitting jacket over a black dress. Hoghe honors the bodies and movement predilections of his performers, and the stunning Balestra is often dreamy, side-stepping or turning slowly, her arms moving in soft curves, a half-smile on her face. The men make gestures that are more carved and angular, and are likely to hold them as they walk. While the recorded voice speaks of Torvill or Dean's toe loops and triple axels, these people slowly, intently pace. A careful drop into a squat is a major event; Hoghe's single entrance with a squeeze bottle of powder counts as comic relief
The second halfalso and hour longis more active. As with Ravel's Boléro, we experience a gradual escalation. And we're primed to notice details: precisely how, for example, Eggermont holds his arms tightly to his sides and occasionally flips his fists up as he walks in predestined paths to at-first distant piano music. His later movements, performed calmly and given the status of a ballet dancer's lexicon of port de bras, are curiously crooked, askew. Balestra flourishes her arms in ways that suggest flamenco, Takei winds his wrists into flowering patterns.
Suddenly Takei and Eggermont get more vigorous for a few seconds, Takei downright jazzy. But there's a slow sequence to a song uttered in a sad, cracked voice; Hoghe stands on a square of white fabric and takes his right arm out of his shirt so that De Brabandere, who has entered bearing two black bowls, can dip strips of fabric into a solution and gently mold them to Hoghe's shoulder. They dry swiftly, and when De Brabandere removes the mold and joins the other men, who're half kneeling, it fits perfectly over his own knee. In the sequence that follows, the men kneel in a row facing us, and slowly pour seeds or lentils from black bags into perfect circle (another form of accumulating design), except that Hoghe is also burying the shoes that he has removed (De Brabandere also pours a circle for the missing Yahia-Aïssa and lays out a T-shirt to represent him). The voice that we hear speaking is that of Anita Lasker-Walfish; she recountshardly believing this could have happeneda story of arriving at Auschwitz and having a conversation with the woman guard who processed her; it turned out that they both played the cello. Of those in the orchestra that formed in the camp, Lasker-Walfish survived; the guard did not.
When Ravel's Boléro finally begins to play in its entirety, all four men, who've taken off their shirts, start slowly revolving. They begin with both hands together, their fingers pressing into the floor, drawing a circle. Gradually they may spread their hands apart, lift them slightly, put them down. Hoghe alone makes different kinds of thrusting gestures each time the percussive chords announce the resurgence of that inexhaustible melody. My knees ache for them, but that's not why I suddenly feel tears forming.
At the end of the ordeal, Balestra, who has collected the men's T-shirts (pausing for a long look at the one representing Yahia-Aïssa), brings them back (or identical fresh ones) neatly folded. The performers, dressed again, slowly begin to travel their invisible paths.
I can't fathom all that lies beneath Boléro Variations, but I thrill to its logic, its rigor, its inevitable rightness.