Laboratory of Dance Criticism is meant to be a professional workshop for a group of young journalists, dance critics and theorists, and also for dancers interested in writing, organized with the aim of re-defining the role of dance criticism in today’s socio-cultural context and the role of the recipient in the process of understanding.
Echoes - Monika Kováčová: LOVE P AND PASSION B by Laura Marx
„All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain.” (Nick Cave)
Why is true love so sad, so complicated, melancholic and cruel? Who will help us to decode its romantically mixed signs, and our weird desire to live with oneperson, our one and only Love, forever and ever? Why is this desire often so laughable, so impossible to materialize, why is it a burlesque, a parody of our feelings? Love P and Passion B, “a chamber puppet performance for one actress, one musician and a few puppets in love” has a tragic, or rather tragicomic answer for it.
Namely, life has no meaning without love, but with it, life is a burlesque, because when we are in love, we interpret the same feelings, events, or a simple sweet smile controversially and often on a contradictory way. And, just like in a burlesque, we are fighting with a broomstick, punch each other in the face, and search for the symbolic wedding cake and wedding dress all our lives. As well as we are searching for the meaning of our searching for Love.
Unfortunately enough, we all have our own interpretation machineries in our heads. These can incite us to sing beautifully looped songs (Mária Danadová, the actress and puppeteer sings us such emotional and erotic songs about being in this grotesque situation), cry and laugh on end, dance with a lamp shade on the top of our head (Mária does it as well), have sex with a person we don't need at all, prey upon suspected seducers and so on, exactly the way we see in the play. Director Monika Kováčová chose the commedia dell'arte form to display this horrible and frightening state of being in love. It was the best choice in my opinion, because this modern approach of the genre is super complex regarding the emotions, feelings and meanings, but we are still able to find orientation between its well known commedia dell'arte stock characters like „old, foolish man”, or „young, beautiful lady” (Tartaglio, Pulcinella etc.) played here by the magically transforming and evolving “superpersona” of the stage personas.
The performance was inspired by a mysterious García Lorca play, called The Love of Don Perlimplín and Belisa in the Garden (Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín). It was written in 1928 and first performed in 1933. It bears the subtitle An erotic lace-paper valentine in a prologue and three scenes (Aleluya erotica en un prologo y tres escenas), and in my opinion, in the very heart of this puppet story created by Odivo group are the very special beings, the duendes.
García Lorca, as you may know, was committed to explain and develop the true Aeaesthetics of Duende in a lecture he gave in 1933, “Juego y teoria del duende” (“Play and Theory of the Duende”). As he says: „El duende – a phenomenon from Spanish folklore, the spirit of evocation. It comes from inside as a physical/emotional response to art. It is what gives you chills, makes you smile or cry as a bodily reaction to an artistic performance that is particularly expressive. Folk music in general, especially flamenco, tends to embody an authenticity that comes from a people whose culture is enriched by diaspora and hardship; vox populi, the human condition of joys and sorrows.” (García Lorca, Federico; Maurer, Christopher (Ed.) (1998) In Search of Duende. New Directions)
The play tells the story of the tragic affection of an elderly man, Don Perlimplín, for his blindly passionate young wife, who falls in love with a mysterious stranger. Previously, Don Perlimplín is persuaded by his servant Marcolfa, that he should marry on the grounds that she is getting too old and won't always be there to look after him. Don Perlimplín expresses his doubts, but agrees to marry the far younger and very unsuitable Belisa. On their wedding night, two duendes appear and draw a veil over the scene, explaining that some things should be left unseen. The next morning it appears that Don Perlimplín has been cuckolded by five different men, who entered through the five windows of the bedchamber. His reaction is odd, as he doesn't behave jealously but declares instead that he has discovered the true meaning of love. Belisa starts to receive graphic love letters from a mysterious man in a red cape, with whom she falls in love with, and whom she agrees to meet in the garden of Don Perlimpín's house. She goes there in the appointed time, but meets Don Perlimplín instead, who announces that he will challenge his rival to a duel and runs offstage. The red-caped man staggers in mortally wounded, and when Belisa rushes to him, she discovers that her mystery admirer has been all along Don Perlimplín, whose love letters Marcolfa delivered. In dying, Don Perlimplín is embraced by his wife for the first and last time. Belisa realizes she has unwittingly fallen in love with her own elderly husband, sacrificing his life for her. She carries her love to the grave, and bequeaths her the soul she conspicuously lacked when they were married.
As you know, love isn’t a simple word. Who is dying, when a true man, a real lover is dying? Who is the servant, who is the observer, when only time is rolling on, feelings are frozen, and love itself is gone? Who will suffer from the biggest pain, the lover or the loser?
On stage we see the actress and the musician (sitting in the background, underlining the staccatos of the erotic and Dadaist songs of Mária with his guitar sequences), a man and a woman, and three puppets on a rustic wooden wagon. Mária, who is moving all the puppets, plays a complicated role in the play, because she is the „umbrella person” beyond the puppets: her voice is the voice of their souls; she is the observer, the singer, and the burlesque lady in one person.
The bodies of the puppets were really interesting (I would say even brutish, but inspirational), because their hands were really thin, and their touches with those hands were often cruel; they had heads without face, dismantled body members, and Mária stuck them often roughly from place to place, scene to scene, into the spongy setting. She was more and more passionate, more and more truthful, more and more theobserver, and,at the same time! more and more the real protagonist of the play. She started the play in the Morning scene as a simple puppet master, without duendes, without tremendous moments, but gradually she got more and more involved in the three puppets’ (the old man’s, the servant’s and the young wife’s) lives. The duendes were coming. The microphone turned into a big black phallus. Songs turned into true prayer. The many shoes symbolized the paramours, whose faces and bodies were unseen. Orgasms and voodoo practices bolted. Little feathers flied. Love was the theme, and an erotic prayer was the only possible answer for the questions.
Mária danced with a pelmet on her shoulders and a lamp shade as a bridal wreath on her head. I was moved to tears, she was so tragically-humorously beautiful.
It was a tale about doing things in danger, because loving something or somebody is dangerous. Because our real motifs, feelings and thoughts are often a mystery even for ourselves. We are dancers in the dark. And when the play was over, and Mária was laying in front of us, in silence, on the puppets’ little bed, we understood: this play was about her. And about the art of understanding our real, true feelings. Just like Don Perlimplín did.
In her, we also recognize the duende. As García Lorca said: The duende is an earth spirit who helps the artist see the limitations of intelligence, reminding them that “ants could eat him or that a great arsenic lobster could fall suddenly on his head”; who brings the artist face-to-face with death, and who helps them create and communicate memorable, spine-chilling art.