BucharEAST.WEST – Where is Bucharest ?

Scrisoare din București

BucharEAST.WEST – Where is Bucharest ?

article by Adolphe Binder, Ballet Tanz International, July 2001

sigla festival. 2

(festival logo by Matei Branea)

A glimmering day.Impossibly crowded, the passport control resonates with the omnios echo of past possibilities. The parking lot of Otopeni Airport is also jammed, just like the highway of the city wits lanes and lanes of traffic. We are driven, secure in a shuttle, with cars seeming to close on every side. It is all to much. Smog in the air, and a dust that sooner or later drifts into space, diffuses like a memory. First day back in Bucharest. After growing up here. Escaping from Ceașescu at the age of eleven. No more than quick visits in 1979, 1984, 1993. And now the first trip for proffessional reasons: attending a 16-days international dance festival. This cannot be Bucharest.My body feels different, in a way I don’t understand. Narrower, as though frammed, a bit strange and unfamiliar, other, thinner. The things that I seem faked, or stuck in the midle of a metamorphosis, like a larval creature that has yet to assume a new form. A riddle. A game, to see this place as one who has no ilussions. Finally the mood goes. The noise, the hectic pace forces you to focus on reality. Denying the heaviness in your breast, you walk around the Bucharest of May 2001, a city somewhere between the Orient and Occident, right in the pit of the Balkan vulcano.

Bucharest, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere past Transylvania, the “land behind the forest.” Regions whose names evoke the legendary, the innaccesible and otherworldy. Beautiful and wild, and nowdays not nearly as backwoods as in the old days. But the old wounds still bleed, even if the battle is long over. Or is it just beginning ? Romania – is it doomed ? Some succeed in risign from ruins and rubble. They work hard, had visions. And amid the daily violence of the Romanian routine, we find a handfull people with energy and resolute will to dance. Accustomed to improvisation, sacrifice, and a complete absence of public funding, energetic and professional, they present eleven Romanian and nine foreign productions, plus film and video screenings and other entertainments.

“Pregatește-te” – “Be prepared” says the chanteuse of the supporting program. She dances her way to through a full nightclub. Called Green Hourse, for a few weeks it serves as the social gathering point for BucureSTI.VEST, the second annual international festival of contemporary dance. This venue was once the private bar of Nicu Ceaușescu, the dictator’s son, whose taste in carnal amusements was much like his father’s in arhitecture, opulent, mad, megalomanic. This cannot be Bucharest.

Yet they have come here, the visitors and performers. Because the West is always seeking new sensations, because Westerners are discovering (perhaps even promotiong ?!) the Balkans, because between the Wild East strives to go west, they come. The movers and shakers from London, Berlin, Paris and not to mention Tallin, Warswaw, Ljubljana, all seekings seeds of potential blossom. They come here to join Cosmin Manolescu’s as rule daringly organised festival. Among them are Joker Dans Ro, the second Romanian dance platform, and “Movements on the Edge”, a workshop for Eastern European dance professionals. A complete package. The arriving delegations prepare for the official program and the selection of off-events at the newly build Centrul Multiartdans abbreviated MAD. Everyone seems relaxed and curious. Soon enough, one among them stands up to resist. Mihai Mihalcea goes on offensive in his “You come to See the Show and You get an Extra-Burger, seizing the opportunity in his best Nigel Charnnock-comedy manner to tell everybody what he thinks, just what the real deal is. A personal declarration of a funny kind, in English for the foreigners, at the same time (and yet quite different) in Romanian for the natives. He confesses his fears and remonstrates at everything that brings success and stress to the life of a choreographers. His performance works. People are amused. As they are by “the Fiction of Living”, Vava Stefanescu’s choreography for toasters and fax machines.

Is this really Bucharest ? Extreme body art is presented in Outcome, a solo piece by Manuel Pelmus. A man, wrapped up ina clable that seems to grow to his head, swings out of it in a monotonous motion, weaves himself out of time, plays at becoming something else, explores almost medidativly the roots of his identiy, and finally tears himself apart. Eduard Gabia, trance-like and decorporealised, tries to escape from himself. Simple and fascinating, this piece brings the feeling of pressure back into your breast. It must be Bucharest.

A similalrly transformative mission informs Human Zoo, the production by festival organiser Cosmin Manolescu in cooperation with Marie-Gabrielle Rotie from Britain. The three-act piece captivates most of all when its bodies are freed from any recognizeble encoding and strive for pure form, when they winch mysteriously into a half-darkness and yet can still become, when they reveal the hidden minutiae that simoultaneously isolate and connect. Again a movement on the edge, motion between animal and human.

For that, too, is Bucharest: children begging in the street, with limbs so distorded – by human hands ! – that one’s heart must break: torsos on wheels. Walking past them are American dancers who did not come for the festival, but for the Dracula conference. Hungry dogs, stray dogs that attack people in packs, and diverse forms of bloodysuckers.

The young dogs of the festival deserve congratulations because they are not waiting for a buyer. They have the confidence to stage something themselves. With limited ressources and tinny bit of money blend from the stones, they manage to be perfectly organised. Presumably that is now Bucharest.

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