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El Baile
Recording: 2017-08-29 , Tanz im August / Haus der Berliner Festspiele (Video © Walter Bickmann)

Mathilde Monnier, Alan Pauls

El Baile

Tanz im August | Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Production Details / Press Releases

Tango is the soul of Argentina. It is timeless, popular and mercurial; being simultaneously a practice and an art form. In their new piece, French choreographer Mathilde Monnier and Argentinian writer and journalist Alan Pauls explore the special significance of the tango. Commencing in 1978, when Argentina hosted the Football World Cup under the yoke of the military junta, in “El Baile”, they recount the history and present of both the country and the dance, combined with the childhood memories and life stories of their virtuosic dancers from Buenos Aires.

Choreographer Mathilde Monnier has been appointed as the artistic director of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Monpellier in 1994. Her choreographic works consistently draw connections with other artistic disciplines, and she has collaborated with figures such as Jean-Luc Nancy, Christine Angot, La Ribot and Heiner Goebbels. Her choreographic works, numbering more than 40 in total, have been shown at the Festival d’Avignon, and in Paris, New York, Vienna, Berlin and London. In 1999 Mathilde Monnier was awarded the “Grand Prix National des Arts du Spectacle Vivant”. She has been the director of the Centre National de la Danse Pantin since 2014.

Argentinian writer Alan Pauls was born in Buenos Aires in 1959, as the son of German immigrants who had fled the Nazis in 1936. He has taught literature and written screenplays, film reviews, essays and novels. In 2003, his novella “The Past” won the Spanish literature prize Herralde. Alan Pauls set up the magazine Lecturas críticas and works as an editor for the newspaper “Página / 12”. His works have been translated into 14 languages, and is considered one of Argentina’s most important contemporary authors.

El Baile

Thirty-six years have passed between Jean-Claude Penchenat’s “Le Bal” and “El Baile”, its unfaithful Argentinian descendant. A mere blink of an eye for Europe. But a vertiginous eternity for Argentina, which has been through what other countries haven’t experienced in a century: military uprisings, hyperinflations, pillages, sudden changes of government, terminal crises, resurrections.

How to fit into a ninety minute dance a country so spasmodic, confused, effervescent, where things do not happen but rather recur again and again, like ghosts or nightmares? Definitely not by imposing the conventions of a story or an allegory. The piece freely picks up some of the principles of Penchenat’s original work: the ballroom as a set situation, a ban on speaking to a certain extent, the desire to stage a country’s recent history through a set of bodies – “El Baile” chooses to compose a country rather then tell its story. It does so knowingly, with the awareness that what it is pretending to compose is a society whose passion, whose true passion, is to break itself, to sink, to hit rock bottom, and in a final outburst of euphoria, prove to everybody that it is not dead.

No logic of progress is to be found here, but downfalls and heroic survival amplified by a slightly outdated, shivering and moving theatricality. Hence the absence of a linear chronology and of specific references. In “El Baile”’s Argentina, everything happens at the same time, all the time. Everything is contemporary of everything. Hence the musical coexistence of classics and sounds of today, of the latest pop tunes and military songs, radio hits and childhood songs, cheesy ballads and zamba poetry. History is definitely here, but as it can be seen and felt everyday on Argentinian streets: in ruins, like a landscape made of what remains once History has burst.

Voices coming from the hereafter, distorted by an injured memory, to recite old military marches, creatures half body, half beast grazing and parading before walking to the slaughterhouse; bodies seeking refuge from bombs threatening to hit them; bodies devoting themselves to the image of vulgarity; bodies shot by a soccer ball which carry on dancing, maybe revelling in this… This is where it is visible: fragments of everyday life in an occupied town (the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983), the disturbing other aspect of an agricultural mythology which is the backdrop of the whole country’s history, the Falklands War, the exhibitionism of the 90s, the sinister uses of a sport celebrated as a “passion of many”… And at the heart of this theatre of rubble, two absolute totems of Argentineness: meat and tango. Meat is the staple of the homeland’s diet, the foundation of a cow culture (in Argentina, cows are the unavoidable subject of school essays) which was shaped by blood, sacrifice and slaughter from the start. And tango, its musical DNA which links passion to loss and exaggerates its sexist stereotypes to the point of parody.

No, it is not a matter of “representing” History. It is about convening it, and letting it wait in ambush, weigh on and fall onto the play and exert its power on the dancers’ bodies by pushing them, exhausting them, thrilling them, tormenting them, like a power which shapes and erodes, which inflames and exhausts. That’s dancing History. That’s dancing Argentina.

[Source: play bill]

TFB Nr. 1092

Cast & Credits

Concept & Choreography: Mathilde Monnier, Alan Pauls
Dramaturgy: Véronique Timsit
With: Martin Gil, Lucas Lagomarsino, Samanta Leder, Pablo Lugones, Ari Lutzker, Carmen Pereiro Numer, Valeria Lucia Polorena, Lucia Garcia Pulles, Celia Argüello Rena, Delfina Thiel, Florencia Vecino, Daniel Wendler
Set & Costume Design: Annie Tolleter
Lighting Design: Eric Wurtz
Sound: Olivier Renouf
Musical Advice: Sergio Pujol
Assistance Choreography: Marie Bardet
Rehearsal Assistance: Corinne Garcia
Artistic Collaboration: Anne Fontanesi

Executive Production: Nicolas Roux
With the benevolence of Jean-François Guéganno.
We thank: Yann Lorvo, Hélène Kelmachter, Lucie Haguenauer, Diana Theocharidis, Evelyne Loew, Natalia Uccello, Cecilia Kuska
Production: Le Quai, Centre Dramatique National Angers, Pays de la Loire
Coproduction: Chaillot – Théâtre National de la Danse, Théâtre de Namur, Teatro San Martín – Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires, Théâtre-Sénart Scène Nationale, Festival Montpellier Danse 2017, La Bâtie – Festival de Genève
Supported by: Institut Français, Drac Occitanie
With kind support of the Goethe Institut and the Institut français.
Tanz im August presented in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele.

Tanz im August 2017
Artistic Director: Virve Sutinen
Executive Producer: Isa Köhler
Producer & Assistant to Artistic Director: Marie Schmieder
Curator & Producer: Andrea Niederbuchner
Assistant Producer: Alina Sophie Lauer
Technical Director: Patrick Tucholski
Tanz im August is a festival by HAU Hebbel am Ufer, funded by the Capital Cultural Fund and the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.

Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Schaperstraße 24
10719 Berlin

Tickets: +49 (o)30 254 89 100

Video Documentation

The video documentation is produced on behalf of the Senate Department for Culture and Social Cohesion. The purpose of this contract is to document productions in the field of contemporary dance in Berlin. The master recordings are archived by the University Library of the Berlin University of Arts. Copies of the recordings on DVD are available for viewing exclusively in the reference collections of the following archives (at media desks in these institutions):

University Library of the Berlin University of Arts
Mediathek für Tanz und Theater des Internationalen Theaterinstituts / Mime Centrum Berlin
Inter-University Centre for Dance Berlin (HZT)

Mathilde Monnier / Trailers and Video Documentations

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