Dixit Dominus was German choreographer Kurt Jooss’s last and least known dance, made over a period of five weeks in 1975 as a solo for the dancer Lilavati Häger, when Jooss had not choreographed a new dance in over a decade. Set to Händel and integrating Jooss’s movement with Häger’s classical Indian training, it consisted of two parts: the first aggressive, greedy and full of false heroism, the second lyrical and based on giving. Because the piece was made as a gift, it is rarely included in Jooss’s legacy, but instead entered Häger’s repertoire of solo performances. Jooss scholar Patricia Stöckemann dismisses Dixit Dominus as initially having been created “out of friendship,” resulting in “a 1976 dance with a breath of Indianness [that] remained in its unadorned innocence nothing more than marginalia in Jooss’s creations.”
Dixit Dominus’s first reconstruction in 2003 by the Swedish-born, Indian- and contemporary dance-trained choreographer Rani Nair was also a gift, this one from Lilavati Häger’s husband, Bengt, who knew that she had always wanted to pass on the work and that, after meeting Nair shortly before her death, Häger mentioned she had found the dancer for Dixit Dominus. These multiple gifts were mirrored in the message around which Jooss themed the choreo- graphy: “What you take, shall be lost to you - what you give, will remain yours forever.” Nair toured extensively with the reconstruction, which was relatively faithful to the shapes and timing of the older movement with controlled doses of intentional and unintentional anachronism, presenting it, among other places, at Hanoi Opera House and the Centre National de Danse in Paris in 2005-06. Bengt Häger had told her “when you inherit the piece, you inherit everything [to do with the piece],” and yet, wearing Lilavati’s costumes, hearing stories about her, and attempting to do her movement felt at times farther from, rather than closer to Dixit Dominus and its original creators.
So Nair returned to Dixit Dominus in 2009 with Future Memory, this time focusing not on the choreography but on the stories around it. It is to some degree a second-order performance — a performance about a performance — but it is also a project about history and memory, and about the very personal responsibilities of inheritance and legacy that come out of the work itself, but which also surpass it. Whereas Nair had struggled earlier with Dixit Dominus’s ambiguous place outside the canon of dance history, Future Memory embraces the possibility of an alternative history, one in which a “minor” dance takes ten years of an artist’s life, and where insider and outsider are much more complicated than we might think. It is a piece in which tradition is configured in a more hybrid way; not Indian versus Western European, but multiple traditions that fix and release ideas of Indianness/Swedishness/Germanness through both real and imagined archives that are deeply unstable. In this way, Future Memory is based on a past that is not fixed, but rather one with which we constantly negotiate, and through those relationships open potential that builds into the future.
Kate Elswit, November 2012
Kate Elswit är danshistoriker och samarbetar med Rani Nair som dramaturg
Stockholm – München 5 Mars 2010
När jag skriver det här brevet befinner jag mig på ett flyg på väg till Tyskland. Jag vill fråga dig om vi kan skriva brev, som ett sätt att kommunicera med varandra, kanske som en början på ett samarbete. Jag har så många frågor jag skulle vilja ställa dig. Och jag tror att du tycker om att få brev. Jag har hört att det var på det sättet du kom till Sverige, genom kärleksbreven från Bengt, som du skulle gifta dig med. Och det skulle vara ett sätt för oss att komma varandra nära. Jag föreställer mig att du svarar fastän du inte finns här längre. [...]
"Det här är en föreställning med stor humor och uppriktighet som väcker frågor om etnisk bakgrund, identitet och konstnärlig gestaltning. Men framför allt ramar den in det jag uppfattar som kärnfrågan i utställningen: Hur möter dansen (eller performance) sin samtid och sin framtid?"
"… en ovanlig danshistorisk dialog. Rani Nairs sätt att konfrontera sig själv som danshistorisk arvtagare liknar ett konstnärligt forskningsprojekt, som innefattar materialinsamling, kritisk hållning och ett utforskande formarbete."
"Rani Nair skapar sitt eget verk/rekonstruktion bortom att följa en klassisk danstradition eller att ostentativt/ provokativt bryta med den. Det är som om hon skapar en dansens egen ”På spaning efter den tid som flytt” (efter Marcel Prousts berömda roman) - men, i uppbruten modernistisk form, mer futurism än kubism, mellan humor och sorg, i en egen stil, som hela tiden ifrågasätter sig själv, spegling inåt-utåt."
