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ecotopia dance productions: press clippings Helena Waldmann - The Intruder - an autopsy



In Helena Waldmanns Tanztheater „Der Eindringling – eine Autopsie“ geht es um das Fremde und darum, wie Menschen sich dagegen abzuschotten versuchen. Gezeigt werden Maßnahmen, die zuerst nur nach außen wirken, sich später aber auch nach innen richten und am Ende genau das, was man glaubte, schützen zu müssen, im Keim ersticken.

Presley statt Pilates
Peter Kraus in der Halle Münsterland umjubelt
Das Publikum im Pumpenhaus nimmt den japanischen Tänzer Ichiro Sugae als harmlosen jungen Mann wahr, der in unbeschwerten Ballettschritten über die Bühne hüpft. Für seine Kollegen Tillmann Becker und Mattia Saracino scheint er aber eine Bedrohung darzustellen. Wie Messpunkte eines Radarsystems verfolgen sie seine Position, bis einer von ihnen auf die Bühne springt und den Eindringling mit einem Fußtritt zu Fall bringt. Ihn gewissermaßen erlegt. In einer anderen Szene werden sie ihn mit Hightech-Waffen bedrohen und ihm zu verstehen geben, dass er nicht erwünscht sei.
In Helena Waldmanns Tanztheater „Der Eindringling – eine Autopsie“ geht es um das Fremde und darum, wie Menschen sich dagegen abzuschotten versuchen. Gezeigt werden Maßnahmen, die zuerst nur nach außen wirken, sich später aber auch nach innen richten und am Ende genau das, was man glaubte, schützen zu müssen, im Keim ersticken.
Bei der tänzerischen Umsetzung greift die Berliner Choreographin auf Elemente des chinesischen Kampfsports Kung Fu zurück, bei dem es weniger darum geht, den Gegner zu vernichten als ihn kennenzulernen. Allerdings scheint sich dieser Gedanke bei den Protagonisten nicht durchzusetzen. Statt das Fremde an sich heranzulassen, schützen sie sich mit Schlagkissen, Helmen und gepolsterten Handschuhen, bis sie so unbeweglich sind, dass sie sich kaum noch bewegen können.
Auf diese Weise entstehen aussagekräftige Bilder von mitunter grotesker Komik. Beispielsweise wenn zwei Tänzer sich zu einem Tango aufstellen und sich dabei derart aufpolstern, dass ihre Darbietung jeglicher Eleganz, geschweige denn Erotik entbehrt.
Helmut Jasny, Westfälische Nachrichten 28.11.2019

Helena Waldmann travels a lot, and she enjoys looking into the soul of society. Thus, her latest work “The Intruder - an autopsy, premiered in Ludwigshafen, is a journey to the innermost of humanity, the core of our (current) state of being. For one hour we are asked to observe ourselves, to perform an autopsy on ourselves, to look at and into ourselves with our own eyes.
It’s about fear, the fear of intruders – into our bodies, into our society. And our desperate attempts to shield ourselves from them, to ward them off, to keep them away from us. In a tragicomical way the work demonstrates how our exaggerated need for protection leads to total vulnerability.
In rapid succession, brutal, erotic, comical “meetings” take place in which the three dancers and performers, Tillmann Becker, Mattia Satacino and Ichiro Sugae, attack each other and defend themselves. As a basis for the dance Waldmann employs the Chinese martial art Kung Fu and its philosophy: don’t destroy the opponent but get to know and grow with them. The “meetings” are accompanied by vocalist Telmo Branco and musical fragments of various styles. At the beginning we hear Baroque music, accentuating the persiflage of a ballet. But the ballet dancer is instantly knocked down by a martial arts fighter. Cut! Next scene: a man, let’s call him Intruder, is greeting us with a friendly-shy “Hello” and immediately downed. The attacker is running across the stage with a holographic fan displaying the words “Welcome” – “Your Fault” – “Intruder”.
The focus mitt, a large padded glove used as protection when practising martial arts, like the kick pad, takes on a central role. The fighters-dancers shield themselves with evermore focus mitts and kick pads until they not only look clownish but are almost unable to move and hence vulnerable. There is a brilliant scene in which Sugae puts a kick pad the size of a child mattress under his shirt and stalks across the stage like a little robot man. When he’s finally carried off the stage it looks as if he’s lying in a coffin. A fantastically-comical tango scene – in which any eroticism is missing owing to the large amount of focus mitts – is about closeness. In the background a voice monotonously repeats: “Precaution!” – “Mind your step!” – “Protection!”. Our desire/ addiction for “overpadding” takes everything from us, in every respect.
A strong, magnificent piece about the fear of the other and a plea to deal more serenely with alleged danger. The body dies if its orifices are closed. For Waldmann this is a metaphor for societies which shut themselves off – and believe themselves to be protected because of this.
Nadja Encke, tanz 7/19

“The Intruder – an Autopsy is the name of the new production by the Berlin based dance director Helena Waldmann, who has made a name for herself internationally with her often political work.
Helena Waldmann is a good observer. She analyses political or social conditions with a sure eye, puts her finger in the wound and challenges the audience. The title “The Intruder - an Autopsy” says it all.
Helena Waldmann: “Autopsy means first of all "to see for yourself”, and it also means to look into a body. I find this important because we tend to adopt opinions and see images, that are put in front us, as the truth.”
Four dancers perform the new one-hour work, which has many facets, themes and nuances. The intruder is personified, abstracted, can transport negative but also positive contents. Fear and too many protective mechanisms are counterproductive; to show that the dancers attach so many foam mats to their bodies that they can no longer move. With her piece "The Intruder - an Autopsy" Helena Waldmann also calls for a different way of dealing with fear, personally and politically: "If we don’t learn as children to deal with danger because we’re constantly over-protected, it is simply dangerous. Because if I haven't learned to fight on a small scale, I can't react adequately when a big attack comes; and the chance of dying from it becomes really high.”
Nathalie Kurth, SWR 2

