Cancionero - Liederbuch

‘The continent of sad songs’

"One of the melancholic South American songs that structures the music to “Cancionero-Liederbuch”, a new choreography by Daniel Goldin (38), begins and ends with the same two lines: “The song has sense, understanding and reason” (el cantar tiene sentido, entendimiento y razón). The sung poem describes a captive heron’s song: “her song is made of chains and it is the song of agony” (Su canto es de cadena y es canto de agonía). Goldin’s piece, created for the Tanztheater Munster which he started directing this season, is danced to Mexican, Peruvian, Brasilian, Argentinian, Chilean, Paraguayan, Spanish and Caribbean songs and it very much resembles the cry of the heron. It chains together a series of mournful situations that manage to avoid hopelessness; it plays at the border between life and death and reflects the mood of a whole continent.
The 80 minute long performance in Munster’s Municipal Theater starts with the sound of soft thunder. The reddish crater of an apparently active volcano glows in the dark; danger is present. The crater’s circle, sometimes just a deep well, sometimes a circus ring, acts as an obstacle thrown in the middle of the group of dancers; it stands in front two rows of bags that Goldin and the set designer Susannah Wöllisch have placed along the triangular stage, with a wooden door and two ladders that lead to the skylights at the back. All these elements frame the crater, the central and most important piece of the set; when it glows, everyone sleeps. Carefully and stealthily, ten dancers walk tentatively, as if learning how to live and dance on top of the bags. They stretch their arms as if imploring help from above. The dancing hands are a clear testament to Goldin’s training (from 1987 to 1992) at the Dance Department of the Folwang Dance School in Essen, where he studied with Hans Zullig, among other teachers. Close to the floor, sometimes kneeling, the dancers move clumsily, as if in a trance. Once in a while, one of the women stops her circular hip movements and dances in the center of the central crater-hole, only to be cleaned by her companions afterwards. After each new song, after each dance, the set becomes half dark, modeled by the expressive lights designed by Reinhard Hubert. Even at its most ascetic, this dancing attracts and mesmerizes the public. In the middle of the piece, a sudden shuttering break: Goldin introduces color in the iridiscent monochromy of his dancing idiom and realism strikes. A fast group scene and the dancers fall lifeless; accompanied by machine gun-like percussion, a group of soldiers crawl into scene, their faces covered by masks and dressed like terrorists. Their dancing reflects suffering rather than aggression; Death appears but it is their own death. After an execution follows an abrupt cut, in the music and in the set. Hurdy-gurdy music, a strong light and a man colorfully dressed, the Carnivalesque distillation of an Inca god or an Aztec prince. The dancers turn briefly into automata and lipsynch to an Indian song; the unknown language is ironically undone by the appearance of a board instructing the public: “All together now”, “Turn to page 3”. And then appear caricatures of South American archetypes: a whimsical nun, with a skull for a head, dances a pas de trois with a very tall, gold masked man (Catholic royalty or pre-Columbian nobility?) and worldly woman dressed in scarlet: three pairs of hands tell each an apparently different story. An attractive dark woman dances an erotic pas de deux with a proud antelope-headed man; she pushes him into the uncontrolled tears of submission. A red-haired woman glides from one of the skylights unfolding a sign that reads: “Life is but a breath-long moment”. All the action leads to a demonstration in which everyone, from the lascivious nun to the Spanish conqueror, unfolds signs that talk of death, in red letters on a white background, some with brutal seriousness, other with ironic cynicism, mixing simple religiousness, superstition and intellectual irony. One text, white on black, stands out: Viva la revolución,  and each one of us will have to decide whether it is meant seriously or ironically. One of the dancers opens the wooden door and an animal mask can now be seen. Where does the strength of the continent lies, in its nature, its Indian culture or simply its art? With ludic seriousness, Goldin mixes as in a dice game, the clichés, the problems and hopes of South America in a delicate and colorful drawing with motifs that spring from the history and culture of the continent, always avoiding anything smacking of folklore. Without once presenting anything directly related to tango, tango’s essence is on stage, which was once defined as “a sad thought made dance”. Cancionero-Liderbuch translates the sadness of a continent, never mocking it or minimizing it, into the iridiscent hopefulness of art."

