Tanec Praha 2012: Pas de deux sans toi, that is duet without you by Charlotta Öfverholm

"I'm afraid of being scared" (Louise Bourgeois)

I reckon that very few of those, who came to the Ponec theatre to see a performance entitled Pas de deux sans toi by the Swedish choreographer and dancer Charlotta Öfverholm were expecting anything close to the show that was performed there that evening.

Baroque cantata, tango, folk song Oh, love... English, French, Spanish... singing and spoken word, screams and whispers... anything from chaînes to physical theatre, Pinocchio on a leash... passion, brutality, despair, humor, anxiety.
This extravagant, burlesque piece, too raw and painfully present to be surreal, and yet too surreal to be grasped with pure reason was inspired by installations and sculptures of French artist Louise Bourgeois, whose influence is truly ubiquitous. Take for instance the impression the stage makes – an empty, plain, yet expressively dismal space with shapeless hanging objects made of cloth, or the gradually increasing sense of tension and fear, the paralyzing sort of fear that turns the once self-confident human being slowly into an embodiment of apathetic despair. Both artists also share the same passion for almost physically perceived vulnerability of an individual facing the stark reality of the outside world, both study to an utmost detail his or her coping with betrayal, abandonment and loneliness and in relation to that of course his or her need for shelter and protection.

That said, one can also feel from the whole production this peculiar nordic undertow of anxiety, loneliness and unease, the awareness of transcience and triviality of human life in the ancient order of nature that more than a hundred years ago Edvard Munch enriched expressionism in painting with. All this is then melted into an original duet with (occassionaly) present partner and a fresh movement vocabulary. It oscillates somewhere between a circus performance and a very raw movement (physical) theatre, where climbing a rope up to the light results in the inevitable fall upside down, where we see expressive, almost naturalistically entwined two bodies, male and female, expressing a desperate, even manic dependence of one on the other. These scenes are interwoven by provocative intermezzos  where the author herself addresses questions directly to the audience. Yes, there are also somewhat funnier moments, but these are not based on any superficial, sketchy humour, but rather on a realization of the irony of situations that life sometimes brings.

The coat is (maybe) too big ...

“To call Charlotta Öfverholm an expressive dancer is an understatement… She has a temperament and stage presence that could give electricity to at least the whole of Skeppsholmen," wrote after one of her performances a reviewer of the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Well, sort of. True, her performance indeed overflows with both energy and tension that radiate from her gestures, facial expressions, voice, from her body that does not necessarily need a dynamic movement to share this energy with the audiences. Still one feels this energy even more in the seemingly calm and relaxed moments that are anyway underlined with latent tension and drama, hidden somewhere deep underneath the bronze-tanned skin of this wild shaman. It feels like a premonition of impending explosion, which could erupt with full force at any time and in unimaginable forms and variants - forms that we do not see with classically trained dancers, forms that can be found only in nature in a muscle tension of a wild animal, ready to flee from us whenever we get too close. And it is this atavism shared with her audiences, the feeling that they participate in something instinctively  and deeply human that leaves them breathless in their seats... For those strong enough to enter the challenging, yet miraculous world of Charlotta Öfverholm Pas de deux sans toi may indeed turn out to be a fascinating, unforgettable experience.

Ponec theatre, June 6th, 2012.

Pas de deux sans toi
Choreography, direction, concept: Charlotta Öfverholm
Directorial cooperation: Jordi Cortes
Music: Lauri Antila
Performed by: Lindy Larsson, Charlotta Öfverholm
Costumes: Sari Nuttunen
Lighting design: Tobias Hallgren
Photo: Andres J. Larsson
By: Tomáš Valníček


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