U.S. Premiere of BADco. (Croatia)

Figures dancing across a checkered floorLast night the Croatian dance company BADco. performed the U.S. premiere of their work Solo Me. It is part of the Central Station Festival, a celebration of Eastern European dance sponsored by P.S. 122, Danspace Project, Dance Theater Workshop, REDCAT in Los Angeles and several other organizations.

Dancing About Philosophy

BADco.’s performance was fascinating. Danced by Nikolina Bujas-Pristas (center, in white) and Pravdan Devlahović (right), the evening consisted of two solo pieces performed simultaneously, but separately. The theater was rearranged so that the dancers were surrounded on all sides by the audience and the floor was carefully delineated with tape to appear almost like graph paper.

Pravdan began with a serious of simple movements and gestures including a pattern of breathing and snapping his fingers as if to create an imaginary delineation of the space, paralleling the lines on the floor. Beginning in silence, the music (Ludwig van Beethoven: Siymphony no.7, Op. 92, second movement,) grew more prominent as his movements increased in complexity.
After Pravdan’s solo, Nikolina took center stage. Dressed entirely in white, she was an arresting presence. Her movements were more athletic and playful than Pravdan’s and the music to which she danced (Ivan Marusić – Kliff), sounding like Eastern European Trip Hop, had an edge and urbanity that stood in stark contrast to the Beethoven. In a heavily stylized movement sequence, Nikolina mysteriously walks the lines of the graph paper floor reciting the names of fonts, “Helvetica, arial narrow”.

At key points throughout her solo she pulled plastic numbers from her outfit and placed them on the floor, calling them “footnotes” and would engage members of the audience in conversation, dance and conspiracy. Nikolina whispers into a woman’s ear and the woman says, “I am dancing a sentence. Each one in different fonts”.

As the music stops and starts her motion becomes more intense, focussed and deliberate.

Eventually she is rejoined by Pravdan and they continue in their separate solos, like electrons around an imaginary nucleus, coming into each other’s orbits, being attracted by their energy, yet rarely coming into actual contact.
Towards the end of the piece the stage went dark, Nikolina re-emerged and, bathed in a sea of white light she listened as both musical pieces, the Beethoven and the triphop, were played simultaneously.

The end of the piece has Pravdan and Nikolina sharing the stage, performing movement figures that are perfectly coordinating, muscular, graceful and balletic in their precision.

The overall effect of the piece is hypnotic and aggressively intellectual. After the performance I had a chance to speak with dramaturg Goran Sergej Pristas where he discussed the “graphology of performance” and some of the themes they were exploring: isolation, the juxtaposition of bodies in motion, dance expressions of the mechanics of writing and much more. At that point we had both had a few brandies however, and the discussion rapidly turned to politics and the perception of Americans in Europe and vice versa.

That being said, the physical inventiveness of Solo Me and the strikingly original gestural vocabulary of the dancers make it a compelling piece, regardless of the philosophical underpinnings.

It runs tonight and Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 5 p.m. at P.S. 122.

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