Amazons – Women as merciless predators

La Fabrika theatre hosted a premiere of a new piece by Lenka Vagnerová, choreographerwho has been beaming talent since the very beginning of her career. Her company’s productions belong to the best of Czech alternative dance scene where Vágnerová is an unmistakeable personality, thanks to her characteristic choreographic style. If we should define Vágnerová’s genre inclinations, the newly premiered Amazons (in Greek mythology they are a mythic nation of women warriors) proves that Vágnerová tends towards dance theatre. It is also given by the fact that she often includes actors into her works as well as musicians and typically she works with diverse materials that she uses as indispensable parts of onstage actions. In Amazons, she employs various props and benefits from their specific qualities that help create particular effects and put the finishing touch on individual scenes. When clenched fists strike Entering La Fabrika, you can already sense mysterious bodies disguised in black cloaks and hidden under black hoods that make them look like hangmen. Out of the dark scrummage crawl all four protagonists – the Amazons – impersonated by three dancers Fanny Barrouquère, Simona Machovičová and Barbora Rokoszová and one actor Markéta Frösslová. On stage there are also two musicians – Tomáš Vychytil and Hynek Obst – and dummies that fall to the floor at the end of the show as the prey of the wild women. We can see the Amazons’ burning gaze and their fists clenched as they strike through the space, to the rhythm of pulsating mixed electronic music. The performers tease each other and try their combat skills on red and black punching bags and cubes. Their thrusts are sudden, abrupt, uncompromising. The Amazons fight not only their enemies but mainly they fight themselves and fight one another. They grab different materials and use them as weapons in their fights – for example a foam roller that Frösslová needs to check the alertness of her blindfolded tribemate (Barrouquère). The warriors must be always alert, embattled, and if they take a rest, they rather clean their weapons (as Barrouquère does in the right corner of the stage, in front of the audience, accompanied by Frosslová’s howling chant). For the Amazons, there is no time for calming down, they must constantly sharpen their senses and remember their mission – live up to the role of merciless predators. To improve their physical condition, they utilize many things – ropes with red strappy ends, wooden sticks, or elastic bands – those become part of one of the duets where Machovičová catches her partner (Rokoszová) into the stretchy fabric and their bodies make impression of an intricately interwoven mass. Later, Machovičová, weeping and crying like a child, dances a solo full of forlorn emotions. Even when they cast down their weapons, the women warriors cannot find complete tranquillity. After rapid thrusts they slow down the movements. Three of the women are synchronizing their breath, constellation of their bodies, they hold hands and send impulses to each other like waves. But they repulse the fourth one who doesn’t want to join them. They cannot supress their atavistic instincts for a while and their mate’s disobedience upsets them. That is why the more passive female is attacked by her stronger tribemate who wants to lure her into the toils of her love desire and corners her eventually… Murderous thoughts of women In some scenes the performers look like rag dolls, wobbling on their feet, their limbs flagging and Barrouquére propping her heavy head with a wooden stick – she resembles the Amazons’ trophies – men’s heads impaled on pikes. The dancers also hold such pikes in another scene, revolving around Frösslová who tries to avoid them like bad conscience. But the women lose their heads, too, when they get possessed by their atavistic instincts, the drive of their lives… The musicians also enter the story – the sound effects they create, and dynamic percussions intensify the growing tension and aggression. The women know no mercy, they put their enemies’ heads in a pile and then throw them around. There is nothing sacred for them, they disfigure their own bodies, hide their breasts under tight bandage (Amazons were said to have their breasts cut off) and bathe their hands and bodies in blood – with every move of a sharp flint on their skin and with every cut, more fake red “blood” oozes out. Movement escalations grow stronger and more aggressive. The warriors hit the floor with ropes, spin them above their heads and make it look like horse-riding. They are wild, tameless mares. The audience are kept in suspension and await a new attack. Vágnerová builds her movement composition on impulsive, yet controlled action – the interpreters prepare for a long time, they attack suddenly and let the movement phrase linger on and then fade out slowly. This dynamic scope is crucial in the piece and towards the end, it culminates as the performers fly around the space hung on elastic silks, and in the air, they perform kicks and martial art moves. They swish above the heads of the first rows of spectators, wildly jumping at each other, and they finally disappear in darkness, leaving behind an empty stage, lit by four simple beams framing four halters. The four women’s expression is powerful, almost masculine – no mercy, no tranquillity, just restlessness and lust for fight. In her latest project, Lenka Vagnerová wanted to discover why people enjoy violence, and what is the cause of violence – which eventually, she did not manage to do. Amazons were a nation dominated by women. They were trained in combat, served in the army, while remaining virgins, and did not get married or have children until they left the service and even after that, they controlled the public sphere. On the contrary, men took care of households and assumed the roles that were performed by married women elsewhere. Amazons by Lenka Vagnerová&Company make the audience focus on four performers–warriors who do not use female weapons, but without any apparent reasons, they thirst after repression, even without any contact with their male counterparts. Their fate is transformed into scenes where the limitless darkness of human souls (in this case women’s souls) wins over mercy. Written from the premiere held on 1 November 2017, at La Farbika.
Amazons Concept and choreography: Lenka Vágnerová Combat scenes coordinator: Radek Mačák Music: Tomáš Vychytil Scenography and costumes: Michal Heriban Lighting design: Michal Kříž Sound design: Andrej Jurkovič   Premiere: 1 November 2017

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