Premiere of Anna Konjetzky’s latest production “hope/less” in the Muffathalle in Munich.
Following her dance solo “On Anger”, choreographer Anna Konjetzky once again explores the theme of emotion as an individual force and a social condition in her latest piece “hope/less” – a performance that gets under your skin!
Anna Konjetzky, a firmly established choreographer in the Bavarian capital, has once again created a hit with her newest production “hope/less” which, after having previewed in Braunschweig, recently celebrated an acclaimed premiere in Munich – justifiably so! In her poetic-philosophical dance portrait Konjetzky devotes herself to nothing less than the infinitely wide field of hope or rather hopelessness. And thanks to numerous previously conducted and recorded interviews, she receives countless answers to the question about the individual significance of hope, which in turn only results in further questions: Can hope be understood as an eternal motor of progress and motivation? Or can hope also be a hindrance and lead to compliant passivity? When does hope turn into hopelessness? The choreographer could not have chosen a more controversial moment to concentrate on this enormous topic in our current time of often overwhelming anger, grief and powerlessness – and yet also burgeoning hope for better and more peaceful times, a theme which touches people both individually and socially, in that it affects everyone without exception!
The visual framework of Konjetzky’s kaleidoscope of emotions is made up of a movable and rotatable metal structure that rests on four posts, into which a coarse-meshed net of safety belts has been attached. It ingeniously creates a variable playing field with an almost endless variety of movement possibilities for the virtuosic-dynamic power quartet consisting of Daphna Horenczyk, Sahra Huby, Quindell Orton and Jascha Viehstädt, the choreographer’s regular ensemble.
The initially delicate sounds (Stavros Gasparatos) accompany a figure in the net unpeeling itself from the deep black darkness of the stage. A single body that discovers its horizontal surroundings with cautious slow-motion movements and that is gradually joined by the other three dancers. At first, each of the dancers gingerly explores their environment, which is limited to a minimal space, feeling their way forward and enlarging the radius of movement – four individuals on their own, searching for themselves, for their own identity – integrated into a net of perceived security or is it a net of restriction? Only gradually do the performers with their casual athletic look – barefoot, jeans, striped shirts – discover the various possibilities that the net underneath them also offers for vertical movement: Carefully balancing on the belts is attempted as well as lying on the straps or smoothly gliding through the net. Dangerous situations soon develop from this supposedly ‘comfortable’ state, when two dancers leave the ‘feathered nest’ and slide through onto the floor – the dancers hovering dangerously above their heads threaten to fall onto their victims like spiders – with their full weight. But all four of them land with perfect control on the floor of the stage, having dared the leap into the open – into freedom.
Timidly and clumsily, the dancers balance on individual body parts until they gain traction and begin to conquer their terrain. Spirals are spun, a dancer (marvelously virtuosic: Jascha Viehstädt) performs imaginary boxing exercises with himself: To hope also means to fight, oftentimes with oneself – overcoming oneself, not just literally passively ‘hanging around’ and hoping in vain that something will eventually happen, that something has to happen. With increasingly extensive movements and rapid changes within the space, the dancers conquer it masterfully, even with their eyes closed. They act as a perfectly attuned collective, dynamically divine as well as extremely present and are convincing precisely because of their diversity, perfectly complementing one another. The central question “I hope for…” is soon tossed around like a childish pun, and is converted by the four performers teasingly flirtatious, introverted or – conversely – extroverted into a tool of an improvisational playground, in order to express their own wishes – they do this for themselves, in an intimate mind game.
But again and again the net, the ‘safe haven’ of habit and custom, summons the dancers and catches them again – individually, in pairs, all together. The dancers, in turn, respond on account of the newly acquired experience with daring, reckless swinging – that might end in flips and dangerous falls – they conquer their old terrain and reclaim it with unexpectedly intense energy: They swing along the railing, climb up it at lightning speed – effortlessly, weightlessly – they balance freely on the net-straps – life as a balancing act per se. Fearlessly they leap from great heights and in standing positions from the trapeze – like skydivers without a parachute, absolute control in the free fall. The passion and curiosity for life dominate and consequences are accepted: That’s life! Brilliant climbing – brilliant failing! So what?!
But sometimes it’s also a case of not getting anywhere, despite the greatest efforts and frantic running steps in the air, every step ultimately comes to nothing – like a hamster in a wheel, moving forward beyond the cage is impossible. Here the net turns into a prison – meshes that do not release into freedom and clutch invisibly.
Repeatedly the four individuals come together in sculptural formations – as a living breathing organism, as a gracefully hovering and at the same time fragile perpetuum mobile, which as an unmoving mover stands for ceaseless change: The dancers hold each other – casually, without making a big stir about it – support each other, save each other from falling and colliding; individuals forming a community. Detached from time and space, they seem to be floating in eternity – in an antiquarium without walls, without a floor, an airless space. But then they challenge each other equally and impose limits on each other: For example, when a dancer standing underneath the framework intends to escape it, supposedly running free, and each time is in danger of crashing against the metal post of the podium which is rapidly being spun by her partners – this signals that there is no escape. An image that seems to say: This is your limit! This far and no further! Brutal scenes like these alternate with gently touching ones, when a dancer (Quindell Orton) under the trapeze tries to escape vertically and tentatively stretches her fingers through the coarsely meshed holes of the net – as if to grasp for outside, a physical sigh for freedom… an image that allows countless associations.
It is not until the scaffolding is rolled to the back wall of the stage with concentrated collective force and ‘finally’ space is created, that room for diversity and breathing freely becomes fully possible. But even this state is not final, soon the scaffolding is retrieved again and as if on a silent command the four dancers climb back onto ‘their’ frame within seconds, retreat to ‘their’ castle – but hang there like insects caught in a net, like castaways clutching the beam of a sinking boat. Hanging there for a long time, until they begin to pant, curse and scream – “I quit”, Sahra Huby says, she can’t take it anymore – gravity is pulling on her too relentlessly, and her partner hanging upside down is about to hit the stage floor hard, headfirst. Increasing uncertainty is palpable in the audience: Is this the end of the performance, should the dancers be saved with applause? But it is not the end, in a vivacious finale one of the dancers is left alone in the net and tries to escape by climbing but seems to become more and more entangled while her fellow dancers twirl her inexorably and at a dizzying pace in the scaffolding – an impression so compelling that it physically spreads into the audience. Suddenly the threatening whirlpool comes to a halt – the dancer is able to free herself at the last second and regain (self-)control. She has ground under her feet again – a momentary order has been restored within the collective. Meter-long plastic straps are attached to the net. On both sides, the dancers take them from the stage into the auditorium and form a net right above the audience. The audience itself becomes part of the collective, part of the established community. Into the darkness that starts to spread once again, the stage scaffolding is rolled gently yet inexorably towards the audience and the performance ends – as usual – in motion, as a visionary image headed for the future? A visionary image looking forward. An ending in transformation – all of us transforming, incessantly, without any interruption. There’s no existence without change!
“I do not feel alone in my hope. I share the same hopes and fears as many other people”, a voice offstage says once during the performance of “hope/less”, and the core of this statement becomes especially palpable at the end, in this time, in this moment… If a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved, isn’t the opposite true as well, a hope shared is a hope doubled? Hope can be a motor, a barrier, it can be individual and communal, it can move and stop – but hope as a perceived opportunity for change and as a motor of transformation can most notably do one thing: Make things happen! Alone, but even better collectively. Together is more.