SCHÖNHEITSABEND (presented by RDF & Lókal)


Photo: Maurice Korbel

Photo: Maurice Korbel

The past few years dancers / choreographers Florentina Holzinger and Vincent Riebeek created a vivacious trilogy with the duets Kein Applaus für Scheisse (2010) and Spirit (2012), and the group performance Wellness (2013). After a few detours (they f.i. both made a performance separately), they create a new duet together: Schönheitsabend.

For this performance, one point of departure was the 1910 ballet Sheherazade and the desire of dance couples from the beginning of the 20th century to re-invent dance (and themselves) through exotic fictions. Also the personal life of the famous dancers from the ballet and modern dance tradition – think of (queer) dancing couples as Vaslav Nijinsky and Ida Rubinstein or Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Dénis – triggered their imagination.

Schönheitsabend is a show in three parts, as the classic ballet tradition prescribes. The titles of these parts “Tänze des Lasters” “Tänze des Grauens” & “Tänze der Ekstase” (dances of vice, horror and ecstasy), are inspired by a collection of writings from the infamous dance couple Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste, who, like Vincent and Florentina, had been working on new concepts of beauty and imbued their performances with senses of madness, ecstasy and explicit eroticism. In the three acts of Holzinger and Riebeek’s performance romance, reality and dream succeed each other, looking for a balance.

The first part centers around the romance of Sheherazade, as told in the Ballets Russes version of 1910. A love duet between the wife of the sultan and a male slave raises questions about power dynamics, eroticism and sex. The suggestiveness of the original Sheherazade, at its time considered a provocative performance due to its reversal of gender roles, the sexuality of both its soloists, and its obvert display of sexuality and violence – the ballet is basically a 20 minute orgy followed by a brutal massacre – is in Schönheitsabend translated by the duo into the provocative sexuality of the 21st century, highlighting the vulgarity and kitsch of the original’s orientalism.

The romance is followed by the disenchanting reality: the second part revolves around the experiment. How far should an artist go to meet the needs of the audience? It is a straddle modeled after the last performance of Vaslav Nijinsky, one of the first highly respected male dancers, in a psychiatric asylum in 1945. After an infamous solo performance the top dancer was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Are artists by definition crazy – or does the struggle with the expectations make them go mad?

The show has its apotheosis with a cathartic dream scene, modeled on poses taken from historic dance photographs from the 1910s and 1920s of couples such as Ruth St. Dénis and Ted Shawn, Clotilde von Derp and Alexander Sacharoff as well as Anita Berber and Sebastian Droste, re-envisioning their exoticisms as a queer futurity. Here the power dynamics really become clear in the search for balance and emancipation: between people, between man and nature and between dream and reality.


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By & with: Florentina Holzinger & Vincent Riebeek

Dramaturgy: Eike Wittrock

Costumes: Valerie Hellebaut

Technical: Anne Meeussen 

Production:  CAMPO Gent, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt/Main, Julius-Hans-Spiegel-Zentrum/Theater Freiburg

Co-production: Internationales Sommerfestival Hamburg, ImPulstanz Wien, Spring Utrecht, Sophiensaele Berlin

Executive production: CAMPO Gent

Supported by: Tanzfonds Erbe – an initiative of the Federal Cultural Foundation of Germany & BesteBuren