Dance is reflected in society. Here are 15 choreographies dealing with some of today’s hottest topics.
The idea that the ultimate goal of dance has to be beauty is a thing of the past. A high percentage of the contemporary dance created in Spain reflects its time, trying to stir up new lines of thinking, contemplating society critically, and reflecting on what is good and bad in our way of living. Obviously, the choreographies sometimes do so from the perspective of beauty. Here are 15 choreographies from creators with a concern for social problems.
You probably did not know it is called anhedonia, but you have almost certainly experienced it. It is the inability to feel pleasure, or the loss of interest or enjoyment for something you would otherwise like. The young Basque creator Iker Karrera reflects on this issue in his latest production No Pleasure. The play is in line with the fusion of languages, so characteristic of his young company. After the successful #7fm, Karrera took a break from the company whilst participating in and ultimately running the television programme Fama ¡a bailar! [Fame, Let’s Dance!].
In the Balearic Isles, people are unfortunately familiar with the concept of balconing. This daring practice takes place amongst tourists in reckless parties involving drugs, sex, and drunken stupor. Its epicentre is the Magalluf area in Mallorca. It consists of plunging into the hotel pools from the hotel room windows above. This practice is on the rise and now the island’s Baal Company, run by Catalina Carrasco and Gaspar Morey, wants to reflect on this and call attention to the issue of balconing. Their latest creation, produced at the Principal Theatre of Palma, is scheduled to premiere in 2021. With this piece they fully explore the language of contemporary circus.
Fish, mosquitoes, and various other insects have become the base and hallmark of the Madrilenian choreographer Elías Aguirre. In these small ecosystems, he has found an, at times, enviable organization he uses to talk about our society. This particular interest is also evident in his new piece, Empusa Poem, which, based on a Japanese haiku poem, attempts to illustrate the impossible comparative between the behaviour and organization of humans and insects.
The agreement with the University Museum of Navarra (MUN) as her producer consisted of creating a version of Lorca’s Yerma. However, Itsaso A. Cano, director of Zuk Performing Arts, felt the need to express her own reflexions on the confinement, Covid-19 pandemic, and above all, the implications of social distancing. That is how A metro y medio [A metre and a Half] came about. This performance uses dance in an attempt to find answers to questions such as-at what distance can a person be considered safe?, is distancing only physical, or does it also imply something emotional?
In the midst of the preparation for his new creation, Zehar, the longstanding Basque creator Asier Zabaleta continues along the lines of his street performance Meeting Point, created for his Ertza Company. However, this new play also marks a new experience for its choreographer. He has gathered two performers from the same country to come and meet each other 8,000 kilometres away from their home. The encounter is between the hip hop and breakdance both performers have in their blood, and the contemporary dance, brought to the scene by the creator.
These are difficult times and the choreographer from Navarra Iñaki Fortún and his dance group Fueradeleje have dealt with a variety of themes for the family audience with great success. The most recent one is Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf? Now, Iñaki Fortún has gone into a mode of introspective soul-searching. The solo De Profundis, Psalm 130 (Phase I), is performed by himself. It is presented as a kind of spiritual journey with danced prayers, upon the reflexions emerging after hearing, singing, and praying the Psalm 130.
As a Cuban resident in the Canary Isles, it is no surprise that Reinier Alfonso wants to delve into the matters of identity. Together with Acerina Toledo he has devised the duet Personal e intransferible [Personal and Non-transferable], which, as the title indicates, talks about our personality traits. It is about what makes us unique, regardless of the labels and borders otherwise defining us. Along similar lines, Límites [Limits], a duet created with Celia Medina, talks about our options to choose. Something that definitely determines the limits we define for ourselves.
The Valencian creator Marina Mascarell is currently one of the Spanish freelance choreographers with most exposure in companies around the whole world. Nonetheless, this beginner’s trait of working freelance has not been an impediment for the development of an already fully distinguishable aesthetic quality. Her work stands out in its need to comprehend social dynamics. Almost all her creations point to that fact. Second Landscape, created recently for Skånes Dansteater, in Malmö, is a case in point. This was the last piece in her trilogy that begun with A Hefty Flood, for the NDT in the Netherlands, and continued with Valley, which premiered at Göteborg Operans Danskompani. In her newest piece, she explores the excessive importance we give our image in a society that has made us addicted to exhibiting ourselves on social media.
