Bacchantes – Prélude pour une purge
An ode to the imagination and the irrational. With thirteen dancers and musicians, Bacchantes delights both eye and ear, never running out of steam. Absolutely delicious.
Anything goes in this haunting concert for bodies and instruments. No doubt about it, Marlene Monteiro Freitas presents an electrifying version of The Bacchae, worshippers of Dionysus. An ode to the imagination and the irrational, this piece for thirteen dancers and musicians blows this Greek tragedy wide open, transforming it into an orgiastic carnival where order and chaos are linked together.
Part rowdy, wild happening, part clamorous fanfare and Dadaist fable, this new work by Freitas—a Venice Biennial Silver Lion recipient—features an incessant metamorphosis of bodies and objects. The Cape Verde choreographer has a penchant for outrageous fauna, a gallery of arresting faces and sensational, exuberant creatures. In a series of tableaux where the boundaries of strangeness are constantly pushed back, Bacchantes dazzles and delights both eye and ear, never running out of steam. Absolutely delicious.
Produced by P.OR.K
Choreographed by Marlene Monteiro Freitas
Performed by Cookie + Flora Détraz + Miguel Filipe + Guillaume Gardey de Soos + Johannes Krieger + Gonçalo Marques + Andreas Merk + Tomás Moital + Marlene Monteiro Freitas + Lander Patrick + Cláudio Silva + Betty Tchomanga + Yaw Tembe
Lighting and Space Design Yannick Fouassier
Sound Design Tiago Cerqueira
Stools João Francisco Figueira + Luís Miguel Figueira
Research Marlene Monteiro Freitas + João Francisco Figueira
Distribution Key Performance (Stockholm)
Production Bruna Antonelli + Sandra Azevedo
Coproduction TNDMII (Lisbon) + Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels) + steirischer herbst (Graz) + Alkantara (Lisbon) + NXTSTP – Programme Culture de l´Union européenne + NorrlandsOperan (Umeå) + Festival Montpellier Danse + Bonlieu Scène nationale (Annecy) + La Bâtie – Festival de Genève within the frame of soutien FEDER du programme Interreg France-Suisse 2014-2020 + Teatro Municipal do Porto + Le Cuvier – Centre de Développement Chorégraphique (Artigues-près-Bordeaux) + HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin) + International Summer Festival Kampnagel (Hamburg) + Athens and Epidaurus Festival + Münchner Kammerspiele (Munich) + Kurtheater Baden (Baden) + SPRING Performing Arts Festival (Utrecht) + Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Zurich) + Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil – centre dramatique national + Centre Pompidou (Paris)
Creative residencies O Espaço do Tempo (Montemor-o-Novo) + Montpellier Danse – Agora, cité internationale de la danse + ICI – centre chorégraphique national (Montpellier) as part of the program Par/ICI
Presented by Infopresse in association with Monument-National
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, Lisbon, April 17, 2017
Marlene Monteiro Freitas (Mindelo + Lisbon) P.OR.K
A native of Cape Verde, where she co-created the dance troupe Compass, Marlene Monteiro Freitas studied at P.A.R.T.S., the famous school in Brussels founded by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, and then in Lisbon, where she settled.
She began her career as a dancer working for choreographers such as Emmanuelle Huynn, Loïc Touzé and Boris Charmatz, and then made her mark as an unconventional choreographer. She first appeared at the FTA in 2010 as a dancer in But from me I can’t escape, have patience! by Tânia Carvalho. As a member of the Lisbon collective Bomba Suicida she created a half-dozen dance pieces, including the solo Guintche and the trio A Seriedade do Animal, inspired by a play by Brecht. In 2012 she galvanized the FTA audience with (M)imosa, created in collaboration with Trajal Harell, François Chaignaud and Cecilia Bengolea. When the collective dissolved in late 2014, she founded her own company, P.OR.K.
Enfant terrible of contemporary choreography and 2018 recipient of the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial, Marlene Monteiro Freitas had fun reinventing Christian paradise in Paradis – collection privée (FTA, 2014), her first ensemble work. Her new piece is an exhilarating rereading of Euripides’ The Bacchae, a free-wheeling interpretation of the Greek tragedy. Surrounded by a dozen performers, dancers and musicians, she summons an orchestra and an assortment of hybrid creatures, half-human and half-animal, that metamorphose as this dreamlike, hallucinating fable unfolds. The strange, grotesques figures of the pre-Lenten carnivals of her childhood are bolstered by popular songs and the music of Satie and Ravel in a swirling, subversive work where exuberance competes with wild, crazed creativity.
