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Dutch Company Finds Beauty in "Physical Schizophrenia" - Leine & Roebana: Sporen

by Steve Sucato
May 10, 2008
PlayhouseSquare - Ohio Theatre
1511 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 771-4444
www.leineroebana.com
For Dutch contemporary dance company Leine & Roebana's inaugural U.S. tour the company brought with it a retrospective of sorts. The evening-length Sporen (traces) performed by the company at Cleveland's Ohio Theatre, pulled together excerpts from several of choreographers Andrea Leine and Harijono Roebana's dance works dating back to their company's founding in 1999. The pair then melded those excerpts into a stand-alone work bred from familiarity but filled with the unexpected.

Described by Leine and Roebana as an exercise in "physical schizophrenia" — an imagining of the body not as a unit but as a separation of limbs where the torso is free to go wherever it wants — Sporen was both unusual and quite magnificent.

The 70-minute program (no intermission) began with the work's cast of dancers and musicians assembled onstage in silence staring blankly out into the audience. Around them a simple yet elegant set (designer un-credited in the program) of white panels and floor, a rectangular and textured piece of artwork suspended above and at the rear of the stage and a grand piano, all giving one the sense of being in a salon. As if to purposefully disrupt that halcyon atmosphere, an ear-piercing blast of sound ripped through the theater and perhaps the eardrums of some audience members in the first few rows. The sound collage of punk rock and noise subsided quickly and was replaced by the choir boy singing of countertenor Joseph Schlesinger who shadowed a dancer onstage.

Schlesinger's appearance in Cleveland along with three other company musicians was the only stop on the company's U.S. tour to feature live music. As the musicians, especially Schlesinger, were fully integrated into Sporen, it would be hard to imagine how the work would have looked without them.

Leine and Roebana's contemporary movement language revealed a number of influences from modern to middle-eastern. One recurrent motif in the work was a series of pelvic gyrations and undulations by the 7-member troupe that looked sort of like belly dancers whose hips were somehow unhitched. The swiveling motion of the dancers' bodies, especially in a section featuring a trio of female dancers had the same mesmerizing effect of the 1980's Robert Palmer music videos featuring red lipped identically costumed female dancers moved with similar harmonious calm.

The work's choreography piled textured layer upon texture layer over seemingly simple choreography accentuated by an eclectic score derived from a number of composer's works including that of William Byrd, Henri Purcell and Pierre Boulez. The score was integral in creating the work's atmosphere of serenity and harshness.

Atmosphere itself was at the crux of Sporen. From the aloof and at times disinterested facial expressions of the dancers, to the non-literal, sinewy choreography and engaging score and musical performances, Sporen lived and breathed atmosphere. If this, as the two choreographers describe, is physical schizophrenia, then it is a way of moving that is alluring, captivating and something deserving of seeing a lot more of in the future.
Leine & Roebana: Sporen

Leine & Roebana: Sporen

Photo © & courtesy of Leine & Roebana

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