“A mysterious and fascinating performance.” —Mouvement
Simultaneously quiet and electrifying, Bolero Variations opens the Walker Art Center’s 2009–2010 performing arts season and introduces Raimund Hoghe—a singular European artist—to American audiences on Friday–Saturday, September 18–19, at 8 pm in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Hoghe began creating and performing his own work 20 years ago, after serving throughout the 1980s as dramaturge for the late Pina Bausch. While Bausch’s visceral choreography and often elaborate sets defined German tanztheater, Hoghe’s own ritualized form is slow, sparse, and methodical by nature. The delicacy of his performances makes them virtually impossible to capture using pictures or words. While they certainly eschew showy theatrics and athleticism, neither are they minimalistic.
Hoghe builds drama incrementally, through the layering and interplay of slow, subtle movements and a finely honed sense for stillness and absence, light and shadow. In Bolero Variations, he explores the mystery of how certain moments from the past become lodged in the mind. Cycling through numerous variations on the bolero—the melancholic, romantic, and hugely popular musical genre that originated in Spain and Cuba—Hoghe aims to provoke stories and memories in the minds of his audience. The piece grew out of his own embedded memory of watching Great Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skate at the 1984 Olympics, and includes a recording of Ravel’s Bolero played during that historic ice-dancing performance as well as several other renditions.
Philip Bither, McGuire Senior Curator of Performing Arts, was struck by the way Hoghe relates movement to music in the piece. “He and his performers physically interpret and reinterpret musical language, but Hoghe creates the movement to play off musical structures rather than illustrate them,” he says. What comes through are subtle actions emanating from the interior of the performers. Viewers who look beyond the obvious and tune in to Hoghe’s frequency won’t come to know so much as feel in their own bodies the power of memory, seduced by one that is perhaps not even their own.
Part of the intensity of Bolero Variations and other Hoghe works revolves around the artist’s diminutive frame and his back, which scoliosis has molded into a unique shape. But despite their creator’s physical limitations, this is by no means “disability art.” To the contrary, Hoghe’s presence reinvigorates the notion of the artist “taking center stage,” upending the power dynamic between performers and the audiences who train their gaze on them. In making his body the center of attention—throwing it into battle, to paraphrase the words from Pier Paolo Pasolini that inspired him—Hoghe serves as a stand-in for the host of other imperfect bodies seldom seen in dance.
“His freshness of vision and his approach to blurring the lines among disciplines are extraordinary,” says Bither of Hoghe. “I felt that this aspect of his work made it the perfect statement as the opening program for our season.” Whether Bolero Variations is experimental theater or performance art or dance theater isn’t the issue—it’s the undefinable but mesmerizing experience of the work that matters. The fact that it can’t be categorized makes it ideal for staging at the multidisciplinary Walker.
Raimund Hoghe was born in Wuppertal, Germany, and began his career by writing portraits of outsiders and celebrities for the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit. Since 1989 he has been working on his own theater pieces for various dancers and actors. In 1992 he started his collaboration with the artist Luca Giacomo Schulte, who remains his artistic collaborator. In 1994 he produced his first solo, Meinwärts, which together with the subsequent Chambre séparée (1997) and Another Dream (2000) made up a trilogy about the 20th century. His ensemble pieces include: Sarah, Vincent et moi (2002), Young People, Old Voices (2002), Tanzgescchichten (2003), Swan Lake,4 Acts (2005), and the duo Sacre – The Rite of Spring (2004) with Lorenzo De Brabandere. He returned to the solo form in 2007 with 36, Avenue Georges Mandel, created in Seoul and presented during the Festival d’Avignon. Hoghe followed his cycle of classical dance pieces with Boléro Variations in 2007 (created for the Centre Pompidou/Festival d’Automne in Paris) and the solo L’Après-midi, for the dancer Emmanuel Eggermont, on Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune and Gustav Mahler’s Lieder (created in Festival Montpellier Danse 2008/Théâtre du Hangar).
Based in Düsseldorf, Hoghe frequently works for television on projects such as Der Buckel, his 1997 hour-long self portrait for WDR (West German Radio and Television). His books have been translated into several languages and he has presented his work throughout Europe, as well as Japan and Australia. Awards include the Deutscher Produzentenpreis für Choreografie in 2001 and the French Prix de la Critique in 2006 for Swan Lake, 4 Acts (in the category Best Foreign Piece). Critics from the magazine ballet-tanz awarded him Dancer of the Year for 2008.
Tickets to Raimund Hoghe’s Bolero Variations are $25 ($21 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600. The McGuire Theater’s Balcony Bar will be open at 7 pm and after the performance.