In socially and politically committed dance theatre, dance director Helena Waldmann has for more than fifteen years been playing in her own league. The theatre scholar does not describe herself as a choreographer. She started off in the drama department but then changed genre, fascinated by the openness and topicality of dance. Since then she has worked with different physical techniques and dance styles, always adapted to her respective questions. Helena Waldmann did not allow herself to be held back by either resistance or social taboos when selecting themes for her productions. Under international observation she always produces with a new team for each new topic.

The real experience of an autopsy is reflected in the subtitle of her new piece "The Intruder”. Thematically, it's about defence against the foreign. There’s no shilly-shally, they get straight to it: her four-man dance team is trained in martial arts. The content of the hour-long piece consists mainly of martial arts, with abrupt changes to ballet, hip-hop, slapstick and pantomime. Helena Waldmann is visibly fascinated by this method of defence, in which one appropriates the strength of the opponent, with gravity as an accomplice. Judith Adam has dressed the protagonists in two-piece martial arts suits from beige to grey: Tillmann Becker, a dancer with Indonesian roots, the Portuguese singer-performer Telmo Branco, the Italian Mattia Saracino, and the Japanese Ichiro Sugae. With his almost feminine charisma, he embodies not only the stranger, but everything foreign that must be fended off. Foam cushions and focus mitts serve sometimes for protection, sometimes for intensification, sometimes for the obstruction of the battles. In addition, a hand fan plays a role as scanner, weapon or video projection screen.
Here the bold arc closes on the subject of "autopsy": video images (Anna Saup) dive into the inside of the body; also a violent penetration. The choreography is brought to an end by another intruder who comes rather from the toy box: a giant octopus.
There is no doubt: the piece impresses – above all through the dancers' willingness to take risks, who do not just perform the sudden outbreaks of violence.
The audience at the premiere in Ludwigshafen gave abundant applause and many of them flocked to the follow-up discussion.
Isabelle von Neumann-Cosel, Stuttgarter Nachrichten 12.6.2019

Baroque music starts, three dancers jump into the sudden light on stage. As the music suddenly falls silent, they fall to the ground. Dance director Helena Waldmann sets the first scene from her new production “The Intruder – an Autopsy), like an attack out of nowhere. And as always, Waldmann's choreographic work is motivated by her view of social and political conditions. However, she mostly takes it further than this and tries to give the themes of her works more of a common denominator.

Opening to infinity
Meanwhile, the dancers have formed anew in "The Intruder". When one of the performers waves his hand shouting "hello", this is again the beginning of a new situation. Because now there's fighting. First comes the attack on the "intruder", then his defence. Strike leads to counterstrike, one contortion follows another. The fighters increasingly arm themselves with martial arts protection and pad themselves against the punches.
Waldmann, however, does not leave it there. Instead, she constantly transforms our view of the "intruder" by combining moving images with strong sounds. Soon a dancer wrestles with a multi-armed octopus creature; soon a naked dancer is buried underneath like an organic mass, into which another one dips with his hands, like in an autopsy. A fourth one comments with onomatopoeic singing and opens up the images and the view of what’s intruding into infinity.
Nora Abdel Rahman, Mannheimer Morgen 11.6.2019

Many people would love to build barricades: against immigrants, for example. Or against viruses. But the seeming intruder can also be used to vaccinate, as dance director Helena Waldmann will show in her new work “The Intruder” at Pfalzbau. For that, she drew inspiration from kung fu. A combat-dance with Baroque singing.

When a martial artist wants to learn how to strike properly, his opponent protects himself with a foam pad, a focus mitt. One can overdo it though: the Berlin director Helena Waldmann armours one of her three dancers with so many pads – on the back, around the hips, on the head – that he becomes immobilised. “Totally over-padded, we call it during rehearsal,” says the 57-year-old. “Too much protection is no protection. Our society is very good at building such barriers. Like demanding a plaster cast at the doctors for a graze on the finger.”
One automatically pictures US president Donald Trump wanting his wall against immigrants. The mind wanders to Great Britain where they’re intending to close their borders again after Brexit and ends up at Alternative für Deutschland who warn of “foreign infiltration”. Even at the playground, the Berliner finds examples: where she observes helicopter parents putting helmets on their children on slides and catching them at the bottom. “One must have the chance to experience danger in small doses. If one knows the foreign or the attacker, one can handle it better.”
Actually, what the director is describing here is the effect of vaccinations, and indeed in her new work, she forges a bridge from politics to medicine, from nation to body and from martial arts to Baroque singing.

The dance director’s works are mostly provocative and complex: for the principle of attack and defence, she chooses the Chinese martial art Wing Tsun-Kung, she is interested above all how it uses the opponent’s energy to make both parties stronger. “The opponent is no longer something negative. One just needs to know them.”
When the other is being incorporated, when one seems to reach into the other one’s body, it is shocking but also erotic. “Sexual intercourse is also a form of intrusion and a beautiful incorporation of the other,” Waldmann says. That’s how children come into being, and this one can again translate onto nations: “To avoid inbreeding one needs foreign semen. Body and nation need to open up in order to survive.”
Antje Landmann, Die Rheinpfalz 24.5.2019

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