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In her compelling work Good Passports Bad Passports Helena Waldmann draws parallels between borders, crossing them, innate prejudice, outdated traditionalism and the held beliefs of contemporary dance and acrobats, but it’s an analogy that works well in this context and proved to be a stroke of genious.
There were many unconfortable, upsetting moments, but at times it was laugh-out-loud hilarious. All of it resonated rather deeply. The stage was populated with four dancers, three acrobats and 20 local people. A pole was erected and one of the acrobats quickly shunted up, holding himself (somehow!) at a right angle to the floor, symbolising a flag. The stage was split into two and a voice spoke in both German and English, making a series of comments: I pay taxes; I have a credit card; I have a conviction and so on. The cast have to choose left or right, yes or no, and flock between sides, sometimes changing their minds, as if they feel obliged to be honest. So, the scene is set, the rights and wrongs of our assumptions, the blatant observation that we are different beings, with multi-faceted opinions, but neither wrong nor right.
It is expertly portrayed via the vocal and physical representation of the contemporary dancers, who do not want spectacle or tricks or glamour, and the flamoyant acrobats, who are intent upon risk, exploring the new and gaining applause. As both sides vie for authentication, the acrobat demonstrates his ‚roll’ by throwing himself into an airborne flip. The contemporary dancer executes his version as a sideward somersault on the floor, adding to this his ‚prince role’, with the mime gesture of a crown. The delivery is deliciously droll and highly amusing. What ensues can only be descriped as a battleground where each side dismisses the other – the aggression, endurance and sheer physicality and athleticism escalate to monumental proportions, with plenty of expolsive and exciting episodes – and the cental issue of prejudice on both sides is left unresolved. In one sequence, the acrobat mimics the dancer, generating much mirth. A quite brillant, exaggerated display of campery followed, made all the more poignant because, in reality, he could not demonstrate adequately the contemporary technique. As a wall of linked people surged and repressed the two divisions, with no satisfactory outcome, it hit home – the inability of populations everywhere to change their core beliefs. Such thought-provoking, politically topical material, with such first-rate, sometimes astounding performers, is well worth watching more than once.
Deborah Weiss, Dance Europe Aug/Sept 2017
DIE GANZ UND GAR MENSCHLICHE MAUER - HELENA WALDMANNNS GRANDIOSES STüCK üBER GRENZEN UND UNS ALLE
Der Titel „Gute Pässe Schlechte Pässe“ braucht keine weitere Erklärung in einer Welt, in der sich die einen bewegen können, die anderen nicht, in der die einen gerne reisen und die anderen verzweifelt einen Ort suchen, von dem sie nicht verjagt werden. Die Choreographin entwickelt mit einer ungemein fitten Truppe eindrucksvolle, praktisch unvergessliche Bilder für das Anderssein und die Frage, worin das eigentlich besteht, für die Feindlichkeit und ihre Auswirkungen, überhaupt für das Zusammenleben von Menschen. Was hält sie zusammen? Was lässt sie auseinanderfliegen? Nach einer grandiosen Stunde Tanz und Akrobatik versteht man es immer noch nicht, aber man hat eine Vorstellung davon im Kopf. Und man begreift, dass es immer auch zum Lachen ist. Zum Lachen wäre.
Judith von Strernburg, Frankfurter Rundschau 19.10.17
THE ARBITRARINESS OF BORDERS
Waldmann’s choreography is unsettling and captivating at the same time. Her often political pieces are known for hitting society’s nerve, being thematically positioned right where it hurts at the moment. She raises the question what borders really demarcate. In this she pairs social criticism with a bit of humour and inspires the audience to reflection without pointing the finger. A dignified finale for ‘Tanz Bremen’ which was rewarded with long-lasting applause.
Alexandra Knief, Weser Kurier 26.3.2017
THE BEAUTIFUL OVER HERE, THE SAVAGES OVER THERE
Open and associative, intensive, thundering applause.
Christian Pichler, Neues Volksblatt 16.3.2017
WHEN WILD ACROBATS MEET GRACEFUL DANCERS
Enthusiastic acclaim for a tragicomic, socio-critical but not moralizing evening that stimulates reflection.
Karin Schütze, OÖNachrichten 16.3.2017
THE PASSPORT AS SOCIAL CREDIT CARD
With this production Helena Waldmann gets once again involved in social processes. Her piece ‘Good Passports, Bad Passports’ is a poster child for political dance theatre
Natali Kurth, SWR2 / Kultur Aktuell 10.3.17
This both politically and contextually very ambitious piece ‘Good Passports Bad Passports’ thrives above all on the sensual power of artistic contrasts: there are some impressive duets between dancers and acrobats in which they approach or pick on each other, to test the other in their limits and respective art. The public’s heart beats – one can feel it in every scene – for the young, exceptionally vital and laid back acrobats. But the piece needs contemporary dance and its dancers in order to make precisely these qualities visible and also to give the artistry an emotional and symbolic dimension. Helena Waldmann has not created a piece for the Cirque Nouveau, but brought together dancers and circus artists on an equal footing. The dance director has once again broken new artistic ground with ‘Good Passports, Bad Passports’.
