Beijing Dance Theater at schrit_tmacher 2023

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Marcos Morau delivers a strange Spanish-Chinese amalgam, and Yuanyuan Wang virtually chases her ensemble over hill and dale to the music of Mozart. The audience at Stahlbau Strang is mesmerized by the guest performance of Beijing Dance Theater. However, much remains so unclear that a real, intimate connection with the audience is missing.

By Rico Stehfest

translated by Karoline Strys

HERE you will find our Video-Impressions for Marcos Morau’s „Manolita Chen“

Already in the title, two cultural areas that are actually far away from each other overlap. For his piece „Manolita Chen“ Marco Morau mixes influences of Spanish flamenco with Asian or Chinese ones. The costumes for this (Marcos Morau, Wu Lei) are rich in appearance, detailed bright bolero jackets are combined with expansive, floor-length black skirts. Adding up a gaudy, creative lighting design by Liu Zhao and you have a pictoriality that draws attention from the first moment. Only what is presented on stage in the following half hour remains nothing but cold surface.

Almost hidden under a hat with a huge, round brim, a single dancer turns around its own axis, gently, silently, accompanied by a few powerful movements of the arms. This softness, a noiseless gliding across the floor, almost like a hovering, makes up the main movement of the eight dancers for quite a while. They seem like characters in a game, identical, which is further emphasized by white, clownish makeup.

Morau takes the cultural overlays even further, using an eclectic sound collage that is disturbing at times. The most intense effect comes along with a heavily alienated version of Ravel’s „Boléro.“ But individual tracks are also packed together in such an isolated way that the dramaturgical approach leaves a big question mark and the hard breaks almost cause pain. A long Black in between does not make it any better.



The skirts disappear at some point, the jackets are also taken off. What follows is a seemingly endless frontal sequence that is danced again and again in a conspicuously unsynchronized manner. There are some nice images but all in all it remains unimaginative number revue of some sort. Again and again it seems as if the dancers do not find a unity in expression, sometimes they even dance imprecisely out of the light. The fact that a flamenco song then massages the eardrums at a volume that is extremely unpleasant does not matter in the end. Thus everything remains on the surface. Emotions or a message do not convey. Perhaps this could be read as a critical commentary on unreflected cultural appropriation. But that remains speculation.

Regarding Yuanyuan Wang’s „Requiem“ to Mozart’s composition the hope came up this save the evening. She chooses a thoroughly touching opening: four dancers walk slowly one after the other across a black catwalk placed diagonally on stage, each of them tipping to the side at the end of the catwalk and being caught by the dancers. Then the same again. Death dances along when life is playing. However, the director of the ensemble does not develop her own aesthetic. All in black, she animates her dancers to disassemble the catwalk and to rearrange the individual blocks, which are reminiscent of coffins, over and over again. These then form a spatial structure through which the dancers are allowed to move gymnastically. Up and over and down again. Nothing connects with the emotional depth of the music here.

A single female dancer sets a contrast in a bright leotard but remains without any recognizable feature. Her most important task seems to be to distribute red flowers on stage. The program booklet speaks of angels and devils, but none of them can be discovered. Instead, the core is formed by an extremely strange duet directly at the ramp, as one dancer blows powerfully into the audience. This results in a kind of blowing duel between him and a female dancer. At this point it is difficult not to lapse into polemical remarks about the presumed origin of Corona in China. A peaceful final tableau is all that is left at the end.