Language fragments burst into the audience in an extremely brutal fashion like the performers through the paper wall. In guerilla fighter outfits. Screaming. An overkill consisting of words, sentences, slogans. Does anyone here still understand anything? Verbal communication breaks down in these thunderstorms of media community language. It sinks between fake news, it crumbles into a senseless babble, worn down by attributions, bans on speaking, hysterical tirades of hate. Everyone has the right to have their own truth. Choreographer Richard Siegal wrote the text himself for four dancers in his company Ballet of Difference, located in Munich, and five actors from the municipal theaters in Cologne. A breathless crossover spectacle, brimming with off-key humor and touching moments of dance poetry.
This American choreographer presented his company Ballet of Difference (BoD) for the first time at the DANCE 2017 festival. The ensemble of soloists is diverse, in regards to origins and cultural backgrounds, but homogeneous in its perfection of dance. The dancers are also brilliant linguistically in this interdisciplinary production, which will be staged in English with German supertitles and will ingeniously inspire the actors from Cologne to dance. This is a highlight of the twinning project between the cities of Munich (where Ballet of Difference has its headquarters) and Cologne (where the piece was developed as the sixth work in BoD's repertoire) – and a new dimension in the works of Richard Siegal. Siegal is known for his aesthetic reorientations. He experiments with styles, genres, and formats. Dance, installations, community projects, new media works, and music theater productions are included in his portfolio, which he realizes with renowned artist colleagues, initially with the collective he founded in 2006, The Bakery, and now since 2016 with Ballet of Difference. Richard Siegal has received important awards for his work: the New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie Award); the SACD Award; the German theater award Der Faust; and the Munich dance award Tanzpreis in 2013.
As ambitious as Siegal is in his aesthetic curiosity, he is as equally tenacious with the themes that are important to him. For Roughhouse he created a text surface that assembles quotes, catch phrases, corny jokes, slogans, and manners of speaking. "To roughhouse" means "to treat in a boisterously rough manner, to mishandle," and Siegal, on the one hand, pushes the codes of our postfactual society to the verge of slapstick and, on the other hand, all the way to the threshold of pain. One staggers between the Me Too debate and "artist of color" discussions, and ponders whether avatars feel pain and if that concerns us. Interspersed into this language texture is also an excerpt from Aeschylus' Oresteia; however, somehow it appears to be stolen, because suddenly the words are missing ... Cultural appropriation, post-colonialism, migration, feminism – Siegal broaches all of this in a breathtaking tempo and with performers who appear to be capable of everything.
Choreographer and director: Richard Siegal
Performers: Yuri Englert, Marlene Goksch, Nicola Gründel, Stefko Hanushevsky, Jemima Dean, Seán McDonagh, Margarida Neto, Claudia Ortiz Arraiza, Diego Tortelli
Dramaturges: Tobias Staab, Stawrula Panagiotaki
Composer: Lorenzo Bianchi Hoesch
Set designers: Jens Kilian, Richard Siegal
Lighting designer: Gilles Gentner
Costume designer: Flora Miranda
Video designer: Lea Heutelbeck
Translations: Tobias Staab
Ballet master: Caroline Geiger
Sports science consultant: Gjuum
A coproduction of Tanz Köln, Muffatwerk, Richard Siegal / The Bakery, and Ecotopia Dance Production.
Supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Department of Arts and Culture of the City of Munich, and the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Richard Siegal is the choreographer-in-residence at Muffatwerk in Munich.
Photos: © Thomas Schermer