20TH CENTURY FOG
Première 4. 12. 2014, Cultural Centre Španski borci, Ljubljana
WHAT I SAW
20th Century Fog is a series of movements that together represent the artists’ reckoning with the complexities and contradictions of the twentieth century. The piece begins with one woman on a large white chair, performing a simple, gestural phrase of movement in silence. Others join her, with chairs of their own one by one, repeating this phrase with her. There are five performers in total: three men and two women. A score kicks in: it is driving, intense. Actors are backlit, their faces unseen. They are larger than life, forces – powerful ones. This movement develops, the intensity and drive never wavering, though there are brief spasms of chaotic phrases that escape from the rhythmic repetition. Interspersed in this score are sound clips from major 20th century moments and quotes: bits of Hitler, Marilyn Monroe singing happy birthday, ”Tear down this wall!“ and more.
This movement ends, and a new one begins with projections on the chairs, which the dancers push together to make one unified surface. The men disappear, and the women stand on either side of the chairs, performing slow sustained movement as we see images from the film Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein. It is scenes from an invasion: peasants running in terror, soldiers advancing down a large majestic set of public stairs. A woman somehow gets stabbed in the eye: the projection freezes on her face, repeated on every chair. We will see this image again and again throughout the night.
The third movement in the piece is film-centered. Projected are the opening credits for many major film companies: Twentieth Century Fox, MGM, Disney, Universal, Dreamworks, Pixar, etc. What follows this is a break from the driving rhythm of part one, towards something of a tribute to earlier days of American movie making. The dancers physically quote Gene Kelley, Fred Astaire, Shirley Temple, among others. Where the previous two sections were very serious, this section is lighter, more playful. For the first time, we see the actors’ faces. They smile. They’re having fun.
As the piece progresses, we return to the original driving force of the first movement, but interspersed are movements that contrast greatly. Soon after the movie montage, the performers pick up microphones downstage. They introduce themselves and speak to us in their various native tongues (as it turns out, they are from all over Europe). One performer offers a long monologue in Hungarian, about his childhood home, the apple trees in his yard. One of his fellow dancers says, in English, “what he was trying to say is that his name is Tamás and he is from Hungary. This section is called ‘lost in translation.’” Next, we watch Laurence Olivier as Hamlet perform the famous “to be or not to be” monologue, as dancers move slowly in the half light, accompanying it. The British performer, Luke, states, “what he was trying to say is that his name is Hamlet and he is from Elsinore.”
The piece continues. The entire ensemble lip-syncs to a pop song, with corny variations of the movement phrases that were introduced at the top of the play. The performers take the microphone again, beginning with a “mic check” and moving into a rhythmic, beat-boxing reverie of key phrases, including, “flight, fright, barbarism, cock, future, fuck.”
“Fuck future,” says one, and this is the signal to break out fully from the order, repetition, structure. The cast erupts into chaotic, joyful, flight-filled dance, undressing with fervor until the music ends and they are all naked, or nearly so. The piece ends.
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NUTS AND BOLTS
Cast size: 5 performers (3M, 2F)
Touring Size: Cast of 5, 3 technicians, 3 escorts (11 total).
Ideal size of stage: 6m, 12m, 12m
Cartage Information: freight of 5 large custom-made chairs.
Španski Borci Cultural Center, Ljubljana, multiple performances in 2014 and 2015
Anton Podbevšek Teater, Novo Mesto, 19/10/15
Translation Options: performance is movement based, primarily. Text is in English.
Representation: Marjeta Lavrič, Head of Programme, EN-KNAP Productions
email@example.com / +386 51 315 076
Španski Borci Cultural Center, Ljubljana (03 March 16)
Slovenian National Theatre SNG Nova Gorica (date TBA)
Mittelfest, Cividale, Italy (date TBA)
This production is available for touring through 2017.
Author of concept and Director- Matjaž Zupančič
theatre director and playwright. Studied direction and dramaturgy in Ljubljana and London. In the 1980s he was director of the Experimental Theatre Glej. He has directed about fifty theatre productions; he is author of ten drama texts and two novels. As director and playwright he participated in the main European theatre festivals (Bonn Biennial, Avignon, etc.) He was conferred four Grum Awards and is currently the most staged Slovene playwright abroad.
Choreographer - Sinja Ožbolt
Born in Ptuj, Slovenia. She studied at schools and seminars of modern / contemporary dance: Maribor, Zagreb, Rovinj, Vienna, London, Ljubljana. She studied 1980 - 1981 on AGRFTV (Acting). She studied 1981-83 at the London Contemporary Dance School. Taught contemporary dance in Slovenia and abroad.Danced and choreographed in modern dance groups and theaters: Studio for Contemporary Dance, EG Watch, SNG Drama,Ljubljana City Theatre, Slovenian Youth Theatre, Koreodrama Ljubljana, Ljubljana Dance Theatre.A founding member of Dance Theatre Ljubljana (1984)Founding member of the Association for Contemporary Dance of Slovenia (1996)Since 1996, member of the Artistic leadership Dance Theatre Ljubljana.The author of the design and concept and artistic director of the contemporary dance program, "The workshops and Dancelabi" Dance Theatre Ljubljana. Co-authored with Rok Vevar design festival dance perspectives ACTION ACTION 2008 and 2010, co-authored with Rok Vevar design program MEDUKREP 2009, and MEDUKREP 2011.
