Several Observations of a Dadaistic Dance

The dance company of the Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre was founded in 1993 in the Polish harbor city of Gdanksk – the former seat of Solidarnosz – by artistic directors Leszek Bzdyl en Katarzyna Chmielewska. With the performance ‘Several Witty Observations’ Dada von Bzdülöw has its American debut in La Mama Annex Theatre in New York.

The performance ‘Several Witty Observations’ was inspired by the writings of Polish author Witold Gombrowicz. His work is characterized by theme’s like the immaturity of youth and the paradoxes that exist between the norms of the social conventions from which the indivual struggles to liberate itself.

Leszek Bzdyl, the most talented and passionate dancer of the performance, opens with an act in the lobby, where the patient group of spectators is shuffling silently. He directs the docile spectators to make room after which he positions himself in flat, spread out poses on the floor. Dessed in a purple corduroy suit, he directs the space in the shape of a circle with a elongated Montiglianian neck that has been created in front of him, as if he is preparing to speed of into the room. Instead he picks up a blue, metal trash bin with thick, transparent plastic inside, spreads his legs wide to support himself, places his shoulders on the edge, head down into the bin, spreading his arms like a blind eagle. The dance by Bzdyl is being created out of the impulse of the moment. The first act continues with a similar intuition that creates the space and places the body within spontaneously. Such acts confront both the spectator and the dancer with the social conventions that separate audience and performance.

The deep roots of Leszek Bzdyl in theatre determines in large measures the performance that follows on the main stage. Katarzyna Chmielewska on the other hand was classically schooled and although she gratiously moves around with a self-conscious presence, it is obvious that Bzdyl is the leading dancer in many ways. The heavy body of Rafal Dziemidok seems simply misplaced on a dance stage. Perhaps Dziemidok functions as a contra-weight, or perhaps he attempts to integrate the ‘objective beauty’ or the limitations of each individual body in the show, but I cannot be charmed by Dziemidok’s delayed, almost anachronistic presence that literally must be a weight around Bzdyl ankles, pulling down the level of the performance.

But the design, the choreography, the music and the input by Bzdyl make ‘Several Witty Observations’ worth while to go and see. The design of the stage centers around the lighting in the open space, in which only two objects form the architecture. Two transparent and inflatable objects, one in the shape of a pouch and the other in the shape of a matras, give form to Bzdyl’s principal approach of dance as a movement determined by tension and relaxation. The choreography makes use of these two principles. Regularly, one or two of the dancers sink into the air filled plastics or stand behind the performers, relaxing, as the main performers execute a tense dance. The lighting is colorful with primary, but soft colors, exchanged with hard white lighting. Bzdyl’s theatrical training is not only expressed in his expressive facial displays, which in contrast to most dancers, form an integral part of his performance, but also in the greater role of character and the interaction of characters in the dance. This aspect inserts a certain measure of concrete drama into the abstraction of modern dance, that makes ‘Several Witty Observations’ convincing and inspiring to watch. The excellent music for the performance was created by ‘yass’ musician Mikolaj Trzaska and is a mix of freestyle sax and bass clarinet, drums and noise mixes.

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