A BLUE BIRD by Argentinean composer, performer and filmmaker seen with dance eyes

10/28/2012

Inta Balode

As you know very well DANCE.LV Journal and especially DANCEPUNKC is not only about pure dance, dance-dance or something what is labeled as „dance”. That’s why it was pleasure to receive an offer and invitation from the Argentinean composer, performer and filmmaker Sebastian Wesman based in Tallinn. The offer was to take a look at the film/concert/performance „A Blue Bird” with the dance eyes. I agreed to try.

„A Blue Bird” by the authors themselves is called “an audio-visual project that ranges between documentary, video-art and sound experiment. It is divided into seven chapters that transform this project to an acoustic story. A visual journey to a new sound.” For me besides the conclusion that the project is well thought through and implemented with nice attention to every detail and without conservative sticking to particular genre, there are also several things making “A Blue Bird” a good dance performance.

Use and transformation of the space – in any dance performance the use and awareness of the space plays a huge role. Dance in general is defined as organized movement through time and space, so very often the distinction between professionals and beginners come from the way choreographer sees the space and belongs to the space, i.e., dances with and within the space. The case of Sebastian Wesman is the professional dance – the beautiful space of Kaarli Church in Tallinn is definitely not just used for acoustics or decoration. “A Blue Bird” is a duet between Sebastian and the church.

Space and creation of new reality – during the performance the way the spectator sees the space keeps transforming (even if visual solutions are not that sharply different): from elegant tour guiding o the mystical and dramatic journey of a locked in bird; from exorcist getting ready to work to visiting God when he is not at home. Also the beginning of the work with the space as little unfocused, blurry image with “an eye” trying to land and find silence is so much different from the end with still close-up of the fresco looked at in the silence.

Human body – the latest and still topical trends in dance are conceptual solo works where the performer offers mixture of intellectual and physical ideas. This is nothing new when we see conceptualists drawing inspiration and movement material from musicians and conductors, it’s always so interesting to look at this movement with some distance, no matter ironic or not. It is much different when musician consciously puts his body, his playing/living music body as the independent point of attention as it is in “A Blue Bird”. On the other hand history also knows so many showmen-like musicians. The smart thing about Sebastian Wesman linking him to dance conceptualists is the honesty of exposing his playing and also singing body. There are no cheap effects, just human body in the dialogue with space, violin and his inner voice which time to manifests in short singing phrases. Also the short moments when he stops playing and returns to stillness are very beautiful if looked with dance eyes.

Attention to the music, unity in style – there is one thing I often have troubles with in contemporary dance – choreographers use music in the worst sense of the verb “use”: it gets cut, put together in new ways, changed etc. So for little tired from that ear it is a great pleasure to listen to the unity of sound travel Sebastian Wesman offers. For a dance ear “A Blue Bird” is full of surprises and exciting questions – is it really only one person playing? How it is to play and sing at the same time? Is the sound recorded in the same church and the same locations the performer is standing at? It is so different how it sounds when he is in the front or in the back! And being in the chorus position makes him really sound like chorus! So actually churches can live with one smart soloist instead of chorus?

Something more than easy readable story – there are always so many troubles with dance and story – Is there a story? What is the story? Should there be a story? How to read that blurry dance story? etc. For whatever reason there are fewer questions about that in music or visual arts. People are more open to free journeys there, still even music, which for me is so nicely abstract, at schools is often taught through very precise stories. And some stories are so strong that any different reading/hearing of classical music piece means that the listener is not educated enough. I don’t like feeling badly educated so I choose dance where everything is right, mostly because dance has always lacked in theoreticians. Anyway dance is my art form because usually there is something more than readable story, something what remains when you take all letters out of the book. The book remains. So it is in Sebastian Wesman’s “A Blue Bird” – there are seven chapters, they have nice and poetic titles – “Perfection is to forget the rules”, “Simple Present”, “Imaginary Mountain” etc. Chapters are linked together with blackouts and visual and sonic transitions, which kind of make the structure simple but on the other hand keep up the intrigue and dramaturgy of what will come next. But thanks God answer to the question: “What is a blue bird?” never comes. And if all the structure and chapters would be taken away still everything would still be there: the human plays and the music flies up.