atmosphere and inspirations
you come to the theater to see a dance or a dance theater piece, but it is impossible to define what goes on the stage as dance or dance theatre. yes, these two works contain parts with dance and also certain characteristics of dance theatre too. however, similar to other works or their creators which i had seen, it seems that, for them, rather than dance choreographies, it is more important to design a choreography to create a certain atmosphere on the stage. an atmosphere having the qualities which no one ever thought to create on stage before.
their inspiration is not a secret of course, especially the cinema of david lynch and all the things that those movies evoke: a mysterious, weird, surreal and nightmare-like atmosphere…
as for the content, i can associate it with ingmar bergman cinema: digging the relationships/problems in human relations, especially those in the family (between woman-man, parent-child, mother-son, mother-daughter, father-son) in such a way to hurt the parties…
in terms of stage aesthetics, firstly pina bausch and alain patel come to my mind…
in fact even only the names of the works give themselves away: "the missing door" and "the lost room".
a décor built in the emptiness of the stage: a room defined by its floor and two perpendicular walls. there are numerous doors and windows on the walls. one or two people sitting on the chairs in the empty spaces in two sides of the décor on the stage. some of the spotlights are placed in these areas and made a part of the atmosphere that was created on the stage: the ones that watch the scene on the stage and we, the audience, who watch both.
when we first encounter this stage under a darkish light when the curtain is raised, a light coming on and off from the pee hole of the door facing us is visibly seen; as if there is someone behind the door and looking at us from the hole. as one moves the light coming behind him/her goes off and reappears, just like when you look at the neighbor’s door when you are outside in the stair landing and think that there is no one home if there is light from the hole, but if there is a movement in the light you feel you are watched… this is the same situation, the same awkward feeling…
just like the name of the company who created these two works is “peeping tom” which means “watching/peeking” in slang, this work starts with a mise en scene that fully fits into their name.
the doors open and close by themselves; a woman comes out of the man sitting on the couch; a man and pieces of paper scatter into the door which is opened by the wind; a built-in cabinet appears behind when the door, which had just opened to other space, is reopened; people who are lost in the bed; people who who come out of the bed; people who get lost in the side table; cabinets that keep lots of people who were stuck in them and fall out when the cabinet doors are opened; appliques that move along the walls on their own; wiping cloths escaping from the hands of their users and many more…
some protagonists only use décor doors when they go backstage (or maybe we should call this behind the décor) and come back to the stage (décor), while some of them freely pass from the side of the décor to go behind and to come afore. there should be a logic in stage traffic explaining when some of them use the décor and when some of them never use the décor. although i have watched the play for two times, i couldn’t figure this out because despite the small number of cast, the simultaneous movements of dancers on the stage are very intensive and intricate. numerous illusions take place simultaneously on the stage too…
mise en scene that distracts us, the audience, was especially designed to achieve these illusions. thus, it is quite difficult to follow, understand and interpret what’s going on the stage. even so, one thing is clear that they create such an atmosphere that it is impossible to remain unimpressed.
what and whom am i talking about?
i am talking about the dance evening consisting of one work of two choreographer-dancers gabriela carrizo and franck chartier, the founders of belgian dance theater company “peeping tom”, whom i admire very much, prepared for netherlands dance theater (ndt1), one of the most prestigious dance groups of holland- and even of- the world.
first gabriela carrizo produces a 20-minute work for ndt in 2013 called “the missing door”, which had been staged in a triple program during 2013-14 season.
this time, ndt agrees with franck chartier for 2015-16 season. a program titled “start up” was prepared by matching chartier’s “the lost room” and carrizo’s work with “stop motion” of paul lightfoot and sol leon, general directors of ndt, which made a premier in 2014.
