All images by Marcel Lennartz
The Generosity of Dorcas
CONCEPT, CHOREOGRAPHY, AND DIRECTION: JAN FABRE
MUSIC: DAG TAELDEMAN
DRAMATURGY: MIET MARTENS
SCENOGRAPHY: JAN FABRE
COSTUME: JAN FABRE, KASI MIELCZAREK
LIGHTS: WOUT JANSSENS
PERFORMER: MATTEO SEDDA
FROM: TROUBLEYN / JAN FABRE - BELGIUM
MAIN PROGRAM, INTERNATIONAL SELECTION
What I Saw
If you’re not already familiar with the work of Jan Fabre, go google the man, then resume where you left off. He’s controversial and prolific, a Belgian with an attitude who’s made some truly monumental works for the stage.
Wait a second. I just googled him, and apparently, he’s been accused of sexual harassment by members of his troupe. All accusations of harassment deserve to be heard and investigated. There is no question about that, and there are no forthcoming “but” statements about it. The accusations come from no less than 20 former members of Fabre’s Troubleyn Troupe and include an accusation that he refused to give a dancer a solo because she wouldn’t have sex with him. The Belgian cultural ministry has turned the investigation over to the police - which is absolutely the correct thing to do in any such circumstances. All the articles I find about this incident on the internet are from September 2018, and I cannot find anything that indicates what the status of the legal investigation currently is.
Had I known all this before the performance, it would’ve tainted my experience - which in many ways is not fair to Matteo Sedda - the dancer who so brilliantly and athletically shared himself with us from the stage. I must state, though, that here in Varna, I heard not one whisper of the allegations against Fabre. Had I, I certainly would’ve asked my Bulgarian hosts and the festival organizers about their thoughts on the matter and the inclusion of his work in this festival.
Even though I’m no longer compelled to review it impartially, not doing so would mean that I don’t live by my own ethos or that of the American justice system - of innocent until proven guilty - so I’m indebted to myself to review the piece on its own merits.
So here’s my review: the piece was really, really good. Dancer Matteo Sedda delivered a virtuosic, humorous, and committed performance for an unrelenting 60 minutes. I was in awe of his athleticism throughout, as the performance’s freneticism only increased over its duration. With a dash of mime and a reliance on allusion, Sedda moved from identity to identity - Wild West cowboy, demure socialite, Michael Jackson, champion boxer, satyr, handmaiden - and with impressive physical dexterity and ample vocalizations, he did not give me much opportunity to read the piece for its greater meaning, as I was too busy being blown away by his work or relishing the humor and heart he brought to the stage.
The stage design consisted of innumerable sewing needles dangling from the fly loft on differently colored wool yarn. I suffered from the delusion that the needles were slowly lowering, encroaching on Sedda’s stage space throughout the production, but I believe that was simply an hallucinatory manifestation of the performance’s intensity. Throughout, Sedda would pull a needle down and affix it to an article of clothing. After playing with the needle and thread for a few moments, he’d remove the piece of clothing the needle penetrated and lay it on the downstage edge of the stage, as if he was offering a piece of himself to the audience, and in an homage to the performance’s namesake. This played out over and over until Sedda stood on stage nude except for a translucent black shirt. Each time he laid a piece of clothing down, he’d kneel, make eye contact with a member of the audience, and put his hands on his chest in a sign of gratitude. This performance marks the second time in the festival where a male performer has tucked his genitals between his legs to simulate femininity, and by golly, it worked both times.
The Generosity of Dorcas is part of a larger series of work for Fabre, wherein he and a solo dancer create a piece designed to showcase that dancer’s particular strengths, and Sedda gloriously shared his with us over the course of this performance.
I left the theatre exuding gratitude toward Matteo Sedda for giving so much of himself in performance. Now, I’m selfishly grateful to have finally seen a piece of Jan Fabre’s work in the flesh, though that gratitude is not without its complications.