Traveling not only broadens the mind: it shapes it.
Visual arts have accustomed us for decades to nomadism also teaching choreographers to be curious vagabonds and omnivorous thieves of emotions. Virtual nomadism has since disrupted all established certitudes, has led to a re-discussion of all truths. Following a sign, a single gesture, moving around within a creation, choreographic work slips, sinks, betrays his “reason” and reinvents another one. Once the temporal hierarchies have been abolished, the choreographers "travel" within the work itself in a non-linear way, but with a practice made of lunges and excavations, returns and personal projections. They assume a position that has no privileged ethics except that of supporting the sense of a mental temperature in synchrony with the exact moment of creation.
Shattering a work that in the past has been an accomplished show made by a single author, also means taking responsibility for breaking the myth of the "ego". It means diving into a sea of extraneous imaginations, where stopping points, anchoring points and spot-lights are not possible. Salvation is given by estrangement, distance from their own center and above all by an idea of a closed and worn out world. With almost opposite ways of proceeding, this preamble is useful to enter the atmosphere of Venezuela and especially of Bermudas. Conceived in 2017, passed through a remarkable series of transformations and with various titles - such as Bermudas Tequila Sunrise - adaptable to three as to thirteen always changing interpreters, to scenic and non-scenic spaces - today's Bermudas (seen at the Triennale Teatro in Milan ) won the Ubu Prize 2019 for choreography. It is a more than deserved tribute. It confirms the continuous nomadism of mk, an open group, behind which the choreographer Michele Di Stefano hides himself with his unmistakable titles’ pièces. As a perfect and ironic tourist agent (Tourism, Speak Spanish, Around the world in 80 days, Impressions d'Afrique, Robinson, North Face, among many others), however he does not bother to describe the places he visited, lived in or simply inspired him, but he creates a space in which the very different personalities and skills of his dancers are evident in approaching and moving away in a time-space where they can leave traces not only in their bodies, but also in the spectator's fantasies.
Those who observe Bermudas are tempted to cling to the evocation of the title (always directing, according to the brilliant choreographer William Forsythe): that is to that Bermuda archipelago, in the Atlantic Ocean, hit by persistent storms, currents and tornados so powerful that it has swallowed up ships and planes and has earned the legendary epithet of "cursed triangle" or "devil’s triangle". To tell the truth, anyone who really wants to visit the Bermuda Islands should first of all have a very strong sunscreen.
And here we are: immersed in the warm and orange light of Bermudas, summery as the colorful costumes with the lively shapes of the performers immediately thrown into an incessant and whirling dance on electronic, beating, synth-pop music. After an initial female solo, there is someone who dictates a simple code verbally and with precise gestures: wide, long, reverse and side. All the strong and concentrated performers (eight, in Milan) must follow it in their ceaseless entrances and exits, always from the left. They create very fast, mind-boggling, dizziness, with open arms (wide) due to the continuous rotations, reaching out to the public when they slide towards it (long), almost folded and with a twisted bust (reverse), and so folded to one side (side) in their approach and retreat, in sudden jumps with half-bent knees (Biagio Caravano, co-founder and also choreographer of mk).
Is there chaos on stage? If we can remember the initial rules punctuated with irony (by Sebastiano Geronimo) in Bermudas, we realize that the quality of movement and gesture of the individual interpreters changes whenever one of them is in the presence of a partner, in a sort of energy, unpredictable exchange. Michele Di Stefano makes reference to the theory of chaos (with Damiano Folli, here mathematical consultant of the show). This theory says, in brief, that given initial sensitive conditions a total state of disorder is almost impossible - and here we are in the fragile, shining, unstable sensibility of the human being - because it foresees its future and arbitrary variations, as in meteorology.
The result is a pure, formalistic dance of absolute effervescence and impalpable loveliness, also due to precious light effects and unexpected backlighting. The solo of the most mature dancer of the group (Philippe Barbut) comes out in a precise moment when the backdrop turns greenish coming from a burning colour. He wraps himself in his arms and, in total silence, he even throws a kiss to the audience. This solitary and affectionate interruption breaks the flow, like a whirlpool or energy center of a tornado, from which will then come out more powerful flows and turbulences. At a double speed the code is restored on roaring tribal rhythms, until all dancers gathered together and everyone moves away, shoulders to the public and disappears, rotating in an increasingly dim light. The audience is left with only the continuous trampling of the feet in colored socks (Forsythe docet, again!), with the magnetic power of the dance and a possible, disruptive wave of thoughts.
Curiously enough Venezuela by Ohad Naharin, a piece of 2017, admired at the Teatro Grande in Brescia, seems to start where Bermudas ends. The sixteen dancers of the Batsheva Dance Company are on their way with their backs to the audience towards a black backdrop like their costumes and the low scenes stacked on the right and on the left. However, the sensual and sinuous swing of a female dancer in high-heeled shoes and the breaking apart of the group in rock'n'roll couples or in docile South American duets seems to contrast with the Gregorian chants that accompany their perfect and glossy movements, here at a high level of virtuosity that perhaps overflows beyond the necessary boundaries. The flexibility of the dancers’ bodies - to which Naharin offers his creativity and his "gaga" method having left the direction of the ensemble after decades of artistic leadership - is now legendary. And here it explodes even when from contacts that seem full of desire we observe certain mysterious whispers of two interpreters. While on the microphone they whisper the words of a rap of the famous (and assassinated) The Notorius B.I.G., the couples go on horseback swinging and swinging. How much turgor in those women on the backs of men; how much duplicate sensuality in the bodies’ chains that wind on the ground!
Yet there is a first stop in the exciting action with the entry on the scene of a row of dancers. Equipped with whites that drop on the ground golden fabrics, the performers whisk them in the air, before flapping them on the floor. From here on begins a scene of violence that both the articulation of the Kyrie Eleison and of the name of the Saints cannot appease. Bodies drag themselves on the ground, crawl here and there but collide even in desperation well sealed by a powerful male scream. The happy and gloating image of South America in its famous aphrodisiac dances gives way to open conflicts and for now untreatable; to the memory of those four million emigrés who left Venezuela since 2015 to today out of poverty, fear of new coups d'état and guerrillas… To accentuate even in the choreography the domain of contrasts, Ohad Naharin reproduces the same choreographic block of about 40 minutes in the ideal second part of the pièce. Without a solution of continuity, the walk towards the backdrop and all that has happened before is repeated, but with another music (assembled by Maxim Waratt) with an Arabic, African, exotic, varied, rap and techno-rock flavour.
Paradoxically, but not so much, the trend of the choreographic construction - from sensuality/sexuality to conflict - travels with ease on this music of our time without the remorse of those sacred and religious fragments, of those heavenly litanies that blow on the first part of the pièce. In fact here the whites have become flags of the world and from them others fall, similarly brandished as scimitars in the wind and beaten to the ground. Farewell Venezuela: now it’s the world’s turn in its ever-widening areas of war and cataclysms. Women continue to be sexy with their elegant dresses embellished with a lace tail, but the scream of the man pierces more, even if everything - still 40 minutes - ends with a light kiss of a couple, between applauses that do not end and maybe feeble hopes.