Euro-Surreal Expressionism has its roots in the Ausdrucktanz, or "dance of expression" pioneered by the choreography Mary Wigman and the politics of Kurt Jooss. But where Wigman and Jooss involved masks and characters as modes of expression, artists like Pina Bausch... [more]
Euro-Surreal Expressionism has its roots in the Ausdrucktanz, or "dance of expression" pioneered by the choreography Mary Wigman and the politics of Kurt Jooss. But where Wigman and Jooss involved masks and characters as modes of expression, artists like Pina Bausch (Germany) and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (Belgium) tend to eschew character and story, instead involving speaking and repetition as expressionist devices. When dances of the Euro-Surreal Expressionist ilk present narratives, they are disjointed; the everyday images proceed associatively and often loop into maddening repetition.
Mary Wigman stirred a fearsome stereotype for modern dance in the '10s and '20s, stating in a 1926 interview that she "hoped her dancers had the look of women no man would want to marry". Martha Graham extended the trope in the '30s (a joke circulated that if Martha Graham ever gave birth, it would be to a cube.) Yet the Euro-Surreal Expressionists have managed to keep their overwrought mystique, and thus the joking, alive. In fact, the contemporary choreographer Mark Morris re-christened Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker as "Anne Teresa De Tearjerker". The predominantly female artists of the movement preserve the severity of their forbears, but discard the stoicism. Bausch, unlike her contemporary, Yvonne Rainer, did not say "No to spectacle."
This spectacle is an obsessive-compulsive one. Though Euro-Surreal Expressionism employs devices of camp and vaudeville, and, with its high-heeled dancers, is sexier than say, Merce Cunningham's work, these devices are almost always beaten into submission. The high-heeled women throw themselves around and mutter neurotically, tearing out their hair. Despite the spectacle, this kind of work is challenging and tends toward the inaccessible; it employs Cage's law -- if the audience is bored for 10 minutes, give 'em 20, if they're bored for 20, give 'em 40.... But the potentially bored audience cannot argue against the power of repetition that this work exploits. Repetition explores the consequences of prescribed behavior and the messages of psyche to self. Expression -- dancing the psyche, dancing the tortured relationship, dancing the image rife with ineffability -- is a vital claim staked in a landscape withered by devil-may-care Postmodern dance. Though the dancer is a woman, and she roars, this Terpsichore does not wear sneakers. [show less]