Jochen Schmidt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 21 Februrary 1997

‘Dance the Anden Blues'

"... At the front of the stage a vulcano crater, shining red and dangerous, then black side walls meeting in the back of the stage where they leave an opening, barred by a wooden fence - that’s Goldin’s methaphor of South American concepts of life: dancing where life is felt red-hot but conscious of its own death... But first, Goldin and his ten male and female dancers celebrate full life. They use a language of dance that wonderfully combines the modern European history of dancing, formerly brought to South America by European character dancers, with today’s modern dance. This history still believes in the power of movements. It has nothing to do with mime and “speaking” gesticulation but with emotions developing into motions."

Horst Vollmer, Berliner Zeitung, 11 Februrary 1997

‘Dancing on the vulcano...’

"... The vulcano crater in the front of the stage is a red-hot symbol: sandbags, ladders, a high shack: that’s how Daniel Goldin and Susannah Wöllisch haved decorated the stage. No pictures of smog-polluted capitols of Latin America, and even the culture imperialism of Northern America doesn’t interest Daniel Goldin.
Moreover, Goldin creates pictures of archaic urbanism. Goldin, himself inhabitant and observer of this melting pot does not care to evaluate the South American continent by European measure. He has an own view on it an knows how to put it into dancing. Goldin creates the athmosphere by the moves. "Cancionero" shows that he has perfected his language of dancing - and he managed to find those ten female and male dancers who are able to consequently “speak” this language on stage..."

Katja Schneider, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27 Februrary 1997

‘Sleeping on sand and roses’

"... So the people in Goldin’s "Songbook" are oppressed by strange powers. They bear their helplessness on their shoulders, they stoop, they throw their arms in typical “Folkwang” manner, which, however, are not danced as pathetically as elsewhere. Joy in life and grief go hand in hand, so do fear and resistance. The dancers crawl like querilleros on the floor, a woman dances round a red magic circle, whirls through the sand and after that she’s whashed lovingly by the other women. Death celebrates its carnival, an Aztec meets a whore, decimen of life and death are distributed as transparents. Again and again, people escape and run onto the sandbags, which Goldin and Susannah Wöllisch have had piled up at the wall which serves as rest and trench at the same time. They dance reluctantly lightly swaying or with large gestures, a sway of the hips reminds of Latin America, no Samba, no Tango, a circling of bodies, stamping of feet - the rest is European."

Lilo Weber, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 17 Februrary 1997

"... Even if one has not experienced South America directly, one recognizes the multifacetic kaleidoscope of the continent, Latin America as a multiracial, multinational, multicultural crucible with its beauty, its emotions, its folkore and also with its modesty, its melancholy and its violence. This work completely avoids trivial stereotypes and the easy travel brochure. The ten dancers that form the company offer an awesome experience, in this first work created by Goldin for Munster"

Marieluise Jeitschko, Ballett Journals/Das Tanzarchiv, 45. Jahrgang, Nr. 2, 1 April 1997

"...Goldin weaves Latin American quotations into an expressive dance vocabulary, marked by the German expressionist tradition: Afro elements, para-military training, Brasilian carnival, salsa steps. A nun appears, a bejewelled dancer, another with an Aztec mask. Banners unfold: “Man lives in bitterness...”. But Goldin is seldom figurative or literal, he attains the atmospheric through movement. These are movements that do not tell a story but show joy and suffering, poverty and sadness, joy of living and desperation, love and war. He needs dancers capable of translating his dance vocabulary and he has found them. Goldin’s regard on Latin America breaks more than once, because he is inhabitant and observer at the same time, he focusses on the past and on the future and he has the gift of writing between lines, as if on the threshold between the alive and the dead that Xolotl, the Aztec dog of the Dead, guard. And this regard is exceptional."

Katja Schneider, Tanzdrama Nr. 36/April 1997

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