In her successful duet Eran casi las dos…[It Was Almost Two O’clock] and the trio Un poco de nadie [A Bit of No One], Carmen Fumero dealt with social ostracism, the need for belonging, and the aspiration to be someone. Now, as always together with Miguel Zomas, she is undertaking the project Las idas [The Departures]. This project is presented as a trilogy whose episodes are connected, yet can be understood independently. The artists deal with the theme of uncertainty about the future, and the departure and transition to another stage. The creator assures us that the approach comes from the idea of a journey from which there is no turning back. Thus, the key existential question that comes to mind is – where am I going?
There are those who say that a brothel is a microcosm of what transpires in the real world. Surely, the choreographer Diego Arias, director of REA Dance, would agree. His performance Broken Tango 2.0 takes place in a sleazy whorehouse in Buenos Aires at the beginning of the twentieth century. The proposal taps into the essence of tango, but with input from ballet, contemporary dance and even circus. With 19 live-performing artists, the creation talks of love and heartbreak, comings and goings, and the highs and lows of passion between people wandering in search of happiness. Something they are very unlikely to find within the four walls of the brothel. REA was founded in Mar de Plata, Argentina, in 1991, but re-established itself in 2001 in the city of Malaga.
Creativity and anxiety are not a normal binomial, let alone seen as the cause for neurosis. Nonetheless, Chevi Muraday, from his Company Losdedae, resident in Alcala de Henares, has decided to deal with this theme in his new creation Le plancher de Jeannot. This choreography is based on the novel written by Ingrid Thobois about the case of a peasant who, after the death of his mother, wrote a large text on the floor of his room only to die himself a few days later. The manuscript on the floor became the representative work of what is called Art Brut. Muraday, who had already dealt with the Diogenes syndrome in El cínico [The Cynic], continues on successful tours with Juana. In this play, Aitana Sánchez Gijón, the actress who now reveals her true potential as a dancer, performs as a handful of the historical juanas, including the crazy one, the poetess, and the warrior woman.
Since the fall of the two-party system in Spain, the word pact has become very fashionable in politics. Forming a pact means to convene, conciliate, agree, and resolve differences harmoniously between parties. However, the reality is that we all, unwittingly, spend our time forming pacts. The Madrilenian choreographers and dancers Begoña Quiñones and Verónica Garzón asked themselves questions such as – what does a pact imply for either party?, to what extent does it benefit you to give in? The short version of the piece Pacto [Pact], for which they obtained the First Prize in the 2018 Choreographic Contest in Madrid, now appears in a one-hour format with freshly included additional research.
The dancer, creator, and manager Irene García has a background in classical ballet, but she has managed to combine those skills with her interests in video dance, photography and audio-visual productions. Wit her La Quebrá Company, founded in 2016 she has made the new creation Plas!tic. It goes well beyond a mere stage performance. With a series of workshops for small children, it has the educational purpose of raising awareness for one of the most notable environmental problems facing our planet – plastic pollution. Plas!tic is a proposal designed as a futuristic and dreamlike journey at sea. It materialises as a multidisciplinary performance involving dance, circus, and a special setup.
You have to know the Venezuelan background of the choreographer Mey-Ling Bisogno, and her longstanding Madrid-based company to fully understand the true nature of the second phase of her ambitious project Circuito Peep Box 350º, Los soldados de franela, [Peep Box 350º Circuit, the Flannel Soldiers]. This performance is one of the main bids for the Valencia Dance Festival 2020, postponed for this autumn due to the coronavirus. The proposal requires the assembly of a workshop with local dancers to set up this powerful scenic experience. The youthful impetus alludes not so much to the terrible socio-political conflict Venezuelans are enduring, as to the spirit of freedom and defiance that spurred the country’s youth to organize the “new resistance” in the confrontations against the government in the streets of Caracas in 2017.
The Sevillian team Mopa is back with a mirror in the hand and a tail sticking out from the hip. It sounds absurd, but with the humour and flair so characteristic of him, Juan Luis Matilla wants to deal with a topic that concerns all of us in his new production Cola Collective: the obsession with image. In an exercise of anatomic observation, he discovered that the hip is a dead centre to the focal point of our eyes. We miss having a tail there, which we probably did at one point in the evolutionary history of man. However, if those on stage have a tail, we would probably all want one because that is how we are in this age of selfies, appearances and fashion. After his experiment, Proyecto Error [Error Project], and his delirious solo performance Da Mopa, this creator from Seville arrives to challenge us once again.