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Emily Hite
Performance Reviews
Modern/Contemporary
Dock 11
Germany
Berlin, OT (Germany)
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Compagnie Felix Ruckert/Berlin: Water Music, ein konzert

by Emily Hite
December 8, 2006
Dock 11
Kastanienallee 79
Berlin, OT (Germany) 1035
+49 (30) 4481222
Felix Ruckert's Water Music is a well-constructed work of music, dance and video that successfully (and rather entertainingly) brings attention to the properties, uses and possibilities of water. The sound of water running and the sight of it spilling throughout the piece naturally brings about a conservationist mindset; to see the work in Dock 11, the popular space for alternative dance and performance within the ecologically conscious city of Berlin, further develops such meaning. The piece focused on the cleansing, refreshing, life-giving qualities of the substance, however, and presented an open-ended exploration of water's role in humans' daily activities and in the environment rather than a definitive comment on the carelessness and wastefulness of excessive water consumption.

The stage space was neat and spare in appearance, with twelve white porcelain sinks lined up horizontally in the upstage space of the stage and two large screens filling the space above them. The four performers were divided by gender into performance roles: Ruckert and Matthieu Burner provided the melodious soundscape using water and their own, white-underpants-clad bodies against the surfaces of the sinks and floor while Rachel Brooker and Dasniya Sommer videoed live images of water, the men, themselves and each other. The video was projected on the screens and offered more intimate views of the elements on stage, or another angle to see the music being made, since the men most often had their backs to the audience when working at the sinks.

Ruckert and Burner began with a simple, rhythmic turning on and off of faucets. With careful listening and sensing of one another's bodies, the performers created water music that grew in complexity and dynamic. The dancer/musicians began to follow through with their limbs and torsos the action of manipulating a faucet or splashing water that had collected in the basins. The music and dance became subordinate to each other, creating a powerful effect in their synthesis. The experience could be compared to watching Japanese Taiko drumming, which involves choreographed, synchronized, disciplined movement for a group of musicians, visualizing the process of music making.

Water Music grew in complexity: more water, more faucets in use, splashing onto the floor. Microphones between sinks amplified the sound. The concert became playful when the two men stepping sideways engaged in a chase down the sinks, as though they were playing "Heart and Soul" on a giant piano. At one point Burner and Rucker bathed themselves in running water and had spilled or sprayed so much on the ground that, yes, they could propel themselves along the floor on a thin layer of water, crossing paths and rolling a bit at the end of their trajectories. One hoped Ruckert would involve the audience somehow, as he is known to do in performance; alas, it would have messy and dangerous. It looked entirely fun even though the performers went about their tasks with calm demeanor. In fact in all their actions, the men looked uninhibited and comfortable, as though in their natural state or habitat.

By contrast, the women could not have looked more water-resistant and less open to the possibility of getting wet. Wearing high-heeled platform boots (adding about 7 inches in height) and full-body white vinyl unitards complete with gloves and hoods that exposed only their eyes and mouths, they looked like something between long-legged insects, and the TV-room workers from the 1971 American film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Following the piece with camcorders connected by long cords to the projector (which aroused anxiety—would they be electrocuted?), the women provided a visual contrast to the free-bodied, nearly nude men, whose fit and gracefully-sculpted physiques deserve special mention. The women stayed most often downstage and to the sides, and their protective outfits (at one point they even covered the cameras in plastic) served to place them in opposition to water as though it were a dangerous substance that could be deadly were it to touch exposed skin. Viewing through the lens of the camera gave the women additional distance from the water.

Water's more fearful and destructive capabilities were explored near the end, when a storm was simulated by forcing a strong current of water on an inflated plastic bag in a sink. The sound was louder than before, but it was some clever technological device that made the room vibrate (thus, the vibration was felt without deafening volume). After some "lightning" communicated through flashing panels supporting the sinks, a staged rain shower finally covered the floor. After going through stages of humans using and abusing water, then water intimidating humans, we were left at the end of the piece with a sense of an unfixed relationship to water. The final rainfall left one above all grateful for water's presence, and keenly aware of its preciousness. Water Music made a gentle but significant impression on its audience—a good way to promote respectful relations with the bathroom tap.




Concept: Felix Ruckert
Dance and Music: Matthieu Burner & Felix Ruckert
Dance and Video: Rachel Brooker & Dasniya Sommer
Water Music poster

Water Music poster

Photo © & courtesy of Felix Ruckert

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