Supergabriela at PS122
I first encountered the work of Cosmin Manolescu in December 2003 when I saw his piece Serial Paradise at DTW as part of the Central Station Festival. I remember being delighted by his playful imagination and casual, almost off-handed, style of choreography. You can check out some video of that show here:
That project was conceived by Cosmin’s wife, Gabriela Tudor, who passed away in January 2009. Gabriela was a major force in the arts in Romania and was a key figure in initiating Romanian/U.S. creative dialogue. SUPERGABRIELA is Manolescu’s tribute to Gabriela and an exploration of love, loss and desire.
The evening consists of two parts – dreams.land, which is directed by Cosmin Manolescu and performed by Camille Mutel & Litsa Kiousi, followed by superGabriela – a solo that is choreographed & performed by Cosmin Manolescu.
For dreams.land we are brought into the theater blindfolded and seated throughout the space. There is loud club music playing and when you finally take off your blindfold you see the room is filled with theatrical smoke as a girl in silver hot pants, six inch platform boots and a cat mask prowls through the audience. Elsewhere the other dancer, naked, wanders through the crowd striking poses and asking people to write on her body with lipstick. They both aggressively interact with the audience, getting up close and whispering in audience members’ ears, climbing over them, dancing around them. Eventually the naked girl leaves and the cat girl does a series of stumbling solos, repeatedly standing up and falling down from her platform boots. The naked girl re-enters, this time clothed, and does a series of audience interventions holding a knife and nearly threatening the audience members, one by one.
Okay, I admit it. I didn’t take notes. And besides even if I tried to describe, sequence by sequence, what happened, it wouldn’t do it justice. The Cat Girl came back out, uncontrollably shivering, and asked someone in the audience to hold her. She cajoled several audience members into hugging her. Naked Girl came back out, once again dressed, this time in a red foofy number, and did a halting, parambulating dance. Later Cat Girl did a naked solo – a disturbing, twisted, piece on a field of grass (where’d that come from?) on the floor. Eventually Cat Girl came out carrying Naked Girl and they twisted around each other making their way around the audience.
It was disturbing and beautiful and weird. With all the smoke and the music combined with stillness and desperation it was like being in some kind of surreal, ominous nightclub purgatory.
After that Cosmin came out and did his “solo” – he brought a boombox out, wrote something about Romania on the wall and proceeded to hit tennis balls onto it. Then he set up the tennis rackets, standing on end, and did an undulating solo that brought him completely upstate until he walked through the back door and off.
If this sounds strange – it was. It was more like a postmodern ritual than a dance piece. In the duet they were exploring primal emotional states of desire, separation, fear and lust; the solo was all about loss and isolation. But all the pieces came together with an illogical, subconscious cohesion. And by having the audience onstage and in the middle of the action it felt inclusive and intimate – not exclusive and distancing.
It feels like I’ve been seeing a number of “grief” pieces recently but Manolescu’s SUPERGABRIELA seems to really convey the disorientation and unrelenting emotional swings, the rush of memories, all the chaos and confusion – while resolving in a place of reluctant acceptance. SUPERGABRIELA is like a “happening” in a way. It is beautiful, moving and disturbing with the absolute meaning always just beyond your grasp.
It is only playing one more night at PS122 (Friday) so if you get a chance, go check it out.