Dans Theater: Jorma Elo (Part 1)
‘Pneuma,’ ‘Z/na,’ and 'Claude
by Maria Technosux
May -- June, 2003 -- Het Muziektheater,
Why do we need to chase the
dancers? Why isn't the dance enough? Dancers don't hold still for their
portraits. We can't be present everywhere to cover everything at the
same time, so why even bother?
This is my first "review" for CriticalDance.com, and it isn't even a real
review. Rather a collection of thoughts conceived after observing Jorma
Elo. Every time I write a piece expressing my appreciation of someone
else's creative expression, the act is not much appreciated. As unfortunate
as it is, this is understandable. The worst crime you can commit in my
universe is to fetishize a creative person. A fetish is a commodity, a
killed thing, something consumed, digested, flushed away. Writing about
a dancer you run the risk of objectifying something full of life.
For me, it is not the search for The Truth in the choreography. Neither
is it a technical matter. Rather, it is the assumption that by focusing
on the dancers, I can increase the quality of my interpretation. At a
deeper level lie feelings of desire, specifically the desire to be surprised,
to discover something unexpected --the sensational in the good sense of
the word. But these things remain unspeakable, because they all reveal
a powerlessness and frustration with one's own existence that is outright
palpable. Despite all this, I continue my fascination with the dancers
despite being fully aware of the mechanics behind it.
The biggest mistake you can make is to try and guess a dancer's age. Inevitably
you will get it wrong, since most of these people are age-chameleons.
Knock another decade off of that one... He's 43, but I guessed him into
his thirties. Time has drawn deep lines on his face, but when I look at
his, I do not see the weary tiredness I see in my own...and I am only
half his age. Age-ist attitudes show their ugly face: "I haven't seen
this dancer in his prime, how can I say I like his dancing! I've obviously
joined in too late." I feel that way when I consider the fact that I never
got to see La La La Human Steps with Louise Lecavalier in real life. Elo’s
been in NDT I for over a decade, but I was doing other things during that
decade to bother or notice. Should I let that spoil the fun? I don't think
First sight: Jorma Elo as
The Watcher (chor: Johan Inger), Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam (NL), 2
May 2003, “Dynamic Images” program.
It was the first time I saw him dance. No, this does not feel traitorous
to admit. I have already explained my "over a decade of almost zero dance
involvement" situation in another text.
A critic identified Jorma Elo as The Watcher/Observer in this piece. To
me he was a ghost from the past (also an observer of sorts? Pull out a
Sartre!). Maybe because of the way he was manipulating Rei Watanabe during
their pas de deux, and the frustration on her face, aware and not aware
of his presence. “Pneuma” is the Greek word for "ghost", but also the
word for "soul", so "spirit" would make the best translation of the term.
I didn't like this piece very much. Think "tear-jerking suburban angst
fueled ausdruckstanz". Yes, a lot of nasty stuff going on behind the walls
of our current day gated communities! The performance just doesn't speak
to me. In my opinion, he was the only person that the choreography managed
His dancing is an enigma to me. You have to see it for ourselves because
it looks like an impossibility. Not "impossible" as in highly-technical
though. I am not that type of viewer. When he raises his arms, when he
flutters his fingers (somber, kind of resigned), when he does that propeller-like
movement with his arm at the side of the space (pathetic), there seems
to be an equal amount of energy throughout his whole body. This in my
opinion is not possible. When someone moves a bodypart, the audience can
see that the focus of energy is on the moving part. Which is not to say
that his movements are unfocused; quite the opposite. It seems that he
doesn't intensify a certain movement to get his point across. He just
moves and that's it. Hence, he seems to be in a constant state of equilibrium.
I cannot define it. It is not the "natural gracefulness" that ballet-dancers
are so good at faking. Neither would I characterize it as restrained,
simply because I do not get the impression that he is forcing himself
to hold back. What is it?
2 of NDT: Jorma Elo by Maria Technosux
Edited by Jeff
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