Saturday, December 12, 2009
Raimund Hoghe, Sans-Titre, Théâtre de Gennevilliers
When Raimund Hoghe walked onto the stage at the Théâtre de Gennevilliers last night for the performance of Sans-Titre, I exclaimed without thinking to my friend James “oh look, he’s a hunchback” and immediately felt guilty for my indiscretion. And then, when Faustin Linyekula removed his shirt to expose his perfect black body, I was relieved that it wasn’t Raimund Hoghe’s body I was being asked to watch. Apparently as is usual with the lyrical and mesmerizing movements of Hoghe’s choreography, I was transfixed for the following 90 minutes. He laid out single sheets of A4 paper around the stage creating the frame for Linykula’s movements. And as Linykula writhed his perfect black body in agony at his enslavement to the deformed white captor, I was enchanted and amazed at how two bodies could so lyrically, yet, discordantly express the pain of being in each other’s worlds. They fought against each other, but not once did they touch. Until, Hoghe walked to the front of the stage with his awkward gait, and lay down on his stomach. Linykula began one by one, to place stones along the spine of his nemesis, crowning the arrangement with a stone on the point of the hunch. It was the most tender and loving expression of acceptance, a gesture that completely transformed my wariness for the man whose body didn’t accord with what I know as normal. And so, by the time Hoghe removed his shirt, the relationship between the two dancers and all of its implications of violence, aggression, and injustice prepared me to see through different eyes: the tenderness in the heart of the oppressed for his oppressor had fully replaced my fascination and repulsion for the hunch on Hoghe’s back.
There was a reference in the program to Pier Paolo Pasolini, about the necessity of throwing the body into the fight. It apparently inspired Hoghe to go on stage. He says, “other inspirations are the reality around me, the time in which I live, my memories of history, people, images, feelings and the power and beauty of music and the confrontation with one's own body which, in my case, does not correspond with conventional ideals of beauty. To see bodies on stage that do not comply with the norm is important - not only with regard to history but also with regard to present developments, which are leading humans to the status of design objects.”
I am in total amazement that he dares to show his body on stage, and yet, why shouldn’t he? As I writer, I recognize that my task is to creep ever closer to whatever it is that words cannot explain or describe. And if, as a writer, that takes the courage not only to access, but also to reveal my most intimate secrets, made up as they are of failures and flaws, then why should the dancer not reveal his? For a dancer, it is understandably healing and necessary to reveal the beauty and perfection of a body that is not usually seen as perfect. Hoghe says, “it is important to be able to work and to go your own way - with or without success. I simply do what I have to do.” Hoghe is clearly beyond attachment to what the likes of me with all my prejudices and social conformity think: he is motivated by an imperative that needs nothing more than its own fulfillment. To live and to express himself with the body he has been given.