Arts and Culture: an illustrated narrative of Tanzoffensive 2015


Tanz_KrumpBy Maeshelle West-Davies

This weekend was so packed with things to do in Leipzig that I almost just stayed home from the sheer pressure of making the decision. In the end I opted for my passion, dance. And what better place to experience that than at TANZOFFENSIVE. It’s a two-week festival organized by The Lofft that takes place every two years and never disappoints me. This year’s theme is “Show.” They are seeing how close contemporary dance can get to circus, street dance and social dance and still be considered an art form.

Thursday, 30 April, day one: SHIFTS, KRUMP N BREAK RELEASE.

I will be the first to admit I had no previous knowledge of Krumping. It was so much more than I expected. It is an international movement started by Ceasare “Tight Eyez” Willis and Jo’Artis “Big Mijo” Ratti in South Central Los Angeles during the early 2000s. Characterized by fast energetic movements, it has been an outlet for energy that would otherwise be used in gangs. Krumping has four basic moves: jabs, arm swings, stomps, and chest pops. The rest comes from the dancers, from their mood, their stories, their experiences, their imaginations. There is a complex social structure to krumping and it takes on a spiritual nature with people being part of different “families” depending on who they had for mentors.

Most of us are familiar with break dance. It began in NYC in the 70s with the birth of hip hop and uses level, footwork, tumbling and spinning.

Release is a postmodern dance approach that gained popularity in the US in the 70s, however it’s rooted in the teachings of Mabel Elsworth Todd from the 30s. It uses image-based movement, connecting of body and mind, perception of the kinetic experience, intention, stillness and improvisation.

In the piece we learn where the dancers are from and why they do what they do. We experience how they feel doing it. We also watch them grow and learn new movements of expressions. We even get to join in on the “hype” that spurs them on. It’s hard not to join in on the movement with that bass vibrating your center.

The group of 5 dancers (German and French) from 4 different movement styles was at the end of their 13-performance tour. This is part of a series of projects from Shifts, conceived and guided by choregraphers Malgven Gerbes and David Brandstätter. Shifts is based on a “core conviction: that constant changes of perspective, shifting balance, the modification of starting positions and external parameters are all conditions essential to a serious and ongoing examination of the art practices [of dance].”

I am really disappointed that I missed Friday (day two). I had a flat tire on my bike and got there too late. Always be on time because once the show has started, you can’t get in.

“Down Tango,” photo by Daniel Barth

Day three: Tango. The first performance blew me away with the fresh approach and the sheer athleticism it took to do it. I hate to ruin the surprise, but since they are only performing once…..They did the whole number lying on their backs. The precision and repetition and positions left me with so many questions. It’s rare that I am left with such a strong impression. DOWNTANGO choreographed by Lucia Marote and performed by Poliana Lima and Lucia Marote from Costa Rica and Spain… really, WOW!

“Tango Noir,” photo by Daniel Barth

The next piece took tango back to its roots, the dance hall and the reality of everyday relationships. Interlaced with scenes from black and white Hollywood films and sporadic 80s punk, AS2WRISTS DANCE COMPANY from Finland explore the macho male and the control of the woman. And in a danceform that seems to be all about the man controlling the woman, there is no doubt who has the upperhand. He is passionate and emotive and she is cold and manipulating.

And then came the icing on the cake, Tabori Theatre Bar packed with people doing the tango. It was so lovely. It just felt right there. The lighting. The space. The wine. (They added two Spanish wines and tapas just for the occasion) I was glad to see that the move to entice more Leipzigers to come and participate was working. I had noticed at the other performance when several people told me this was their first time at the Lofft. There were people who participate in various types of movement to supplement their lives. I didn’t know you could take classes in Krumping, juggling, poi or hula-hooping. These people were passionate and were excited to see the union between these activities and contemporary dance played out on stage.

Day four: Swing!!!!! From 4-7 about 80 people took the stage. The first course was a beginner Lindy Hop. The next course was Shim Sham. This is the most widely known and danced choreography around the world. When they play……’s what everyone starts doing. Swinging LE is a group of people who are passionate about Swing. Ulf Müller founded it 15 years ago so he’d have people to Boogie Woogie with. Boogie Woogie led to Lindy Hop, Shag, Balboa, Authentic Jazz and the Charleston. Now they are 6 teachers teaching 10 classes of around 140 students a week at various locations around Leipzig. Missed it? There’s a beginner LIndy Hop course 13 June.


This week:

“The Raven,” photo by Kim Lane

Thursday, 7 May brings Flamenco to another level. In “The Raven,” Comania Kaari & Roni Martin of Finland take it back to the 1930s with their homage to Surrealism. Afterwards Sonia Sanchez of Spain performs “El Pliegue,” a combination of Flamenco and Butoh. Yes, I said Butoh. Last up is Compania Daniel Dona (Spain) with “A Pie De Calle.” Simply said, Flamenco that defies explanation. It must be seen.

And Tabori Theatre Bar will be serving Tapas. Sounds like my big night out this week.

Fri, 8 May: Blind Date. You’re already intrigued, right? And if you’ve ever seen tap dancing by Leipzig based Sebastian Weber, you’re even more interested. His flair for bringing tap into the 21st century is unrivalled.

“Carnival of the Body,” photo by Till Böcker
Sebastian Weber
Sebastian Weber

Sat, 9 May: Overhead Project (Germany) presents Carnival of the Body. Cross the wrestler baddie, the circus and the dancer and you find out how intimate and ridulous one (or two) bodies can be. Think Butler, Mickey Rourke and Foucault. That’s the fight for truth.

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

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