Text, Music, Choreography: Ivo Dimchev
Co-producer: Humarts Foundation, Impulstanz Vienna, Mousonturm Frankfurt, Rotterdam Schouwburg
What I Saw
The final performance of the festival was in the main theater of the Csiky Gergely theater, and the stage was populated only by a few items: lit by fluorescents on the sides, the middle of the stage held a mat, a TV on a stand, and an empty chair. Ocean sounds played as the audience entered.
When the show began and Dimchev entered, almost naked and in a blond wig, he sat and began the show by asking us to take out our I Cure cards, which we had received on the way in. The I Cure card is a business-card like paper with five sections: four outlines of circles occupying each corner and big red circle in the middle. Dimchev introduced the show and first had us fill out the outer circles of our cards of things we wanted to heal: one circle was to contain a body part, the second a life situation that was giving us stress, the third a person who needed healing, and the fourth was “player’s choice.” The middle red circle we were told represented ourselves—our body and mind. The instructions were these: we were to keep a finger on one of the circles throughout the show, whichever one we felt in response to whatever was going on onstage, so that we might “channel frequencies, press[ing] gently with healing intentions with a loving heart.” If we were unsure of what to press, we could always press the middle red circle.
Then the show really “began,” and what followed was, like many of the shows in the festival, hard to capture in a narrative form. Alternating between narration, dance, and songs (and some video), Dimchev, over the course of about 90 minutes, took us through his process and philosophy of how he (and he hope we) would begin to heal ourselves and the world through mental and physical situations that would make us both laugh and feel deeply uncomfortable, using elements like water and fire, animals (there is a song about a cheetah curing everyone through running), physical touch (on him), and, in the end, an horrific image that forced Dimchev and the audience confront what we really believed healing to be.
Throughout the show, Dimchev literally built sentences and songs that all had to do with healing, creating healing frequencies, and love.
Watch the Trailer:
Ivo Dimchev is a choreographer and performer from Bulgaria. His work is an extreme and colourful mixture of performance art, dance, theatre, music, drawings and photography. He is the author of more than 30 performances. He has received numerous international awards and has presented his work all over Europe, South and North America. In 2014 he opened MOZEI in Sofia (Bulgaria), an independent space focused on contemporary art and music.
Reflections from Susan
I Cure was the culminating event of the Teszt Festival, from often controversial performance artist Ivo Dimchev. This is the third show I’ve seen of Dimchev’s, and I always liken him to America’s Taylor Mac. Even though their performance aesthetics are very different—Mac uses and upends traditional performance styles like cabaret and traditional plays while Dimchev is very rooted in experimental solo performance art—they actually look a lot alike, and more importantly, seem to be working to achieve a common goal. Both seem to want to exploit—for good—the situation of the audience, that we are all trapped in a room together for however long they see fit, unable to use our digital technology, and they will make us relate to them and to each other as humans whether we want to or not. Both pursue community in the ephemerality of theater, not in a cruel way but by making themselves extremely vulnerable, and asking the audience to share in a tiny portion of that vulnerability. Dimchev’s I Cure might be his most successful exploration of this desire that I’ve seen, and it certainly stirred up an audience that was watching the final show of a 19-show festival.
In line with Dimchev’s aesthetic, I Cure is a dialogue between Dimchev and the audience in which he does all the talking (mostly as himself, but sometimes schizophrenically as what he perceives from the audience), but in this instance, the audience had actions to perform in response to the show we were seeing. At first I wondered if the I Cure card would turn the show into some kind of game, that the audience might be rewarded for following instructions and punished for not. But there was no such confrontation, and no negative pressure from Dimchev to follow his desires for us to keep our fingers pressed on one of the circles. This lack of negative peer/performance pressure is probably the weightiest achievement of I Cure: the piece is reaching for the greatest profundity of the world, to heal or cure our personal and global wounds and sorrows, and Dimchev is aiming to achieve those profundities in his audience not by preaching the damnation of non-participation but by making a fool of himself and asking us to play with him.
I’ve long likened seeing a play with going to church, and by far, this piece was probably the closest to a religious experience I had the entire festival, and that wasn’t by accident. Dimchev uses language, physical imagery, and situations that mimic Christian imagery and theology, but unlike many performers or performances I’ve seen in which Christian iconography and theology is deconstructed, destroyed, or mocked in order to tell the audience the “real” truth, Dimchev instead in many ways recreates the gospel experience: we become the crowds watching a ridiculous clown spout New Age nonsense while he debases himself, and over the course of the show we realize that not only is he serious, but he is inviting us to come with him in the most sincere way, asking nothing from us except to witness and participate. The carefully curated language of the show speaks to this metaphor: he speaks of healing frequencies, loving hearts, healing languages (Russian and German, apparently), spiritual animals, the white energy of waterfalls…he gently builds sentences, images, songs, and movements in such a ridiculous way that by the time the sex part rolls around (because it was inevitable), there isn’t much to do but believe him that porn can be a very healing experience.
Dimchev remained so intensely positive and inviting towards his audience (emphasis on the word intense) throughout the show despite the increasingly complex and fraught situations, that by the time we reached the end, when we learned we were the super super bacteria of healing, I was all in. I found myself genuinely praying (or rather, generating frequencies) for the points on my I Cure card, and the last moments of the show, which are the most intense and most fraught, I have carried with me ever since. I have kept my I Cure card, and am looking at it, thinking about the healing process for the things written on it, as I write these words.
In I Cure I see a trend in theater that I feel like I’m also a part of, which is a turn towards vulnerability and sincerity, for genuine communion with the audience rather than aggression and cruelty toward them. Dimchev is hitting on something in this show that has shown up in the best work I’ve seen both in the States and abroad, which is that we come to the theater to make a human connection, and so the performers and the performances should be less about how awesome we can look and more about how human we can be. I think this show would be interesting for weary American audiences who are longing for a genuine belief system, and some way to feel moved to act.