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Eszter Salamon and Daniel Linehan gems of highly diverse Julidans

Photo: VA Wölfl

Holland Festival, Julidans, IT's, Over 't IJ. End-of-season theatre is always sprinkled across Amsterdam. Between April and September, international performance offerings migrate from Utrecht (Springdance and Festival aan de Werf) via Amsterdam to Rotterdam (Internationale Keuze). If you want to experience something of contemporary, international dance, Springdance, HF and Julidans are the places to be. [For HF and Springdance, see dedodo.nl] Julidans showed a striking amount of conceptual work this year, in addition to the usual large dance-theatre productions and smaller work at venues as diverse as Bellevue, De Melkweg, Paradiso, the Vondelpark, Podium Mozaïek and the Bijlmerparktheater.

With provocation, humour, social themes and spectacular imagery, it manages to Julidans has for years reached a very diverse audience of local residents and passers-by, connoisseurs and enthusiasts. The halls are not exactly filled with purely incrowd dance audiences. It is highly questionable whether this approach will survive the upcoming budget cuts.

Images with a capital B characterised the opening and closing of Julidans 2011. In "Ich sah: Das Lamm auf dem Berg Zion, Offb. 14,1" performs VA Wölfl/Neuer Tanz armed figures on in a quasi-museum setting. The theatre's black box had been converted to a white expo version, highly conducive to lighting and image quality. But the scenes developed wordlessly and agonisingly slow gradually just got boring. Maguy Marin In contrast, she inundated her audience with at least as precisely composed images and scenes, only at a killer pace and ditto quantity. "Salves" is overwhelming in a more positive way. Still, for all the references to German dance and theatre greats (Bausch, Brecht, Wagner), it would not have been out of place if a bit more depth had been brought into the piece. "Salves" sticks to the naive observation that the dreary course of history is repeating itself.

So is it impossible to use poetic imagery to address major themes? The female duet "Gustavia", an international hit born from the collaboration between Spanish performance artist La Ribot and the French choreographer Mathilde Monnier, shows that it is indeed possible. Speculating on the clown's vices, the ladies question the theatre profession, their femininity, death, unhappiness and the will to make something of it. Here, no overwhelming images but subtle transformations. No grand indictment but self-deprecation. Know-how in the place of baking technique. The ladies performed, quite appropriately for a bunch of clowns against their will, in front of a half-empty theatre auditorium, and they did it particularly well.

Audience numbers are far from saying everything. This was evident at the world premiere of Wim Vandekeybus. His adaptation of Oidipus Rex on a text by Jan Decorte drew packed auditoriums and after the performance, audiences took to their seats. But the performance was a succession of predictable and even pathetic gestures. Michel Fugain meets Ruigoord, long live the primal Flemish sense of party and bonje, but leave Oidipus out of it.

That text and dance also go very well together was demonstrated by two smaller, conceptual performances in the programme. In "Dance for Nothing" Eszter Salamon 43 minutes of her attention on two things: another person's text and her own movements. "Lecture about nothing" is a famous lecture by John Cage from 1947. With a sense of humour and understatement, Cage looks for moments where something becomes nothing. The dancer on the floor, however, can do nothing but go from nothing to something in a single line. Salamon speaks the text and composes while dancing before our eyes. She constantly seeks contact with the audience. The mutual watching, speaking and listening, moving and sitting silently around it, produces a wonderful, if split concentration. Cage's questions about what is actually the basis of a successful composition, in art and in life, are made tangible by Salamon in "Dance for Nothing" in an extraordinarily intimate and honest way.

Also Daniel Linehan, compared to Salamon only a beginner, combined text and dance. He showed his third work, "Zombie Aporia", which is a joyous sequence of scenes that ask questions about what dance actually does. Real questions about representation, the relationship with music, the here and now of movement, being hip to politically correct themes, the transience of human drives and the damned tendency to look for meaning everywhere, pass by. "Zombie Aporia" is an intelligent and moving work precisely because it slings big themes across the footlights in an unaffected way.

And that, apart from reaching a wider audience, is also the strength of Julidans' programming: iconoclasts and grand gestures go hand in hand with less pretentious, more delicate delights there.

Fransien van der Putt

Fransien van der Putt is a dramaturge and critic. She works with Lana Coporda, Vera Sofia Mota, Roberto de Jonge, João Dinis Pinho & Julia Barrios de la Mora and Branka Zgonjanin, among others. She writes about dance and theatre for Cultural Press Agency, Theatererkrant and Dansmagazine. Between 1989 and 2001, she mixed text as sound at Radio 100. Between 2011 and 2015, she developed a minor for the BA Dance, Artez, Arnhem - on artistic processes and own research in dance. Within her work, she pays special attention to the significance of archives, notation, discourse and theatre history in relation to dance in the Netherlands. Together with Vera Sofia Mota, she researches the work of video, installation and peformance artist Nan Hoover on behalf of www.li-ma.nl.View Author posts

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