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February 4, 2023

An eye to the future and one to the past

The gradual passing from ballet to conceptual dance was one of the major aesthetical revolutions of the last century. From a strictly regulated gestual canon to free and even ordinary movement, from conventional grace to the most challenging associations, from pretended innocence to disonances and disharmonies – the change seemed radical. Besides atonal music, conceptual plastic installation or experimental film, the new approach on choreography appeared as the avantgarde of modernism.
Yet, not everybody sees this polarisation of this sort as irreconcilable. The combination of classical and modern dance is on the agenda of many choreographers today, and the result is a hybrid which is not exactly convincing. This was also outlined by a prophet of the death of ballet, the American artist Jennifer Homans who denounces in her work “Apollo’s Angels” the dissolving stylistic mix as the proof of inexorable decadence.

If the history of ballet refers to the pervert effects of choreographic impact, the intention may expand, in a different register, to the recombination of genres. Some choreographers, in order to re-infuse a creative universe marked by visible symptoms of devitalisation, make an appeal to tradition, although the aesthetical stakes remain ambiguous. The programmed neglect of the conceptual dimension, nowadays, risks placing choreography in the register of a more sophisticated neo-folklore dance.
This is proved by one of the most important exportable products of Israeli choreography, “Carmina Burana”, in the version presented by Tamir Ginz and the Kamea Dance Company of Beersheba. The student songs that once inspired Carl Orff reflected a certain critical sensitivity and represented a counterculture during the Middle Ages, yet, they were a more accurate reflection of the complexity of the urban universe than of rituals that appeared in rural regions. Fascinated by the desert he lives in – right in the heart of it! – choreographer Tamir Ginz gave an abstract dimension to movements, detaching them of the expression of concrete and recognizable attitudes, except for an eroticism that is itself more plastic than dramatic. He also avoided an accentuation of a choreographic polyphony, preferring to build mostly on a collective character, like a perfectly articulated organism, without the tension of acute internal schisms.
The rhythm and the amplitude of the movements are more sensuous than they should be, based on the canon of ballet, yet the flexibility of bodies tends to a more classical aesthetics, with aerodynamic suggestions and the plasticity of flying.
Besides overused chiaroscuro and the baroque contrast of skin and black costumes, that potentiates a more telluric dimension, in apparent contrast with the more vaporous character of individual movement is the collective convergence, that hints, due to its level of homogeneity, to the atmosphere of rural dances.
The intended orgy thus loses its character of sophisticated freshness, in the symbolically levelled labyrinth of the city, to overtake the tones of rituals that are closer to cosmic dynamics, which is a specific detail of rural cultures.
Yet, the choreographic abstractization is relative, as it does not consequently follow the access to the symbolic dimension, but, many times, it conceives the movements as a close reflection of the music, which is precisely what Pina Bausch, by example, avoided to do, as she only added music after she finished the choreography – prematurely building upon the impact of said music, instead of establishing a more prominent aesthetic identity.
The issue of the choreographic fidelity to a music composition with a dramatic potential, such as “Carmina Burana” is deceiving, because the analogy between movement and sound is as relative as the attempts by Baroque composers to musically reproduce the movements of nature.
Perhaps it is precisely the attempt to avoid the disonancies of contemporary dance, that are still hard to digest that made choreographer Tamir Ginz not to exploit adequately the potential of grotesque aesthetics, which is thoroughly compatible both with the Medieval poetry of student songs and with Orff’s music.
The fantastic spirit of Hieronymus Bosch may only be encountered accidentally – by moments featuring two superposed dancers, one riding the other’s shoulders, covered by only one coat, and the head of the dancer below peeking out from the position of the imaginary creature’s genitals, which is an illustration of a person’s double identity.
Perhaps, the future of the ballet aesthetics is not fully compromised, especially if it is ingeniously assimilated in a different cultural context. Sometimes, creativity tends to turn an eye to the future and one to the past.

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