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Renee E. D'Aoust
Performance Reviews
Special Focus
Teatro Dimitri
Verscio, OT (Switzerland)

Swiss Choreographer and Soloist Anna Huber: Stück mit Flügel

by Renee E. D'Aoust
October 13, 2009
Teatro Dimitri
Carà del Teatro Dimitri
Verscio, OT (Switzerland) CH-6653
+ 41 (0) 91 796 25 44
Stück mit Flügel
Anna Huber Compagnie
Swiss choreographer and soloist Anna Huber's work connects Alexander Calder's mobiles to the desensitized space of abstract art, without invoking the possible thought that the avant-garde is blasé and so—done. What we need is some art of action, not abstraction; some art of politics, not form. With Anna Huber we get action and abstraction, politics and form.

Anna Huber's performance of Stück mit Flügel at Teatro Dimitri, in Verscio, Switzerland, showed it all: both the creative possibility of form and the necessity to keep on moving (or stick with flying and flapping and slapping, as a loose translation of "flügel" might suggest).

A Swiss artist, Anna Huber has been living and working in Berlin since 1989. Huber has made her career by choreographing and performing solo work, including site specific projects. She tours internationally. Among others, Huber won the Hans Reinhart-Ring award (one of the most prestigious theater awards in Switzerland). Since 2007, she has held an Artist in Residence at Dampfzentrale Bern in Switzerland.

Anna Huber is extraordinary. I have never watched such subtle, deceptively simple play in a body so articulate and so expressive. If Huber were working in the United States, her tendencies might be compared to Molissa Fenley. She has those quick arms, with bird-like motions, yet as with Fenley's erudite work, there is more than animalistic intention happening here.

While contemporary, Huber's work is also beyond our time, yet not in a postmodern, retaliatory manner. How do we discuss something that looks like sculpture yet is beyond meaning? Anna Huber's work both disturbs the mind and creates wonder.

For starters, think of the audacious innovation of Alexander Calder mobiles, which were created using simple materials. Huber strives toward formal, repetitive structures rather than lyricism, yet she uses basic movement. No wonder that Stück mit Flügel begins with two radio-controlled objects buzzing around the stage. The dancer, Anna Huber, and the pianist, Susanne Huber (yes, sisters), sit at the back of the stage directing the radio controls. It's a radio-controlled brain chased by a shining egg. Is it child's play? Sounds cute, but it didn't look kitschy in the least.

In nonchalant manner, brain and egg parked, Susanne Huber takes her place at the piano. The score for Stück mit Flügel is a combination of sometimes bombastic electronic music by Martin Schütz with piano pieces by György Kurtág, György Ligeti, and Franz Lizst, played throughout with great sensitivity by Susanne Huber. I was not sure about the electronic mix because I did not think it supported the dance; however, that might be the point. The interlacing of musical tones with electronic turbulence drove that point home. In Teatro Dimitri the electronic score was at times too loud on the eardrums; it might have been that particular venue.

When Huber begins to move—very slowly, very subtly—one realizes this is not child's play. This is art with a big A. Huber separates the crease in the dance floor, stepping into it and alternately crossing her legs. Instead of showy moves, there are consistent, even predictable steps. The music sweeps. The steps stay the same. Methodical. Are we going somewhere or nowhere at all? Think again of a Calder mobile. Walk under it, and it moves. Take a breath, and Huber moves. That's all it takes.

Breath conveys much of the subtlety of Huber's art. It's Zen dance, perhaps, and the musical intensity never breaks her calm. Huber has a disarming way of looking directly into the theatre, and you think she is looking directly at you. She is. She lies down, rests her chin on folded hands, and looks the way a child might gaze: unadorned and open. She takes us in as we take her in; our interpretations, the meaning we project onto her form, are part of her intention.

There is something about going backward in Stück mit Flügel that takes you forward. I don't mean to be oblique or vague. This is an exploration of articulation that is more than experimentation. It works. At first the body is nondescript, but the centered power of Huber's form somehow expresses itself through a bulky winter parka. When the parka comes off, through spinning and a very neat Velcro release, which becomes part of the score, the body revealed is what you thought it would be: taut, highly strung, very calm moving sculpture. The pedestrian costumes by Inge Zysk help us see Huber as human, but these steps would be impossible for mere mortals.

When Huber uses the back of her hands to walk, she bends over her legs and steps backward. When those fingers point up and her palms come forward, she extends a benediction. We are so used to seeing Huber's world move in reverse, that the presence of her palm coming forward looks like grace reborn.

There is a synchronicity between the dancer and the pianist, and I looked for filial meaning, but I thought it was simply form, again, that unadorned gaze. They both say, "Here we are, dancer and pianist, looking at each other, and you are looking at us. We don't mind." We stop thinking about sisterhood. That feels like a relief, too, as if Huber frees us from psychological constraints, making it possible for us to let go of some ridiculous story. But she does not live without abandon. When she tries to jump, she looks incredibly awkward. She twitches more than jumps. When she tries to run, her feet are gripped in an anti-point; she lands on heel and crunched toes, not on the soles of her feet.

The section where her left arm waves back and forth like a metronome and her right hand and fingers fidget all over the place is decidedly funny. Not even awkwardly funny, as in "poor thing," but as in watching an unnamed creature and thinking it is learning how to fly. Or maybe it is a human riding a bus. Is the hand scratching or slapping or flipping out? I didn't understand what was going on, and this was my favorite section. Huber's body: funny and sad and sweet.

Operated by Susanne Huber, the radio-controlled brain returns at the end of the performance. Anna Huber is wrapped in the dance floor. It has become part of her. Instead of moving backward, she is moving sideways now, crossing the legs, stepping outside of expectation.

Renée E. D'Aoust's essay "Ballerina Blunders," published in Open Face Sandwich, received a "Notable Essay" listing in Best American Essays 2009.
Anna Huber

Anna Huber

Photo © & courtesy of Unknown

Anna Huber

Anna Huber

Photo © & courtesy of Unknown

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