Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille

The Rebirth of German Dance
Goldin's 'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' in Münster

If the 'ausdruckstanz' of the 1920's is the quintessentially German dance style, Argentinean Daniel Goldin is the most German of all dance-theatre choreographers. 'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' (Voices, hands, Porous Silence), the latest evening-long piece by the maestro of the Städtische Bühnen Münster, is oriented, according to its creator, toward the world of images of the expressionist German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945). It wants to "convert the tension in Käthe Kollwitz's pictures and the lines of the body in her sketches into movement," to translate the humanity of the artist into the medium of dance. Goldin directs attention especially to the hands, which play a big role in his dances traditionally as well as in Kollwitz's drawings. But the similarities between the drawn, painted, and modelled human figures in Kollwitz and Goldin's eight dancers remains minimal. If 'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' reminds one of German works of art from the first half of the 20th Century, then they also remind us of the great choral works from Mary Wigman and the solo pieces of Harald Kreutzberg.

Goldin' performers, clothed  by Gaby Sogl in long monk's robes, with heavy shoes and uniformly bald heads, appear to be looking for the same sort of enlightenment as the dancers of the Taiwanese Lin Hwai-min, to be striving for the same transcendence of human suffering as the monks in Ushio Amagastu's group Sankai  Juku, and when they, as an exception, are one time freed to dance loose (to music from Philip Glass), they are more similar to no other human group than the dervishes. 'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' does not contain any fables. But the piece does tell of people, their fears and sufferings, their wishes and dreams - all to a musical collage of uncommon atmospheric density, a continuing quiet lament, in which works from John Cage, George Crumb, Ravi Shankar, and Karlheinz Stockhausen together with Portuguese fados set the tone. In the middle point of the stage, which is barely properly lighted for an hour and a half (lighting: Reinhart Hubert), there is a cube made of boards, thought up by Goldin himself and constructed by Claudia Philipp. Its four walls are held together with a tricky block and tackle apparatus. The cube is, closed or opens, the profane sacrament of a ritual: the theatrical Kaaba of a dance pilgrimage to a land full of secrets.

It's true that the robe-like costumes and the bare heads level all sex differences between the dancers. They make the eight performers (OIatz Arabaolaza, Josep Caballero, Alice Cerrato, Colin Clarke, Ardan Hussein, Tsui-Shuang Lai, Annarita Pasculli, Pascal Seraline) almost indistinguishable and eliminate all erotics. At the same time Goldin creates in the harmonisation between music and movement a climate of tenderness and human solidarity. Groups are formed according to ritual processions, pull together seeking protection, break up suddenly, sometimes in eruptions of dance and not necessarily joyfully.

Goldin choreographs small, realistic actions, about whose concrete meaning the viewer may puzzle, and a mysterious finale in which - possibly - a new species is born as a suffering woman brings the figure of a buck-naked man into the world.

Goldin never had a proclivity for thoughtless joyfulness. At the end of his fifth season in Münster he has created with 'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' his most ascetic piece. A gloomy, but never monotone elegy of suffering, it buries itself in rituals of sadness, without falling prey to desperation. The choreography demands the intense attention of the audience. But, at least in the premiere, the piece, one of the strongest of the whole season, had no problem not only arousing, but also holding this attention.

Jochen Schmidt, Ballett international / Tanz aktuell, August 2001

‘Pictures of dance’

"'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' ('Voices, Hands, Brittle Silence') does not follow a fable. But it does tell - to an exhilarating, incredibly dense and atmospherical musical collage of compositions by John Cage, Luzmilla Carpio, George Crumb, Ravi Shankar, Witold Lutoslawski, Istvan Maria and, not least, Karlheinz Stockhausen - all the time of people: their wishes and dreams, their fears, their sufferings and obsessions. The cube of planks, devised by Goldin himself and realised by Claudia Philipp, proves itself – both closed and especially when opened, lined as it is with deep, grey, tufted carpet – to be the ideal catalyst; the sparing lighting conjures a magical mood throughout. (...)
Pina Bausch's latest piece, surprisingly, paid tribute to the fun society, having it throw parties on the edge of the Brazilian rain forest. Daniel Goldin's 'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' refuses to do so, in a severe, ascetic, extraordinarily impressive manner. Instead of fun, it celebrates sorrow, burying itself in dark rituals of pain and suffering. But it is a sorrow that is anything else than monotonous. It glows intensely in all the colours of passion. So this work, one of the most extraordinary and most important of the current season, not only demands the concentrated attention of the audience, but also succeeds in holding it, on a high level."

Jochen Schmidt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 11 June 2001

‘No way out’

"Daniel Goldin's tenth choreography at Münster City Theatre is inspired by the graphic and sculptural work of Käthe Kollwitz. Goldin's intention is to translate the tension in Kollwitz's pictures, the body lines, into movement. And he and his dancers succeed in doing so. The ensemble operates as a "human mass", made up of isolated individuals. What we see are: Sharply contoured figures, often with machine-like, unnatural movements, helpless and always bemused; outstanding in this character: Tsui-Shuang Lai. Figures fleeing in panic, but finding no way out, running the gauntlet, being struck by blows or bullets. Bodies jerking on the ground. And ever and always hands, hands covering heads, hands warding off horrors, beseeching hands, but also resigned hands. Hands such as always play a central role in the works of Käthe Kollwitz. But there are also familiar elements, dance patterns, serial, slow-motion-like, dreamlike sequences, occasional hints of classical dance theatre. But "Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille" ("Voices, Hands, Brittle Silence") is not founded in the melancholy mood typically associated with Goldin. Melancholy, and the bandwith of emotions it can contain, from sadness to cheerfulness, has given way to a sorrow from which there is no way out. It is impossible not to think of Auschwitz, but also of Hiroshima or the wars on the Balkans. In this work, there are none of the almost happy, tumultuous formations towards the end, no "liberation" from amassed anxieties. Instead, at the end, there are only hesitant attempts at individualisation. In Annarita Pasculli's claustrophobic dance out of her coat, for instance, or Pascal Seraline allowing his hair to be seen, and Josep Caballero even his whole naked body. But that is not enough against a situation from which there is no way out."

Marcus Termeer, nrw taz, 12 July 2001

‘Homage to Käthe Kollwitz - Enthusiastic reception for Goldin's new dance work’

"In his new choreography 'Stimmen, Hände, brüchige Stille' ('Voices, Hands, Brittle Silence'), Daniel Goldin has drawn his inspiration from the Expressionist mode of the hands in the works of Käthe Kollwitz, and the sorrowing postures of the near-faceless figures in covering robes. But he also makes references to things of today (human smugglers, shipping hopeful refugees in cattle containers across the sea to imagined happiness) and continues his pilgrimage in the search for a true home with even greater intensity and archaically embellished sadness than in his earlier works. The sustained applause at the end of the 90-minute premiere, performed without a break, celebrated the eight men and women dancers, nearly all on stage nearly all of the time, and paid respect to the choreographer who once again, despite all the philosophical abstraction, showed himself to be a master of stage design (with Claudia Philipp), lighting (with Reinhard Hubert) and sound (with Thomas Wacker) with the ability to captivate his audience. (...) Goldin's new work is a special homage to an artist who stands as an example for humanity."

Marieluise Jeitschko, Ballett-Journal - Das Tanzarchiv, July 2001

ˆ to top