Meg Stuart
Damaged Goods
Jozef Wouters/Decoratelier
DE MORGEN, A liberating failure - Pieter T’Jonck (4/10/12)
DE STANDAARD, The power of failure - Sarah Vankersschaever (08/10/2012)
FOCUS KNACK, Meg Stuart in Wonderland - Els Van Steenberghe (10/10/12)

The Play = Built to Last
Company = Damaged Goods
In one sentence = The essence of ‘being human’ is transformed here into a colourful dance parade beneath the Milky Way, with a truly exceptional end piece as the cherry on this classic cake.
High point = The beautiful closing image where the ‘Milky Way’ hanging above the stage is sublimely ‘multiplied’. This may sound cryptic, but it would be a sin to give any more away.
Score = three stars * * *

Can a brilliant actor also be a brilliant dancer? Yes. Kristof Van Boven proves it. Kristof who? Kristof Van Boven (b.1981) was one of the Ghent National Theatre’s star actors when it was under the leadership of Johan Simons. Simons’ departure for the Münchner Kammerspiele (in 2010) also meant the departure of Van Boven. He followed Simons to Munich, where he was a huge success, as evidenced by the many prizes for acting that he has since been awarded in Germany.

Van Boven acquits himself rather well in his guise as a dancer. Or rather: he dances the stars from the sky and in Built to Last, rather fittingly, he does this with scenery that resembles an abstract version of the Milky Way. It is thus immediately clear what Meg Stuart wants to do with this performance: to put a world on the stage. Not the world of our blue planet. Another world. A wonderful world - one in which classical music steers the emotions and movements of its inhabitants. That’s exactly the approach taken in this piece: ‘can you do more with classical music than respectfully create carefully-wrought steps?’

During the première in Munich, classical music lovers only just stopped short of crying blue murder (mainly because the music was so loud that it drowned out their cries). Which is to say: Stuart got up a few people’s noses and had the Münchner Kammerspiele’s rather traditional audience up in arms at first. It was only during its long run that Built to Last found its true audience – an audience that shares Meg Stuart’s enthusiasm for letting rip to the music of the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven, Sergei Rachmaninov, Antonin Dvorák, Arnold Schönberg and György Ligeti.

The performance is a relay of dance moves, constantly interrupted by short breaks. During one of these breaks, Van Boven addresses the audience: ‘It is love and enthusiasm that drive us’, which sounds like an apology for the rather odd piece – it looked like a kind of primal dance of the robots – that had just been danced. Stuart literally allows her dancers to explore every corner of the stage, but also allows them to evoke every possible nuance of dance: from robotic movements to intimacy, or skipping around in a cloud of smoke in a thoroughly romantic way whilst music by Arnold Schönberg pours from the speakers. Everything is possible. Everything is built up and then destroyed again. Built to Last. Doris Dziersks’ decor – which looks like a playground for adults – is an excellent tool for this.

As the slightly spun-out performance progresses, you become accustomed to Stuart’s absurd, associative fantasy. You wander through it like Alice in Wonderland. Along the way, the dancers – led by Kristof Van Boven – develop their own little personalities with their passions, longings, questions and doubts. The essence of ‘being human’ is transformed into a colourful dance parade beneath the Milky Way and a truly exceptional end piece is the cherry on this classic cake.

Translation Helen Simpson

ETCETERA, Music is potentially always a threat - Jeroen Versteele (09/12)
THALO MAGAZINE, Moving the viewer - Alena Giesche (06/03/2012)
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Forget about a Paper Moon: This Swan’s Cardboard - Claudia La Rocco (14/01/2012)

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