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Renee E. D'Aoust
Performance Reviews
Theaterhaus Gessnerallee
Zürich, OT (Switzerland)

"Eine Frage der Zeit": Swiss Choreographer and Soloist Anna Huber

by Renee E. D'Aoust
October 23, 2009
Theaterhaus Gessnerallee
Gessnerallee 8

Zürich, OT (Switzerland) Ch-8001
+41 44 225 81 10
"Time is not what passes; we pass away."—Anna Huber

"Eine Frage der Zeit"
Anna Huber Compagnie
"I try to extend my boundaries," writes Swiss choreographer and soloist Anna Huber. "Eine Frage der Zeit" premiered on October 29, 2008, in Bern, Switzerland, and the October 23 Friday night performance in Zurich, almost one year later, proves both that the piece extends the boundaries of performance and also that it will have a long presence in Huber's expanding oeuvre. Huber electrifies theatrical space.

Like most of her work, in "Eine Frage der Zeit" Huber appears alone onstage for over an hour, piecing together fragments of a life, walking, running, stitching. But one should abstract away from all those motions to get a sense of this ultra-contemporary choreographer. It isn't necessary to paste a narrative onto the evening. We deal with "the matter, the question, of time" — "Eine Frage der Zeit" — but Huber amends the perception of time's passage through her existential, unaffected, and genuine presence.

Huber shows us the noise of our daily lives. When she races nowhere and everywhere at once, there is surely a reference to Becket, one of Huber's influences. There might be more commonality with the contemporary writings of Lydia Davis. Concise, abstract, devastating. As if to complement Huber's busy-ness to the tune of Martin Schütz's haunting and evocative electronic score, created in collaboration with Huber, I thought of the late David Foster Wallace's reflections on "the ambient volume of … life's noise" (in Wallace's "Introduction" to "Best American Essays 2007").

Life's noise is too much, yet Huber contained it within the spare, stark, and stupendous warehouse space (with an enormous wooden-beam ceiling) of Theaterhaus Gessnerallee. I could feel the collective concentration of the sold-out audience and have a feeling Huber has built a dedicated following. Huber could perform anywhere and frequently does in site-specific installations. I'd go anywhere to see her.

Here she pushes the boundaries of existence, pushes away that noise, by using methodical movement and structure in unconventional ways. In my youth, I thought abstract dance was suspect. How shallow. Although much of the movement is minimalist, even repetitive, Huber fills the entire space with diagonal walking, abrupt falls, and at one point a brief, intentional crab walk.

A full-on blast of music shocks out of the system any preconceived notions of dance or art or theater or music. Thilo Reuther's atmospheric lighting never hides Huber's full-on power, which at times feels soft and sensual. Her hands clasp, and she crumples only to extend her neck and find the space to move again. Angular undulations and extreme articulation, that crab walk, a simple stance; because of Huber's focus, we see the full breadth of the body's ability. What might crudely be described as a yoga press is actually the body pressing away matter. Not just the floor, the very existence of matter.

In Huber's vocabulary, the unexpected is normal yet still remarkable. She lulls one into reverie because motifs return, yet sometimes it takes a moment to recognize that you've seen this before. Now, because of some subtle difference, an angle, a change in level, you see the walking of fingers on the ground in a new way. I almost felt that I were passing a slightly familiar woman on the street and realizing two blocks later that she had borrowed my house key.

Huber is her own puppeteer and puppet. She stitches her vertebrae and keeps stitching, yet we see only fleeting images. Her hands are behind her back. She walks toward us. Her walk is not necessarily somber. There are moments in "Eine Frage der Zeit" of unadorned joy and surprise.

"Eine Frage der Zeit" is full of Huber's unadorned grace and angular articulations. She rests and retreats but includes us. Then Huber is up again, racing to keep up with time, racing to show we are slipping away. Huber uses the medium of dance as her canvas, and I mean all of it: the dance floor itself, lights, music, a broken fourth wall, the studio, the sky, her body. One can string movements together, call it a choreography, and so what. The string is a cord of life in Huber's work. Anna Huber uses intention to create total dance theater. All parts welcome. All boundaries broken.

Renée E. D'Aoust biography:

Renée E. D'Aoust's essay "Graham Crackers" was included in Robert Gottlieb's "Reading Dance" (Pantheon, 2008).
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