The piece is inspired by Euripides’ The Bacchae. What have you kept and what have you modified in the original text?
As Nietzsche so aptly put it, “I would only believe in a god who could dance”, this piece is full of dance and mystery. That was my gut response when reading Euripides’ play. It has narration, a story and characters, but what comes across most strongly is its dimension of mystery and the irrational. Nietzsche thought that with The Bacchae, Euripides had done tragedy a favour. After concentrating on meaning in representative theatre where we understand everything–the characters, the story, etc.–with The Bacchae he restores to tragedy its function and its power, that essence that touches us, that hits home, by means of theatre, actors, music, imagery.
I found it very moving. That is not to say that we kept the story line as is, or that we were indifferent to the structure of the play. On the contrary, there are aspects that I initially left untouched only to work on them later. What attracted me more than simply telling the tale was the power of the images and the music.
Many props and objects such as music stands play an important role in the piece, undergoing a constant transformation. Why that continual metamorphosis?
Since I wanted to emphasize the power of music, I worked on the presence of music and musicians, initially working alone in a studio from a music stand. As things evolved and after reading the work of the Hellenist and mythologist Françoise Frontisi-Ducroux, I began seeing the music stand as a fragmented body, the idea of metamorphosis being very present in Euripides’ story and in all Greek tragedy. I thus associated the fragmentation of the body with a music stand, something that I too could tear apart and transform, while retaining its function as a tool for music.
I discovered that as soon as I changed something, a door would open and everything would be transformed. I made a connection with the deus ex machina plot device of Greek tragedy, with that presence or that sovereign power that intervenes, that can change things without reason, as is the case in animated cartoons. It’s neither explicable nor consistent. It reflects the idea that I am creating a performance on a stage, what I call a “fiction”, that possibility of putting disparate elements side by each and observing their interaction and transformation. I am quite attached to Greek tragedy in that regard.
I also worked on the imagery, particularly the image of the seated figure. Initially an offshoot of the musical work, I then discovered that it was present in much of the imagery of ancient Greece. Seeking out elements that elude reason and control and cultivating the incomprehensible led to infinite possibilities for the dancers, the musicians and the music, all of them in perpetual transformation, about to go off the rails. It’s something I’ve long pursued in my work, reversals and upheaval, the irrational and the illogical.
The acting in your works includes very expressive faces, grimaces and masks. What is their function?
I’ve always been interested in hybrid creatures, in grimaces and facial deformations. Work on strangeness is the basis of my artistic approach, but in this case I tied that aspect to representation, to the masks of Greek tragedy. In Greek tragedy the mask doesn’t evoke disguise, but instead a real face mask. Dionysus’ face mask displays a spectrum of emotional states and physical presence: animal figures, twisted bodies, creatures, transvestites, pretenders, mime, music, theatre games, satire. The possibilities are endless. We wanted to put into images all the representations of the gods seen on Greek vases and bas reliefs, as well as other aspects of ancient Greece (Olympic Games, sports).
There is a technique, rules for putting Euripides’ tale into images. If a portrait has someone sitting in profile or in full face view there is a reason for it, also for whether we see the eyes or not; these are significant indicators. Is the person drunk, dying, dreaming? I discovered those narrative aspects thanks to Frontisi-Ducroux, and they helped guide our work.
The piece creates musical and choreographic tension between harmony and anarchy. How did you work on those contrasts?
There is something fairly rhythmical in the creative process, but I think that it is natural when working on Greek tragedy in general to be in that dynamic between Apollo and Dionysus. Those two poles of order and chaos constitute two extremes included in a circular movement. Each one needs the other in order to exist. The piece has a pendulum structure between what is clear and what is more obscure, which comes from a rhythmic game of the Greeks, but that is also found in our own lives.
« Marlene Monteiro Freitas réinvente Euripide par la danse. »
« Avec ce vertigineux déluge de sons et de formes, Marlene Monteiro Freitas livre sa pièce la plus ambitieuse. Un choc visuel. (…) Bacchantes – prélude pour une purge est un miracle. »
Philippe Noisette, Les Inrocks, 2017
« Marlene Monteiro Freitas (…) est sans doute une des artistes les plus marquantes de son temps. »
François Maurisse, Maculture.fr, 2017-12-15
« Bacchanales dionysiaques traversées par l’énergie insolente dada, les Bacchantes enflamment les salles. (…) On est (…) resté longtemps chargé de son souffle phénoménal et de son énergie brûlante. »
Eric Demey, La Terrasse, 2017-11-20