Let them Stride and Quiver!

Dieser Artikel ist das erste gemeinschaftliche Erzeugnis der © Thie/Thaa Productions. Wenn’s gefällt, kommt an dieser Stelle vielleicht bald mehr!

This article is the first joint product by © Thie/Thaa Productions. If you like it, there might be more soon!

I simply can’t resist to start this with a personal anecdote, if you’re not interested skip this first paragraph. So, I have followed Trajal Harrell’s work for a while now, one of my first posts on this blog was about one of his pieces. I was completely unaware, however, that some of his more recent work was premiering in Berlin yesterday. On my bike, headed to WAU for a drink, I see HAU’s minimalistic posters with his name on them. While I stop to think, a completely panicked Trajal Harrell runs past me. Like a true fan I chase him on my bike just to find out that not only is he looking for a jug 20 minutes prior to the beginning of the show but that same show is also completely sold out. I was lucky enough to get in anyway, thanks to whoever got sick or simply forgot to go! Anyhow, I am not a very superstitious person, but this felt kind of like fate, just sayin‘. Now to the performance:

In the Mood for Frankie is rich of allusions, ranging from what looked like a group of tiny koi carps to Wong Kar-Wai’s movie In the Mood for Love. This does not mean that one has to be an expert in Voguing, Butoh or fashion to have access to this work. Harrell offers symbols and hints, but even as a complete cultural illiterate one can still take enough from the sheer movement, sound and visual art.


Almost all dance styles Harrell combines so seamlessly have a rebellious, dissident dimension. With butoh it’s particularly the dark element, but also its strong historical connection to the exploration of different sexualities. And so once again, Harrell manages to create a space where femininity and masculinity meet and thereby dissolve. Harrel’s work is Queerness at ist best, not outside of popculture but always pointing to something way beyond it, combining vulnerability and strength, self-care and outrageousness.


The Japanese word „butoh“ originally meant European ballroom dancing, how fitting then that the dancer Ondrej Vidlar’s body basically screams ballroom dancing with (almost) every step he takes. His physique forms a stark contrast to Thibault Lac’s figure, seemingly destined to do Drag. Harrell is in some way a mixture of these two, but he also adds his own extremely expressive face and quiver. Ooh, the quiver. Quivering not just with antici – – pation but with actual fear, fear of things to come but maybe even more fear inflicted by countless wounds and grievances.


It’s this simultaneity of fragility and coyness, flirting and shaking at the same time, that left me utterly bedazzled. If I were in any position to, I would wish for a nation of shaking Drag Queens and Kings, radiating confidence and anguish at once. Isn’t that what dance is all about: turning pain into joy and beauty through movement? Dancing on my own, with just a scrap of cloth held to my chest is enough to turn me into a Diva – isn’t that the whole point?


The minimalistic but ingenious fashion choices and the  beautiful stage also helped, but really it’s all about this double nature, particularly pertinent to this piece’s subject of artist and muse.


Like in psychoanalysis, there are no coincidences in Harrell’s work, so most likely there’s something to be said about the fact that Sade was prominently featured in the fabulous as always soundtrack and that de Sade was an important influence in Butoh dancing. Why not make up your own connection?


The actual crying, sobbing and silent screaming did not quite do it for me, maybe that’s due to my lack of Butoh-connoisseurship. Somehow, it doesn’t seem necessary or maybe even distracting from the emotions conveyed by the expressive bodies. That said, I did cry during the show.


The two shows tonight are sold out but Harrell will be spending more time in Berlin this year, so keep your eyes and ears open, you can’t always get as lucky as I did yesterday!

In the Mood for Frankie was conceived during Harrell’s two-year Annenberg Research Commission Residency project In one step are a thousand animals at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where it premiered already in 2016. For more check out Trajal Harrell’s website if my enthusiasm was contagious.


Volontary homework: If you don’t feel like googling Butoh: The Weeknd Belong to the World, not the most amazing song but an impressive video,which even deals with the same topic as Harrell’s piece: muses and their status in art, how they never belong to an artist even if the relationship artist – muse is most commonly perceived as an intensely hierarchical and gendered one.


Performance-Drawings by artist Oliver Thie!

For more explorations of movement, but also of insects, check this out:


Photo: © Paula Court


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