SCHWANEN (POISON PATH)
In 'Schwanen', a durational dance piece by Lene Vollhardt for four performers, the symbolic grammar of Fokine’s classical ballet piece (Le Cygne) “Dying Swan” is appropriated with the aid of prosthetic tools constructed particularly for the well-known, iconic movement representing a swan wrestling with death. Vollhardt's choreography proposes a reconstruction of several layers of meaning of the animal in language, folklore and mythology.
The title refers to the archaic german word "Schwanen" (literally "swaning" or "being a swan"). According to fairytale author Grimm, it as an inherited word of the common people, connecting it to the traditional Germanic association of swans with prophecy and fate. On one hand, 'Schwanen' explores what mythology dissimulates as it relays, remixes, re-versions mnemotechnical remnants through movement and the rich language of somatic registers. Simultaneously, the tools' function prompts performers to engage with stretching and gliding of the body, perhaps as if asking, how much stretching a body can endure. They make a historical note of the feminized body as both indentured servant and aesthetic labourer. The prosthetic tool's stretching function somatically problematizes the way in which the performance of authority or power stands in a dichotomous relationship to support structures, potentially opening up channels between the two. While 'Schwanen' takes the form of both a solo and collective choreography in various chapters, in both versions memories of dichotomous forces of kinship and rivalry, of endurance and constraint, are embodied through intimate dances.
Swaning is activated several times per day through solo performers taking the wearable objects off the hooks and dressing them on. In a series of durational performances, their stretching arms are gliding in a repetitive passage through air, attached to buckled latex on a riveted harness and skake wheel metal rings. Tides of tension and release destroy and renew the performer's supraspinatus muscles, as performed over several hours. It is a meditation on decay and renewal which is accompanied by an instruction letter to each performer in which the spirit of the swan is invocated.
Gallery views: 2022, Royal Academy of Arts London