Der Premieren- und Festivalblog des Thalia Theaters Hamburg
Foto: Laurent Ait Benalla
Von Theodore McCarthy
NYA is a piece with a back story like your average Hollywood dance film, only replace low-income school kids with break dancers in Algeria and it’s not the county fair they won, it’s the worldwide stage. The name means Trust to Live and you should see it.
The dance’s minimalist set is augmented by a foursquare lighting pattern in the first act, against which the dancers create silhouettes to embolden their figures and movements. I enjoy such multimedia devices, and feel that a shadow has just as much aesthetic worth as the dancer himself. As we all know from a good horror film, the shadow can create a lot of suspense, but here the effect was more akin to Peter Pan. The entire company being male, there was significant expression of the struggle between dominance and play, between the roots of human aggression taking form into dance and the cultural expression allowing for new landscapes of communication. In the second act, the tempo increases with the men wearing embroidered vests in front of a backdrop with turquoise oriental carpets. The act culminates in the passing of an energy ball with the invisible power riveting into the audience. The piece is full of tension and release.
NYA challenged me to think about my left-leaning psychological views on male superiority as a cover for in the closet homosexuality. Just to be clear, there’s a very stubborn part of me that got hardwired long ago in the iconoclast side of my brain that says “anyone who tries too hard to be something is really just fighting an urge to be something that isn’t that thing, something that culture probably tells them is the opposite of what they want to be.” This is most applicable to the famous cases of the conservatives who just can’t seem to stop grabbing willies in the toilet, but also to gay priests and the like. Now, I’m not one to call myself right or correct…unless someone’s arguing a point with me. In fact, I believe it much more intellectually fruitful to imagine I’m wrong and argue the opposite side. Intellectual humility aside, when NY8 began, I had two ideas running simultaneously: my generalizations about Islamic culture (queer-bashing, male-dominated, etc) and my generalizations about male dancers (probably gay.) These combined with my already existing stereotype, helped by statistics which show that the most homophobic countries (and US states, I’m looking at you Kentucky) were frequenting gay porn sites at much higher rates than less homophobic countries. Iran took first place for most gay porn searches per capita.
The after show discussion only confirmed what I had learned. Lagraa called the piece an answer to terrorist attacks that had taken place in the 90s. Someone asked about women and femininity, and the dancers awkwardly played hot potato with the mike until one said that it wasn’t a big deal, sounding a bit like a basketball player in a press conference. The question was then directed to two dancers who had their hands lovingly resting on each other, and the one said, „it’s not a big deal, in Algeria touching is really normal.“ Whether women would take the stage, the two choreographers expressed interest in changing cultural perceptions about dancing women, which Lagraa expressed, are the same as France 100 years ago. “Professional dancers are tantamount to prostitutes.” He hopes to take three years to change this perception rather than 100, and says that the women not only posess the talent, but “are more than ready.”