Arvio: XPSD

Stefan Arndt – Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung – 20100903

An endless motion

Unhurried, in the fast lane: Last evening, a performance by the Helsinki Dance Company kicked off Tanztheater International’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

It couldn’t be better: A lone metal ring spins on the stage against the backdrop of motionlessness to kick-off the German premiere of Kenneth Kvarnström’s choreography “XPSD” at the 25th anniversary celebration of Tanztheater International. Once it’s spinning, the upright ring turns slowly, then it tilts, gathers speed and turns inexorably, until it lies motionless after a tired sigh; the stillness is the end.

Kvarnström’s dancers from the Helsinki Dance Company dance with the same plan: the choreographer feels that a person’s real self emerges only after being pushed to the physical limits. However, this time Kvarnström, a regular guest performer with Tanztheater International and Movimentos for the last 10 years, expresses this belief gradually over the course of the piece: his dancers are slow and gentle in their movement. It’s an elegant continuity – once started, they flow effortlessly and the motion passes from one dancer to another: an endless motion.

The music by the Finn Jukka Rintamäki goes well with the performance; it begins with metallic gasps like a leviathan machine and then creates an almost mechanical eddy that could probably carry the entire one-hour evening on its own.

However, sometimes the flow stops all of a sudden. A dancer freezes, and then lets go of all control and falls in the arms of another. The dancer sometimes even appears to have acted the part and leaves the stage, expressionless. It seems at the time as if it isn’t the dance that’s difficult, it is the emotional stress. The interaction of the figures undergoes a constant and rapid change. The dancers form new groups repeatedly. The point at which their gentle closeness changes to unashamed violence is never clear.

This passive splendour has been made possible by four men and two women. These athletic dancers raise the audience’s expectations with their very form: not elfin, but carry out the slowest moves at any time.

The performance is an exhibition of open emotions, allusions to Baroque gesticulations sustained over long sequences in the act: the pairs (one of them being of the same gender) stand demurely against each other in two rows in the minuet. Collars eliciting historical fantasy on the otherwise body-hugging transparent tricots go on to further emphasise this aspect.

Apart from these costumes by Erika Turunen, one searches for any excitement outside of the dance in vain: Kvarnström is a maestro at doing what he does best – use movement and its simplicity to tell tales that are thrilling and completely open all at once.

All of this makes for an excellent kick-off to the anniversary show of the festival. Mayor Stephan Weil spoke highly of festival manager Christiane Winter, and the applause from the audience confirmed their appreciation of her. Winter feels that she’s been in the ‘fast lane’ with the festival for 25 years. This performance has actually demonstrated that deliberation and perseverance can also help in scaling such heights.