The N4th Theater has presented an extraordinary array of international dance and dance-theater artists over the past years and we have been the beneficiaries of their global perspectives, creativity, skills, friendship and humor. Now, as we bring Global DanceFest/JOURNEYS to a close in 2013, I want to record a memory of each of the last four companies.
During a cold February, N4th‘s visiting artists explored the idea of ‘otherness’ in a piece created by Philippe Blanchard (FR/SE) called How about you? The idea that we need others to compare ourselves with and define ourselves through is not new but exploring it through an engaging piece of dance-theater performed by Italian identical twin brothers, Gabriele and Luca Stefani, is nothing short of brilliant. How About You? was the hit of ICE HOT, a dance festival of Nordic works held in Stockholm in 2010. Now it has ‘journeyed’ to Albuquerque—which is an example of why presenting international artists has been so appealing and pleasurable over the years.
Presenters are responsible for curating and implementing artistic programs. I became a presenter after discovering and falling in love with contemporary dance and theater and wanting to share it with my Albuquerque community. I became a presenter of international dance artists when I realized they could share so much about other cultures with New Mexicans… and because of my endless curiosity about global life and culture.
Through Global DanceFest and JOURNEYS, my curiosity has been both piqued and satisfied as artists from across the globe have visited the North Fourth Art Center and invited us into their artistic and personal lives through dance. How About You? seems—to me—to represent contemporary Europe intellectually/artistically and socially.
It is a work about principal ideas—in this case identity. Blanchard has written: “There’s more of me somewhere else. Somewhere perhaps where I’ve never been.” This may be derived from the theory that people have twin souls, but also addresses the existential issue of how you identify yourself through other people, see parts of yourself in others, and as a result also judge and interpret other people by comparing them. (Cecilia Djurberg/ Nummer.se, 2010).
Through the Stefani twins identity is sharply questioned, vigorously investigated but never quite defined. How About You seeks another’s closeness, then rejects it when space feels invaded by that very proximity. Blanchard is a thoughtful and perceptive creator who could likely have made a theme such as this work with performers who look nothing like each other. However the conundrum that is identity is made even more perplexing when the study is being performed by identical twins.
The artists that comprise the creative and technical/management team represent the new Europe without borders, or at least with fewer borders, and where the wars are usually fought with currency not guns. They come from France, Italy, the U.S. and Germany. They live in London, Brighton, Stockholm, Paris, Ghent and Malmo. They are European socially with shared expectations of what social democracy has meant—support for the things that give life some measure of security and for the things (such as the arts) that offer citizens the opportunity to transcend the ordinary. Somehow they seem a little more self-assured than many of America’s contemporary artists because of that support—the next barista job being just a little further away than it is for most American artists.
ARTISTS AND SUPPORT STAFF:
Philippe Blanchard (FR/SE) is the creator/choreographer. His bio says…For nearly twenty years, Blanchard’s creative work has pushed boundaries and refused to conform to expectations, or to remain within one single frame. An adventurous artist daring to explore unknown subjects and methods, he develops his expression in a continual process of investigation where every project is bound to its own rules while moving consciously forward from the previous one.
Philippe and I had coffee on a blowy snowy Helsinki morning in December; he was bleary-eyed from exhaustion after a much-delayed flight but nevertheless articulate and very earnest about wanting me to understand his work. I liked him so much immediately…and thought what an ideal representative of European contemporary dance he is to be part of this final 2013 delegation of dance artists at North Fourth Art Center. He is an intelligent and original artist, born in France, living and working throughout the continent and the U.K., an artist who is always looking for new ways to examine ideas through artistic expression—exactly what we have been trying to do through Global DanceFest and JOURNEYS since they began. (MN)
Stifani Brothers (IT/UK) are the Performers. According to their bios… Twin brothers Luca and Gabriele Stifani were born 15 minutes apart in a small town in the south east of Italy in 1980. Growing up the sons of a butcher, they both developed a keen interest in film at an early age, putting years of cutting skills learned at the family-run butcher shop towards clipping and selecting raw video footage. At secondary school they majored in graphic design and photography, retaining film making as their great passion. They studied media production in the UK and have worked throughout Europe and South Africa. Luca and Gabriele Stifani are currently writing and developing their first feature film The Butcher. Performing/dancing is much newer to their lives but conducted with the same talent, skill and enthusiasm as their other endeavors.
I had not actually met Luca and Gabriele until they arrived this month at the Sunport—although after watching How About You from the front row of a small theater in Stockholm, it was easy to recognize them. It turns out these guys are very special, not just because they are talented artists which they are, but because they are such very good story tellers, telling tales of their lives as small town kids, their pet horse—a very very mean pet horse, their road trip adventures, etc. The nicest thing in some ways is how thrilled they are to be here—in the wild west—and at our friendly little theater.
The rest of the artistic and technical/management crew are equally creative, imaginative and friendly: Peter Connelly, from the U.S., living in Ghent, is the Sound Designer of How About You in addition to creating sound designs for many European productions. He moved to Europe right after film school because 1) all of his favorite movies were European and 2) he admired his classmates from abroad who seemed to have a different, deeper way of communicating based on their home countries’ small populations and intensely shared histories. He has worked there ever since.
Maika Knoblich was born in East Germany and presently lives in Berlin. She is a talented Lighting Designer and is completing a Masters degree in Amsterdam. As part of that program she has worked on a project in Greece that involved her in a squatter’s theater (vacant theater occupied by artists) and a back to the land movement reflecting Greece’s troubled economy.
Uli Ruchlinski, Technical Coordinator, is German by birth but lives in Malmo, Sweden with his family. In addition to his stage building and lighting design he is also a boat builder although theater has mostly occupied his time in recent years. He is a full-time theater director at the present. Uli describes himself as a jack-of-all trades partially because, in addition to theater and boats, he is a musician—electric bass and guitar—focusing on psychedelic rock from the 60s and 70s and African drums.
Finally…last but certainly not least…that very efficient and accommodating Tour and Production Manager, Ophelie Alegre (France, Sweden, France) who turns out to be a serious music aficionado. She started out dancing to Michael Jackson as a young kid, graduated to “Carmen” because it was one of her mother’s favorites, moved on to Madonna and graduated to punk rock and setting up music shows on the local club scene. Ophelie was quite excited to find a band “Om” she has been following for some time, performing at Sister in Albuquerque while she was here.