Elisabeth Nehring, DFunk/Kultur Heute
MIT FLICKFLACK üBER DIE GRENZE
Will there ever be a time without borders? - a voice offstage asks eventually. This theatre provides no answer. But it is certain that Helena Waldmann needs borders, in order to overcome them again and again.
Stefan Benz, Darmstädter Echo 8.3.2017
THERE ARE LOTS OF WALLS
But there are even more lines drawn in this piece, and for that Helena Waldmann casted 20 participants locally, a colourfully multicultural group (dressed like all the performers by Judith Adam in a uniform yet varying black). They are organized using the rules of a common party game into ever-new opposing groups – by origin and passport, by travels and attitude to life, in the end by political hopes and expectations. But they also again and again form a living wall between the hostile groups, exploited by both sides. In the finale the wall turns like an out of control axis, and puts dancers and acrobats alike into a mindless flight.
Isabelle von Neumann-Cosel, tanznetz 5.3.2017
THEATRE OF GESTURES
What stays in the memory of this evening are above all the symbols. The borders between our nation states are constructed, constantly defended and disputed – and much more easily crossed by people of certain countries than by others. That fact that not everybody can move freely between these borders is an omnipresent problem in these times of immense migrant and refugee movements worldwide, that director and choreographer Helena Waldmann addresses now on stage in her new dance theatre piece ‘Good Passports, Bad Passports - a Borderline Experience’. The focus is on the assertion that isolation and inequality result from nationalism. In order to find an artistic equivalent for this political-human conflict, Waldmann brought together three acrobats and four contemporary dancers: Nouveau Cirque ‘versus’ modern dance. Additionally, 20 laypeople are on the stage: ‘wall builders’, as they are called in the programme booklet.
Bettina Weber, Die Deutsche Bühne 5.3.2017
IN THE END ONLY LOVE BRINGS RELEASE
Acrobats and dancers clash in "Good Passports, Bad Passports". For the Berlin based Waldmann, choosing the art forms dance and acrobatics is decisive in that they are both expressed through the body. And that gives her work driving force and makes her conception of borderline experiences successful.
Nora Abdel Rahman, morgenweb 6.3.2017
WALLS IN THE MIND
Her staged rivalry between serious art and entertainment can also be read as an allegory of a world in which the privileged part of humanity keeps the other, allegedly more primitive part at a distance.
This ambiguity makes it almost impossible to acknowledge the global situation as unbalanced for one thing but, when it comes to the question regarding the value of body languages, to favour dance. The wall inside the mind topples. But the production also shows how exhausting a however spectacular flic-flac sequence is in the long run, while the dancers convey something sophisticated with much less physical exertion.
Constitution, faith and war, that’s how Helena Waldmann names her three chapters in which four dancers compete against three acrobats, assisted by an amateur choir that functions as a mobile wall or a manipulable mass.
All of them together stand for the whole of human mankind. Every chapter begins with an animated tableau.
First of all, the protagonists re-enact the 1945 photograph of the raising of the US flag on the Japanese island Iwo Jima; then a takedown from a cross, and finally Francisco de Goya’s ‘The Third of May 1808’. Again and again these group scenes break up and two factions form that try to dominate the situation, each increasingly relentless and with their respective form of expression. To this resound three versions of the today somewhat cynical song “We Are The World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie that crowned Bob Geldof’s Live-Aid charity concert for Africa in 1985. We never hear the tacky melody for long as it gets swallowed up by pulsating rhythms and sharper sounds.
None of the memorable scenes move on a single track. Setting world events and theatre life side-by-side makes for a striking effect because it gives an idea of how comprehensively equality must be conceived. If “Good Passports, Bad Passports” ends with the question of whether humanity will ever get along without borders, the company seems to refuse an answer to this but gives it nevertheless: through the spacious, coequal and completely mixed arrangement of all the performers. Once again Helena Waldmann trusts the body when it’s about taking a position.
Julia Lutzeyer, Stuttgarter Nachrichten 6.3.2017
Circus meets high culture. In the dance-theatre production “Good Passports, Bad Passports” that premiered at Ludwigshafener Pfalzbau, Helena Waldmann lets two different cultures clash and the audience ponder the question: why do we need borders? The Berlin based choreographer changes from slapstick at one moment to stern social criticism: eclectic, unsettling and extremely thrilling.
Antje Landmann, Die Rheinpfalz 6.3.2017
A TEMPLATE FOR DREAMS
Her productions are political and poetic, tender and brutal, analytical but of an unobtrusive sharpness. They reliably hit a societal nerve, touching all of the viewer’s senses and challenge through the creation of amazing images.
Dorion Weickmann, Süddeutsche Zeitung 4.3.2017