Can dance and photography work together on the stage?! Who said it’s doubtless?!

January 29, 2008

I’ve spent my Saturday evening at the performance entitled ‘Foto-plession’ which is not so easy to translate to English. The word ples in Croatian means dance. So, now it’s clearer that it’s obviously about the performance and photography; and about intersections between static and dynamic forces and concepts.

The piece was choreographer by Irma Omerzo, a former Philippe Decouflé Company dancer. I have to note here that Omerzo was a part of Decouflé’s most relevant theatre work Codex.
It was a great dance piece inspired by Luigi Serafini’s magical book Codex Seraphinianus. Check out in wikipedia for more on this incredible book and very cool designer / architect.

Hence, knowing that was somehow a burden to me for watching ‘Foto-plession’ because I’m always expecting the unexpected in her performances.
At the other hand, I was very curious about this photography element, knowing that a photographer is a life partner to the choreographer who is not so sanguine about ‘catching’ the essence of dance through the camera lens.


The simplest formulas for describing FOTO – plession would be:
two dancers + photographer = photographs at the screen
photographs at the screen + two dancers = choreography

Strangely, knowing the work of Rasol I have founded my self completely surprised. And why is that?! Well, my first thought about this whole idea was a kind of: ‘Oh, no. He will be so distant to other performers. He is really cool in making conceptual thingz, but now, he has to be very close, you know… otherwise this will turn out to be a typical photography from the every day news critics on ballet premiers… which is definitely not Rasol’s photographic style.

Hm, I was so wrong…

The interactions and juxtaposes between two dancers (Sonja Pregrad and Zrinka Simicic) of different sensibilities, and at the certain level even postures, is something pretty cool to see. Sonja Pregrad, obviously enjoying the position of dancing, posing and playing with the partners: co-dancer and camera – pushing every time more and more forward her mind / body, and sometimes even being too hard to herself.
Indeed, it’s very interesting to see so many streams in the performers’ personal language. Pregrad is obviously working hard lately on her self examinations which can result with many varieties of expressiveness… She is like a free jazz musician, choosing heavy tunes by her self, but trying to make it understandable to the rest of the world… even, willing to ask the audience to join her path…

At the other side, Zrinka Simicic is a silent ‘killer’… She is a kinda subtle, more occupied with her self, examining the influence of soft martial arts in her performers’ procédé… she knows very well that she is at the other side of the stage… so, you can sit and watch or leave, as you wish. If you stay, she can be very kind and offer you several explosions, and than she is again a meditative one… introspective… then a small explosion… body chatting with partner… a chat with photographer… then a chat with her own image at the big screen… It’s interesting that I find her dance to be more fragmented then Pregrad’s, who is more interested in larger, stronger movements. This fact was for me, basically, the turning point of the whole dance piece.

Photo: Jasenko Rasol (c)

Well, you have noticed that I made several distinctions in describing dancers’ approach to camera and to photographer who was present at the stage for some time.

I really meant the camera not the camera-man, because Jasenko Rasol really tried to be subtle and intactile as a photographer; somehow seems like he had left his camera to be the arbiter in his relation to dancers and their game. He left them to choose their relations either to the technological device either to him – the intruder.

His selection of light for the photo session was excellent, especially the way he decided to use white neon lamp as a left-sided light; it makes completely different shading at the images in comparison with the ordinary stage light. Photographs taken from a shorter proximity with details of the hand, veins and muscles are really amazing… totally decoding the ‘saint’ bodies of dancers, but showing the weakness and splinterness.

Personally, I really enjoyed moments when photographer gave his memory card from the camera to be displayed on the screen because he gave us the opportunity to compare technical aspects and semantics of the photography and live performance at the same time. The comparison was intriguing…
… and retracts the viewer to the next level… the level of choreographer… and the concept…

Me seems, like the idea of dancers being moved, marked, initialized and motivated by their own images at the screen worked out excellent… I would absolutely disagree about the statement of being paralyzed and limited by the stillness of photographic static, because performer can indeed be paralysed by choreographers mind.

I think, Irma Omerzo none intentionally showed us how static and dynamic could work together… being conditioned by each other, of course.

Omerzo’s touch could be seen as softly and subtle, marking only general points, leaving the dancers to explore their relations with flash, blood, rhythm, sound, intruders (camera, camera-man, the screen), light… and enjoying the results of this game. A remarkable characteristic for an artist: using less / saying more.

You know, I am not a dance or art critic. I’m just a photographer being inspired by physical theatre and dance, and my impressions after a couple of days are still the same. We are most of the time in our life in a position to be navigated by something or somebody – definitely not every time by our choice. And this haunting game between the still image and dance movements just proved me that.

But really, you have to see this photo-dance laboratory, you won’t regret it.