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TIME OUT NEW YORK, Nothing is Forever - Gia Kourlas (24/01/2008)

Meg Stuart returns to DTW with another duet about love and loss - this time, opposite Philipp Gehmacher.

During her last visit to New York nearly two years ago, Meg Stuart performed a duet with the Canadian dancer and choreographer Benoit Lachambre, Forgeries, Love and Other Matters, at Dance Theater Workshop. Never mind that after F01'geries she created at least three other dances, including It's not funny, a group comedy; Blessed, a political solo; and Maybe Forever, a melancholy duet with the Austrian choreographer Philipp Gehmacher, which will grace DTW next week.
"It's weird that it goes from one duet to the next," Stuart reflects in a telephone interview from Berlin, where she resides. "But whatever. The only thing you can say is that it's another collaboration with another choreographer. Maybe it's still about love and loss, but Philipp and Benoit are totally different. The atmosphere is totally different too."

And Americans have missed so much of Stuart's work since she relocated to Europe in the mid '90s that it's hard to be picky. Unlike Forgeries, a cinematic work set on a mountainous terrain of shaggy brown carpet - a comedy of manners shaded by catastrophe and science fiction - Maybe Forever is stripped down. The tender, melancholic piece, which embraces themes of disconnection and separation, is a portrait of lost love, where movement, more than theatrics or text, is of overriding importance. While intimate, the production is hardly plain; in addition to Janina Audick’s set-somewhat reminiscent of a concert hall - Maybe Forever also features the Brussels-based singer and songwriter Niko Hafkenscheid, who will perform his ballads alongside the dancers.

"The work is really sculptural, and as much movement as there is, there is also stillness," Stuart says. "There's a painful quiet within the movement itself. It's not like, 'Oh, I want you to be there!’ There's not a struggle; there's an acceptance of absence in this shifting relationship we have with each other. It's really the about the gesture and the phantom pain we experience in relationships. Or all the ghosts we bring with us when we meet someone else."

But Maybe Forever, which flips back and forth through time, also reveals much about the connection between Stuart and Gehmacher, an established European choreographer who will ne making his New York debut at DTW. The pair met at a workshop taught by Stuart in 1996. On the surface, they have little in common-Stuart deals with theatrical concerns, Gehmacher with formal ones - but their performing chemistry is legendary. "For me, this is very much about the joy of being onstage with another strong individual," Gehmacher says. "That was one of the reasons I really wanted to do this piece - it allowed me to be challenged in a different way than when I work with my dancers. So on different levels, I feel this chemistry, and I understand more and more what she is about. For me, the strongest quaIity about her performance is that she hovers between absence and presence all the time. Why she embodies or enacts certain things in a certain way, and if it's a place where I feel like I should join her, I try. Chemistry is all exchange in a way."

Stuart is curious for audiences in New York to see Maybe Forever because of the way it focuses on the gesture and minute movement-her fascination with what the body can say by itself, without affectation. "I feel like the roots for that have been laid out in the States, and certainly in New York," she says. "There's something quite clean about the work. Forgeries was so messy in so many good ways, you know? Everything was spilling, and here you just see every little glance and detail." In Maybe Forever, she is influenced by Gehmacher, who is known for creating rigorous dances with few movements; for all its severity, Stuart finds his work touching. "I remember watching a performance a couple of years ago, and I thought, I want to be in there," she recalls. "I think this is a return to a trust in movement, a return to a kind of simplicity. Looking atone single gesture on an empty stage-I wanted to do that."

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