MORE ON SINJA OŽBOLT
Set designers - Vadim Fiškin, Miran Mohar
Video designer - Luka Umek
Lighting designer and technical director - Jaka Šimenc
Sound designer and composer - Vanja Novak
Costume designer - Valter KobalThe
The international dance group En-Knap was founded in 1993 by Iztok Kovač in Leuven, Belgium, under the wings of the production-management house Stuc and the Klapstuk Festival. A year later the group moved its headquarters to Ljubljana, where it established EN-KNAP Productions. The internationally renowned production company has introduced and established its trademark aesthetics inside the European space, attracting an array of acclaimed international co-producers. From its beginnings, the programme of EN-KNAP has been supported by over 50 international co-producers, by the Slovenian Ministry of Culture and by the City of Ljubljana. Since 2009, EN-KNAP administers Španski Borci Cultural Centre, a public infrastructure in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana with the domestic stage for the only professional ensemble for contemporary dance in Slovenia, EnKnapGroup.
MORE ON EN-KNAP
The Theatre: Španski borci Culture Centre
Španski borci Culture Centre reopened in November 2009 in the Ljubljana-Moste neighbourhood of the eastern part of the city. The centre is run by En-Knap Productions, as such it presents the largest facility intended for cultural activities in Slovenia managed by a non-governmental organisation. Providing a much-needed performing space in Ljubljana as well as two rehearsal spaces, the centre's programme focuses primarily on performing arts, however it also cover the areas of music, visual arts, literature, and offers a children's programme alongside. The centre also includes a reading room, a mediatheque, a coffee shop, and a gallery. As the permanent residence of the EnKnapGroup (EKG) and one of the venues of the Gibanica (Moving Cake) Festival of Slovene Dance, the Španski borci Culture Centre has become the seat of the new Centre of Contemporary Dance, according to the agreement signed by the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Ljubljana in June 2011.
MORE ON ŠPANSKI
WRITINGS AND REVIEWS
“The author plays with the images of the monumental, set in a chronological sequence, and perfectly executed by the dancers. Each meaning established in the performance is overturned and blurred the same instance that it is recognised by the spectator. 20th Century Fog begins with monumental images of the human figure on a throne, and ends in a logical sequence with images of naked people on the stage, reaching epic proportions in its treatment of the collective body and mind. The choreography of Sinja Ožbolt, dance by EnKnapGroup, and the outstanding video and visual design by Luka Umek, Vadim Fiškin and Miran Mohar, are supported by the light design by Jaka Šimenc and a powerful rhythmic and sound structure created by Vanja Novak, which is reminescent of the aesthetics of Laibach, but throughout fulfils its goal of production of purpose and meaning.”
(Radio Slovenia 1, Petra Tanko)
“The spectacular Title 20th Century Fog flirts with the American film industry of the previous century … The production by EN-KNAP is thus a new stage mapping of a hundred years of the 20th Century … In contrast to the two-dimensional documenting of footage on the film screen or a film documentary, the stage documentary, or better still, the documentary 20th Century Fog, staged with dance and on set, can be watched as a multidimensional and palpable mass of living memories; it is at the same time the image of the past and present. The power of video becomes a picturesque horror story … The direction, video and lighting simulations fuse into a coherent narrative, a comprehensive ‘historic DVD’, which reads like flipping through the pages of a criminal bestseller … A compact stage and artistic illusion…”
(Daliborka Podboj, Paradaplesa.si)
REFLECTIONS BY KELLIE
At first, I thought this was going to be something I’d seen before: a broad overview of the 20th century, with a focus on the more horrific aspects – the wars, the genocides, the existential woe. Indeed, these elements were very much present in the piece: they were established in the beginning, with the repetitive, powerful movement and the driving score, the political sound clips and the Eisenstein images. This alone would have felt like a textbook overview of a time long ago. What made the piece unique were the movements that served as counterpoint: the ”lost in translation” section, the silly lip-syncing, the mic-check beat box. Through these, I felt I knew the performers, felt connected to them as individuals. I felt I got a sense of their relationship to the material, the history. These performers, who looked no older than 30, were embodying, wrestling with, living in, embracing and at times rejecting their histories. Therefore the past felt very present in this piece, as of course it always is, but doesn’t always seem to be.
Due to this in part, the piece had a specificity and focus, impressive given its breadth. Combined with director Matjaž Zupančič’s excellent dramaturgical work, centering the piece around Battleship Potemkin and Hamlet’s monologue, the major themes of the century seemed not only represented but deeply felt.
I would be remiss to neglect mentioning the quality of performances. This company of five were a formidable bunch: severe in the early sections, silly later, alternately powerful and vulnerable. Terrifyingly representative of the powerful forces that resulted in so much devastation and change in the 20th century, and then in an instant, themselves--silly, awkward, vulnerable. They filled the (huge) theater space when needed, then shrunk it down to a karaoke bar.
Walking into the theater, I worried about my energy level, having gotten up at 2:30am that morning and traveling half the day to arrive at the festival. But this piece woke me right up. Engaging from the start, thrilling in its surprising twists and turns, it felt smart, fun, and relevant. And, since it is movement based, with text primarily in English, it is palatable for an American audience.