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By Cynthia Hedstrom
Raimund Hoghe with Faustin Linyekula
FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival
Dance Theater Workshop, NYC
September 16–18, 2010
Reviewed by Cynthia Hedstrom
Linyekula and Hoghe (background). Photo by Yi-Chun Wu, Courtesy DTW.
In Raimund Hoghe’s Sans-titre two men from opposite worlds share a broad landscape. Hoghe, a European, is older, slightly wizened with a humpback caused by a spinal deformity. Faustin Linyekula, who is Congolese, radiates a lithe, youthful energy. Under bright unchanging light, these two wanderers traverse the wide stage, barely acknowledging each other. Each appears to be an outsider, “sans-titre” (“without papers”, commonly used for illegal immigrants). The performance, which unfolds to late Baroque music alternated with American spirituals, leaves lots of space in which to gaze, to observe small detail, to let the mind draw upon memories and histories.
The open stage at DTW is bordered in black with a single candle upstage and a small pile of pebbles down front. Linyekula extends his long fingers and gathers the pebbles in his hands, initiating vibrations that pass through his limbs. He breaks into fluid, effusive dance. The edges and soft curves of his loose-limbed movement suggest the shapes of and between the pebbles. In contrast, Hoghe methodically places white sheets of paper, flat and rectangular, in a staple-shaped border around the space.
Linyekula places the pebbles along his own outstretched leg or arm resting on the floor, leaving a vacant trace as the body part is lifted away. Lying face down and shirtless, he slowly places the stones along his muscular spine, creating a miniature, curving landscape. As he begins to crawl, the stones fall from his back. Like an animal breaking free, he becomes wilder and more expansive—so much so that his voice cannot be contained and fills the room, which resonates with Dido’s lament “When I am laid in earth” by Purcell. Ecstatic twisty movements emanate from his spine and shoulders.
When Hoghe lies bare-chested on the floor, Linyekula approaches and lines his humped spine with the rounded pebbles, transforming the deformity into a hilly landscape. Reaching behind, Hoghe carefully removes the stones one by one, sending them away from his body. His gestures are quiet and considered, in contrast to Linyekula’s climatic throwing off of the stones. Later, Linyekula gathers the pebbles in his two hands and buries his face in them, as if they were heavy tears.
Continuing on their journeys, the two men cross the space in winding paths, calming the energy as their arms float out and down and their spines bow forward. Joining for the first time, they link arms as a long steady fade-out heightens the aura around their two distinct bodies. The after-image of this elegiac dance endures long after these two wanderers, creatures of the earth, dissolve into darkness.