premiere 12 June 2008 - Troubleyn/Jan Fabre/ Antwerpen
article by Petra Buljević
SINGULARITY OF FOREIGNNESS (I, THE FOREIGNER )
Paris has always been an ideal sanctuary in the eye of an emigrant: a place of relief for the first refugees from the soviet regime in the early 20th century as well as for the intellectual elite escaping the oppressive political regimes throughout history (Hispano-Americans, Africans and Chinese). In the eighties of the last century, sociologists argued that Paris has provided home for more immigrants than any other European metropolis ever. It is the city with the long history of strikes provoked by the poor immigrants, raising their voice against the under qualified jobs, which they have been forced to do, rebelling against racial, social and educational degradation, which they have been experiencing on a daily basis. The play by the choreographer Ivo Dimchev and dancer Christian Bakalov evolves exactly from this ambiguity of Paris as both, an "open" and "closed" city at the same time. A modern Babylon where taxi drivers are professional dancers, musicians and scientists.
It should be pointed out that performative presence of Christian Bakalov (i.e. a dancer Jan Fabre) is extremely distressing. All his actions, from his first address to the audience, when in an angrily and threatening grunting voice he asks the audience to switch their mobile phones off, followed by the image of his face perpetually disclosed or covered by the dark cap, black or silver curtain, all the way to the knee jumping scene with the performer soaking huge sips of plain water only to vehemently spill it all over himself and the stage (giving a whole new meaning to Parisian fountains), are the actions of a lucid political desperate whose tragedy we are deeply struck by. Sentences such as "I clean human and dog excrement", which the performer produces in an irritatingly modulated deep voice, while at the same time taking a typical ballet pose, are a warning for the young artists that living a life in Paris is far from living the liberal utopia, but merely lamenting in various forms of invisibility. Likewise, the act of sticking the French flag in the red bloody bottom is not an act of praise of the national hospitality. For Dimchev and Bakalov living a life of an immigrant means enduring the devastating experience of anger, arising from incessant humiliation, social exclusion and segregation.
THRESHOLD OF SOLIDARITY
Tears are here mixed with saliva in the same way as the clown`s white wig is being soaked while the performer's body glides on the butchery-like red bloody stage. The performance is extremely merciless towards the experience of an exile. Moreover, this open hostility between choreographers and dancers, caused by the Paris life style, was emphasised several times during the performances and also in the programme booklet. In the performative sense, the singularity of foreignness has been enduring a life of such loneliness, bitterness and isolation, that it has caused a strong physical reaction even among the audience. Every gesture, which Bakalov performs, while vehemently rejecting his clothes or sticking the microphone into his mouth, is provoking the audience to carefully evaluate their own threshold of solidarity. "Paris" has provoked a very loud and cheerful applause during which the dancer`s crushed face gradually transforms into a smile alike facial expression. This play undoubtedly invokes and creates a new type of emphatic policy by dealing with the problems of an extreme humiliation.