The motto of the twelfth edition of the Antistatic International Festival for Contemporary Dance and Performance (9–21 May 2019) was #VoteForDance!. The festival’s programme proved convincingly that this slogan was not just an inventive attempt to fit in with Sofia’s agenda, but first and foremost, to come up with a clear-cut aesthetic platform. Antistatic ’2019 seeks to extend its call for support to contemporary dance, accentuating one of its vital roles in the development of contemporary dance scene and in the life of contemporary man, i.e. its role in experimenting with the psychophysical capacities, borders and established standards of human body. Moreover, I would say that the twelfth edition seems to has hit upon the right formula of the festival: to establish itself as a venue for bringing together short forms of contemporary dance (and performance) by artists from different countries, whose efforts are focused on experiments with the dance language, on exploring its self-reflective, expressive and communicative possibilities and strategies.
In the vein of this formula, the organisers of the festival Willy Prager, Iva Sveshtarova and Stephan A. Shtereff from Brain Store Project in collaboration with Inform Bureau Association, Nomad Dance Academy, Bulgaria, offered an interesting and carefully considered bill, on which were 7 performances from 7 countries: Bang Bang, Manuel Roque’s solo, Canada; The Third Dance by Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, Israel; Ecce (H)omo by Pol Pi, Brazil/France; Out There and In Here by Sonja Pregrad and Ana Kreitmeyer, Croatia; Exploded Goo by Zrinka Užbinec, Croatia/Germany; My Saturday Went Pretty Well until I Realized It Was Monday by Duo Hartmannmueller, Germany and Tonight I Celebrate by Uroš Kaurin и Tomaž Grom, production: Via Negativa, Slovenia, as well as the concert by Romanian duo Karpov not Kasparov, who opened Antistatic ’2019.
I would definitely single out three performances that featured prominently in the intriguing programme of the twelfth edition of the festival with their ingenious ideas and choreographic and performing mastery as well as for being experimentally and/or exploratorily charged.
Manuel Roque’s Bang Bang was the right choice for opening Antistatic ’2019, as the Canadian soloist performer, who worked for leading Quebec choreographers such as Marie Chouinard, raised as radically and categorically as possible the question about the endurance and limits of human body, studied through dance. Lonesome in the empty space, marked by the stage platform at DNK, he made a one-hour series of simple, almost mechanical micromovements, repeating them again and again to the point of completely surpassing the materiality of his own body and of the space itself and getting lost in the process as a free, weightless and incorporeal ‘soul’ in an equally weightless cosmos (marked by clouds of white smoke produced by a machine prosaically placed next to the stage). An especially strong moment in his performance, both in terms of mastery of touch and effect and the study and development of the language of dance, was Manuel Roque’s reappearing from the free zero gravity state, in which he was lost, onto the stage platform and into the air density and hardness.
The experimental efforts and discoveries of The Third Dance by Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor from Israel, yet another interesting performance on the festival bill, pursued a different line. The apparently good performers rather sketched their dance moves and situations, while focusing their proper attention and the inner strength of their presence in the stage narrative about attraction, gravity and memories the(ir) inseparable by space and time bodies shared. The two performers, who are a real-life couple, using romanticism and its clichés about love such as flowers and a record player, explore and insist on love’s irrational physical nature.
The very difficult solo of Zrinka Užbinec from Croatia, who is also the choreographer with Ida Daniel, Carlos Franke, Katarzyna Kania as co-choreographers, was an original experiment in the field of self-reflection and self-awareness, showing the needs of a dancing body. A performer with enormous physical potential and broad training experience, Zrinka Užbinec definitely challenged contemporary dancing actors. The effect of her ostentatious, extreme moving towards the limits of human body was, however, somewhat muted by the excessively long and monotonous opening to the performance.
With this year’s timely and good experimental programme of performances and the sidebar Without Distance educational programme along with the newly established Magazine for Dance, Antistatic ’2019 convincingly reasserted its role in the development of contemporary performing arts in Bulgarian.