“start again” made a premiere on 1st october 2015 in den haag and had been on tour in several theaters of holland and belgium. i have caught it in amsterdam stadschouwburg performances in mid-november.
in recent years, ndt organizes programs consisting of three short-term works; the rule of thumb is to give a break between each work. occasionally, if one of the works in the program is very short and stage-change isn’t complicated, they don’t give a break. by dimming the lights, they allow the audience to take a breath. carrizo and chartier’s works were subjected to a different procedure; they were connected to each other without giving a break with the most creative transition stage i have ever watched.
both works are set in a room, which, although look like each other in terms of their dimensions, differ in terms of wall and flooring materials and furniture. after carrizo’s work was completed the curtain falls, however it quickly opens again…
when it is open, we see that the dancers begin to change the stage. as a spotlight which sweeps the stage like a loose cannon falls on dancers, that dancer stops and salutes the audience and gets applauded. after the salutation of seven dancers which overlap with the light, the procedure of changing the scene continues.
stage-change in front of the audience, without concealment and technicians appearing during the performance are especially ordinary in pina bausch. this, in one sense, is one of her trademarks. however, the difference in carrizo and chartier’s mise en scene was that the décor was changed by the dancers in their costumes rather than the stage personnel. those who roll the carpet that complement the floor of the previous work and unravel the carpet of the next work, who remove the walls of the previous work and carry them backstage and install the walls for the next one, those who carry stage accessories and furniture to the stage are the dancers.
another oddity is that chartier’s work doesn’t start immediately after the décor is installed. in the new décor which looks like a hotel room, a housekeeper and a woman who is dressed up as a personnel manager checks the stage design. when the manager leaves the stage, the housekeeper takes out a drink from the fridge, picks a magazine from the table, sits on the bed and starts to enjoy herself. when the manager suddenly comes back to the room, the housekeeper hastily pulls herself together, checks the rooms once more, neatens the bed on which she sat and leaves the stage. just at that time the lights are dimmed, we hear the music which started the first work (that of carrizo’s) again. light percolates from the peeping hole of one of the doors like blinking. when stage lights are turned on again we understand that the new work actually starts when the door is opened and one of the protagonists enter inside.
by using the dancers as the protagonists, supporting individuals and stage technicians, by dividing the stage into two: the part with the décor and the part outside of it and by designing this transition mise en scene with a perfectly prepared choreography, carrizo and chartier astound, as the phrase goes, they perplex the audience in this indecisive world where they invite the audience.
the cast of the works that gabriela carrizo and franck chartier stage with their group “peeping tom” involves approximately six or seven people and not all of these artists are dancers. there are actors/actresses and singers among them.
another characteristic of this group is that there is no age limit for the performers, which include the ones at the age of 80 and the ones who are very young.
the dancers of peeping tom hold a very special place among dance groups in terms of the use of human body. the movements developed by carrizo and chartier, who are dancers as well, through their personal capabilities has no boundaries in terms of the shapes the body takes like complete convulsion, inversion of the body; twisting the arms and bewildering angles of feet especially through the tricks with wrists…
on the other hand, netherlands dance theater which is composed of young dancers thoroughly concentrated on neoclassical dance within the framework of the vision of paul lightfoot who has been the in-house choreographer of the group since 2002 and the general arts director of the group since 2011.
i believe that, for peeping tom, performing the eccentric body choreography which is specific to them with the dancers who mainly dance with neoclassical choreographies and, working with a more crowded and younger cast contrary to what they are accustomed to; and for ndt, offering works of a very different quality to their dancers and -more importantly- to the audience who are used to neoclassical works is a reciprocal defiance, of which, i think they come out smelling of roses.
while watching “the missing door” and “the lost room”, a world which even though i did not easily encounter on stage absorbed me for 70 minutes; i spent time there, i got lost, i got shivers and i was astounded.
when the work was over, i didn’t even want to get out of the seat feeling awestruck. madly applauses and reaction of the audience who sunk in their seats showed that i wasn’t the only one feeling that way…
“start again” has completed its performances in 2015-2016 season. we’ll see if it will get invitations for international tours in coming seasons; i hope it does.