As part of the series of performing arts designed in tandem with the Community of Madrid’s Teatros del Canal, the Museo Reina Sofía presents A Mary Wigman Dance Evening (2009). The piece materialised from the interest of Ecuadorian dancer and choreographer Fabián Barba in the work of Mary Wigman (1886–1973), one of the pioneers of modern dance. This interest blossomed during his time as a student at the prestigious contemporary dance school P.A.R.T.S., in Brussels, where he began to investigate Wigman’s tour around the USA in the 1930s, and her presentation of expressionist recitals that would change the international dance scene forever. The stylised movements and intent transmitted by Wigman’s choreographies referred Barba back to what he learned many years before in Quito from his teacher Kléver Viera, a reference point in the modernisation of dance in Ecuador. Barba has thus recovered the corporal techniques that had been side-lined in favour of other types of knowledge.
Fabián Barba’s first piece in Mary Wigman’s repertoire is Schwingende Landschaf, a series of seven dance solos created by Wigman in 1929 — Barba has reconstructed three of them through archive film material in an attempt to reproduce forms through copy. In A Mary Wigman Dance Evening he expands on the selection of pieces from the choreography by using films and photographs, as well as testimonies from a number of her successors, dancers who preserved her choreographic legacy through corporal memory, technique and the principles of execution in her dance practice. In so doing, Barba broadens his own investigation into Wigman’s expressionist dance as he attempts to understand his personal interest in her.
Ultimately, he has composed a choreography evening in which, under the name A Mary Wigman Dance Evening, he has reproduced, as faithfully as possible, the sessions from the aforementioned American tour, where the artist interspersed, between short pieces to different music and costumes, intermissions for the audience to read the concert programme or comment on what was before their eyes.
Since it is a reproduction of the past, A Mary Wigman Dance Evening strains the relationships between the dance created by Mary Wigman at the turn of the twentieth century and her modernisation in the body that dances the piece today. Although Barba executes the solos with such precision and rigour that we are transported through time, his body, appearance and gender, coupled with our present-based cultural glance, gives rise to a sense of strangeness. The more faithfully the pieces are reproduced, the more fissures appear between the then and now so that the audience become even more aware of the distance opening up, yet still find themselves under its spell.
Fabián Barba acknowledges that there is an analogy between the expressionist dance of Wigman and the modern dance he learned in Quito and, in turn, the process of investigation and creation in A Mary Wigman Dance Evening, leading him to reflect more profoundly on the processes of colonisation in dance. “You recognise the existence of different dance cultures and feel inscribed in them because your training doesn’t seem to pose a problem. The problem appears when the contemporaneity of one of them is denied and relegated to the past, or when that past is situated somewhere else, in geographical exile”.
In his critique of the legitimacy of a certain type of dance considered contemporary, as opposed to another that never will be, the choreographer discerns a ‘spacialisation’ of time in history, which depicts the distant cultural contexts as scenes of the past, with geographical distance appearing to become temporal distance.
The performance will be followed by an encounter with Fabián Barba, presented and moderated by Isabel de Naverán, the Museo Reina Sofía’s dance programme advisor.
Fabián Barba (Quito, 1982) was studying Literature, Communication, Dance and Theatre when he embarked upon his career as a performer in his native city. In 2004, he travelled to Brussels to study at the prestigious P.A.R.T.S. school, his time there stretching until 2008. He is the founding member of the collective Busy Rocks, with whom he created a number of works between 2008 and 2010.
His first solo piece after Schwingende Landschaf was A Mary Wigman Dance Evening (2009), which he has performed internationally and which won the European Garden Award in 2010. His second solo piece, A Personal Yet Collective History (2011), is also based on the history of dance. Barba worked with Mark Franko on Le marbre tremble (2014) and with Esteban Donoso on Slugs’Garden (2014), and has collaborated as a dancer and performer with other choreographers, for instance Thomas Hauert/ZOO, DD Dorviller and Olga de Soto. He has presented his work at MoMA (New York), Kaaitheater (Brussels), Frascati (Amsterdam), Dance Umbrella (London), Ignite Dance Festival (New Delhi), Azkuna Zentroa (Bilbao) and the Festival Panorama (Rio de Janeiro).
Furthermore, as a result of his investigation into the legacy of colonialism in dance and his reflections on the history of the discipline, he has given courses, lectures and workshops in a number of countries and published articles in the Dance Research Journal, NDD, Etcetera, Documenta, Handbook of Danced Reenactment (Oxford University Press, 2017) and Transmissions in Dance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
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