Michele Rizzo

Institute for Contempora­ry Art, Berlin 1–3 October


Waiting to enter Berlin’s Institute for the premiere of Michele Rizzo’s

– presented collaborat­ively by and Julia Stoschek Collection – felt more akin to queuing for a club than a cultural institutio­n. Crowded in the venue’s renowned courtyard, wrapped up against Berlin’s declining temperatur­es, the audience suddenly gravitated towards the entrance as a bouncer dressed all in black opened the doors, holding up his hand to stop the eager throng of people from entering all at once. It was a fitting atmosphere, considerin­g that, according to the programme note, the Italian artist/choreograp­her’s work frequently investigat­es ‘rave culture and the significan­ce of the moments and spaces in which it becomes palpable’.

was no exception. Inside, ’s main exhibition hall was stripped back to its bare essentials. Chairs for the audience lined the periphery of the concrete industrial room, otherwise furnished only with two bright, white striplight­s on metal stands. At the centre of the space, two performers gently swayed from side to side, transferri­ng their weight from one foot to the other. This simple, recognisab­le action – one that most people settle on when dancing at a party – was the backbone of . Dressed in an assortment of sportswear, black leather and ŒŽ‘ garments, 12 other dancers entered the space. After distributi­ng themselves evenly across it, they adopted the same motion. While many had their eyes closed, others approached them, gently laying their hands on their heads, chests and shoulder joints.

Unlike many encounters at clubs or raves, there was nothing sexual or romantic about these touches. In fact, they were reminiscen­t of exercises commonly used in somatic and improvisat­ion-based dance practices: there, dancers often use touch to provide physical ‘informatio­n’ and sensations to their partners, bringing awareness to specific areas of their body and o—ering them an opportunit­y to ‘tune into’ their physicalit­y. By including this moment of partnerwor­k in , it was almost as if Rizzo sought to recast raving – often stereotype­d as a deviant, decadent pastime – as a holistic, healing activity. It made sense: I’ve had many conversati­ons with friends who regard dancing at nightclubs as therapeuti­c and even spiritual. Berlin’s infamous nightclub Berghain, for example, is referred to by many as ‘the church’.

Tuning into one’s body is a timely topic in a postcorona world – during lockdown, of course, many were disconnect­ed from the physical realm, spending most of their time sitting stationary behind laptop and television screens – as is tuning in with others. In , the 14-strong cast were deeply connected to each other. Without the help of clear musical cues, they sensed each other’s energy so that they incrementa­lly accelerate­d the pace of their movements, impercepti­bly transition­ing from gentle sways to climactic rhythmic stepping patterns. While the bottom halves of their bodies were in complete unison, all the dancers faced di—erent directions, their torsos free to twist and turn however they pleased: some allowed their arms to swing freely while others placed them on their knees. The cast’s faces, which had been neutral for the majority of the piece, started to curl into slight smiles as they caught the eyes of their fellow performers. This moment, combined with the fact that my mind continuous­ly switched between viewing the dancers as individual­s and as one large interconne­cted organism, seemed to make a beautiful statement about the ability to maintain identity while still being part of a collective or community.

’s onstage community was one I wished I could join. Despite thinking that the things I missed the most during lockdown were bars and restaurant­s rather than clubs and dancefloor­s, the combinatio­n of Rizzo’s simple yet intricate choreograp­hy, Billy Bultheel’s intense, pounding, electronic score and Theresa Baumgartne­r’s ebbing lighting design – mostly cold-white and stark, at times taking on warmer tones – roused a tight feeling of anticipati­on and excitement in my chest. It called me to move and expend the energy that had been pent up inside my body, and all of ours, for the past year and a half. Yet it also made me feel a degree of retrospect­ive sorrow. Watching Rizzo’s dancers explore their bodies, both individual­ly and as a group, seemed like the most natural, and human, thing in the world. I couldn’t help but grieve for all the nights we were kept from this catharsis, especially during a time when we needed it more than ever. Emily May

 ?? ?? above and facing page , 2021 (performanc­e views, Institute for Contempora­ry Art, Berlin, in collaborat­ion with Julia Stoschek Collection). Photos: Frank Sperling. Courtesy the artist
above and facing page , 2021 (performanc­e views, Institute for Contempora­ry Art, Berlin, in collaborat­ion with Julia Stoschek Collection). Photos: Frank Sperling. Courtesy the artist

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