How About Now by Hannes Langolf: when small talk b...

How About Now by Hannes Langolf: when small talk becomes existentialist dance

After the world premiere at the Bonci Theater in Cesena, “How About Now”, new show by Hannes Langolf, London-based German dancer and choreographer among the most interesting figures on the international performance scene, was staged last Sunday at Arena del Sole Theater in Bologna, as part of the “Carne” series curated by Michela Lucenti.

“How About Now” di Hannes Langolf, ph © Hugo Glendinnig, courtesy Emilia Romagna Teatro ERT / Teatro Nazionale

Only two performers on the stage, Langolf and the young Ed Mitchell, who interact on the basis of the electroacoustic soundtrack composed by the sound designer Jethro Cooke and the original dramaturgy by the writer Andrew Muir, freely inspired by “Homobono and the Arsonists”, a classic drama of contemporary Swiss theatre, written by playwright Max Frisch in 1953. The starting story, set during the coup d’état in Prague which put an end to the Third Czechoslovak Republic in 1948 by establishing a communist regime, is a reflection on the development of Nazism in Germany in which the protagonist, a peaceful bourgeois, involuntarily welcomes into his home the perpetrators of some arson attacks that rage in the city where he lives. The arsonists, having obtained hospitality through deception, openly introduce barrels of petrol into his attic, explaining their intentions to him, but he thinks they are joking and ends up providing them with matches to start the fire that will destroy his world. The game of truth and deception that animates the dialogue between these characters also innervates Muir’s text, who rewrites the play without incorporating its political references, setting it in our contemporaneity. The most compelling reference to current events is that of remote communication conveyed by social networks, highly flammable verbal material due to its power to wipe out an individual’s reputation in just a few seconds.

“How About Now” di Hannes Langolf, ph © Hugo Glendinnig, courtesy Emilia Romagna Teatro ERT / Teatro Nazionale

Inside a glass case, two characters of different ages meet, who we imagine as solitary nocturnal animals of a large city, evoked beyond the transparent diaphragm by a swarm of artificial lights in the distance. The two come across each other almost by chance, with the younger one starting speaking the other while he is pissing with his back against a wall with a background of industrial musical sounds. Between mutual provocations, confidences and witty phrases, the performers experiment with a fragile hypothesis of relationship, an exchange that could enrich both, but which appears constantly undermined by a meandering mutual distrust. The scenography designed by Loren Elstein, studied at length with inspections of public and private spaces, appears like a non-place in which life is suspended, similar to an aquarium or the waiting shelters of elevated subway lines. Contrary to the real places it brings to mind, the set is an open space that is anything but aseptic, the size of which is defined by the tensions that connect the characters and which, through the lighting effects (designed by Joe Hornsby) by which it is enlivened, accompanies the development of the plotless story that takes place on stage. While on the one hand the most immediate suggestion is that of a virtual environment comparable to the three-dimensional equivalent of a smartphone screen, during the course of the action it appears more and more like a living space in which sunrises, sunsets and clubbing lights support the conversation of the dancers with the creation of pulsating atmospheres that amplify their instances.

“How About Now” di Hannes Langolf, ph © Hugo Glendinnig, courtesy Emilia Romagna Teatro ERT / Teatro Nazionale

And, surprisingly in a dance show, the phrasing of the performers is the fulcrum of the representation, which takes the form of an attempt to stage life by bringing out from its apparently more incidental aspects a search for meaning in which the truth coincides not with a revelation, but with a relationship. The movements of the performers, impeccable in the timing of their mutual body joints as in the solos that each of them performs when the conversation leads to detachment and incomprehension, are in fact simultaneously determined both by the off-screen ambient soundtrack and by the fluctuating progress of the their verbal exchanges, which therefore take on a generative function with respect to the movement. Regarding the central role of language in this show, and more generally in his most recent work, Langolf, in conversation with the audience, explains: «When I dance without speaking I feel that I am not bringing all of myself onto the stage because in real life we speak and move at the same time. I am interested in exploring the influence that language has on the body, the interaction between word and dance, how a choreography can be created starting from the text and, vice versa, how we can extrapolate the text from a choreography. I’m also interested in experimenting with the rhythm of movement in parallel with that of language: these interactions are my main focus».

“How About Now” di Hannes Langolf, ph © Hugo Glendinnig, courtesy Emilia Romagna Teatro ERT / Teatro Nazionale

Beyond the initial inspiration source and the reflection on the aggressive methods of technological communication with which it is updated, both resumed in the end by a smoke curtain that envelops the dancers making them imagine for a moment that the young man has set fire to the other (physically, with the lighter with which he nervously fiddles with from time to time or metaphorically when he threatens to post on social media the videos he shot with his smartphone during their bizarre encounter), what forcefully emerges is the existential urgency of seeing each other and to recognize oneself in a close relationship to find a common space in which to think about the world. If theatres, as underlined by Stefano Tomassini, dance and choreographic studies professor at the Venice Iuav University, must return to being agitation and rethinking places in which the crises of the present are discussed, in “How About Now” Langolf manifests its full adherence to the most fragile aspects of our contemporaneity. His is an ode to vulnerability and insecurity which, while leaving the ending open to a disaster always on the verge of happening, identifies the courage to experience discomfort in intimacy and to declare it externally as the source of the energy that incessantly supports the movements of the performers and the driving force of a change which, as dance teaches, is only possible in relationships.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.