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Monday, October 15, 2018

Kreatur’s Creators

By Susan Yung

Kreatur. Photo: Ute Zscharnt
Berlin-based choreographer Sasha Waltz has shown her daring breadth in dance-theater at BAM—from the formal eloquence of Continu (2015) to the operatic madness of Gezeiten (2010), which literally set the house on fire. The members of her company alternately thrive, band together, or challenge the parameters given by each distinctive production.

Kreatur (2018), her fifth work at BAM, is a collaboration between Waltz and a team of artists contributing vividly imaginative elements. Soundwalk Collective created the soundscape by recording inside of buildings with histories—what the trio terms psychogeography. Sites used to record the pulsing, evocative score include Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen, a former Stasi prison specializing in psychological torture; and Berghain Berlin, once a turbine hall in a power plant in East Germany, and in its most recent incarnation one of the foremost clubs for techno music.

In a conversation with Sasha Waltz, Stephan Crasneanscki of Soundwalk Collective spoke about creating sound for the project. “A starting point of our conversations in this collaboration was the Stasi. We recorded sounds of various architectures symbolizing control, and embodying mass-production, capitalist power, revolution—landmarks of 20th-century architecture that were the first witnesses of a radical change in our social and sonic landscape, living memorials. Each of these buildings is made of multiple layers of history, sleeping layers, each with its own narrative. Through the act of recording and re-composing we have re-awoken these narratives and memories left behind by their inhabitants and held tightly inside the walls of these buildings. We picked up the traces left behind by the thousands of souls who lived and suffered in between those walls. We approached the composition as a musical abstraction derived from the resonance of these buildings, industrial machinery, and factory acoustics, as well as their empty spaces today. The echoing sound of their architecture is far more eloquent than their empty spaces suggest. Their empty space is memory.”

Kreatur. Photo: Sebastian Bolesch

The striking costumes for Kreatur were created by Iris Van Herpen, a Dutch designer known for radical concepts and using technology to realize them. She can articulate the human frame by exaggerating its structure. For Kreatur, she emphasizes the individual by nestling the body within an airy, shimmering cloud of metal wool, giving each dancer a cocoon that protects even while it is glowingly transparent. Black and white plastic sheaths are scored in wavy lines, allowing them to stretch and contract with movement. A performer bristles with long spikes which simultaneously fascinate and repel others. Prismatic plastic sheets refract and clone their bearers.

The lighting, by Urs Schönebaum, pushes to extremes the charged psychological tension onstage. Alternating between otherworldly luminosity and inky darkness, the effect transports viewers into the fantastical, at times ominous world created by the collaborators. A few key set elements offer the performers options—a stepped wall forces an individual to choose a direction; a wooden beam is manipulated and brandished in myriad ways. In Kreatur, these elements combine to transport viewers to an intriguing alienscape where the actions of an individual can ineffably alter the environment.

Kreatur. Photo: Ute Zscharnt

Waltz spoke about the potential for large-scale societal change, symbolized in Kreatur’s set pieces. “We can literally shift power, but only through awareness. A journalist whom I spoke with brought up a very interesting experience regarding this. While watching Kreatur, he noticed the various fragments of architecture on the stage. To most, they appear as just simple pieces, but his shift in perception transformed these into the form a ladder—an escape ladder. Through a slight shift in his thinking, these pieces became symbolic of an actual escape. We too can find this escape ladder. Regardless of how critical or precarious our situation seems, this escape—through a shift of perception—is always available to us. There is always a solution. With this ladder, we are able to change where we are going, in a positive, new, different way. As individuals, as society. We have control.”

Upending gender norms is another theme in Kreatur. Waltz notes, “The greatest moment of not just dominance but actual violence in Kreatur is coming from a woman, not a man. I think it is important to see that there is this potential in women, and break the idea that only men can be dominating or violent, because women also can have their dark side. “

By raising collective awareness, Waltz hopes that true change, and love, are possible. “Before being able to resist, we must accept that there is this monster which wishes to control us. The fear of this monster, of this control, alone is enough to paralyze us. But through awareness, at a certain moment the collective realizes its power. Through awareness and resistance, we can actually begin to destroy this monster. Without this control or fear of control, we are finally able to love again.”

Susan Yung is senior editorial manager at BAM.

© 2018 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

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