Founded in 1984, ImPulsTanz has developed into one of the largest festivals of contemporary dance and performance worldwide. Each summer, thousands of dancers, choreographers and artists from all over the world come together in Vienna, work together for five weeks and celebrate contemporary dance.
SIFA - Singapore International Festival of Arts
Theme 2015: POST-Empires! After colonial regimes, after dictatorship, after communism, we witness a globalisation of life. What comes after the Empires from which we have emerged? How do we live with the global networks and monopolies of power which define the age we live in? We live in the Nation, we live with neoliberal capitalism that gives us the impression we are free. But what remains after…? Symbolic of POST-Empires is the moment when characters decline their Destinies, as proposed by the Author. They reclaim their lives and, in so doing, refuse the power of the Author. Can we rewrite the History that has been written for us?
In Singapore I’m also invited to take part in ”Archive Boxes” - a project within the festival about ”the Archiving Body in Dance”, where 14 choreographers/dancers are participating. The concept of the archive has fascinated live arts practitioners in the last decade. How can we hold on to the ephemeral acts of dance, performance and theatre? In New York, there has been active discussion about this issue since Merce Cunningham passed away and Trisha Brown retired. Similarly, in Europe, there have been conversations about Pina Bausch’s repertoire and legacy. More importantly, in contemporary dance, young dancers have returned to the inspirational sources of earlier dance-makers. What does this mean in Asia, where contemporary dance is often young and fledgling? How do notions of archive transform in the light of traditional and classical Asian dances, which are heavily codified and passed down from generation to generation?
What does it mean to inherit a dance? German choreographer Kurt Jooss made his last piece Dixit Dominus in 1975 as a gift for Swedish-based Indian dancer Lilavati Häger, who gave it to Rani Nair to reconstruct in 2003. Future Memory (2012) re- turns to Dixit, this time focusing not on the choreography but on the stories around it. It is a second-order performance — a performance about a performance — that uses the personal responsibilities of inheritance to move towards larger questions of history, memory, and legacy. A review from the premiere described it as combin- ing “Humor, warmth, and intellectual sharpness, all in one.” With a combination of gentleness and challenge, Future Memory embraces the possibility of an alterna- tive history, one in which a “minor” dance takes ten years of another artist’s life, and where insider and outsider are more complicated than we might think. Here both identity and dance history are understood not in terms of Indian versus Western European, but in a hybrid way that uses real and imagined archives to allow for shades of Indianness, Swedishness, and Germanness. Nair’s one-hour solo uses dance, spoken text, film, and singing in more and less spectacular forms. There are moments when audiences are invited to touch and smell. And there is a duet between a hair-dryer and a costume that was never worn in performance.
Concept, Choreographer, Performer: Rani Nair
Dramaturg, historian: Kate Elswit
Costume designer: Amanda Wickman
Technical consultant: Tobias Hallgren
Graphic designer: Cecilia Höglund
Press photographer: Imre Zsibrik
Production: Rani Nair, Anna Thelin
Supported by: The Arts Council of Sweden, The Swedish Arts Grant’s Committee and The Carina Ari Memorial Foundation. Created during residencies at The Cullberg ballet, Dansstationen Malmö and The House of Dance Stockholm.
SELECTED PRESS QUOTES
Örjan Abrahamsson, Dagens Nyheter: “Future Memory (from 2012) is a layer- upon- layer choreography, a witty and profound dance performance which mingles with a discussion about choreographic heritage that is lively today.”
Anna Ångström, Svenska Dagbladet: “It is a gift to inherit something significant, but it can also mean a lot of pressure. You may even need to distance yourself and revolt [...]. And capture the time elapsed between the generations ... The dancer Rani Nair does all this in the solo ‘Future Memory,’ a wonderful, soul-searching, smart, funny and deeply personal act.”
Anna Lundholm, Kristianstadsbladet: “This is a show with great humor and sincerity that raises questions about ethnicity, identity and artistic creation.”
Malena Forsare, Sydsvenskan: “An unusual dance historical dialogue. Rani Nair’s way to confront herself as a dance historical heir resembles an artistic research project, which includes data collection, critical attitude and an exploratory form of work.”
Ingela Brovik, Danstidningen: “It is as if she creates a dance’s own “In Search of Lost Time” (after Marcel Proust’s famous novel) - but, in broken modernist form, more than futurism cubism, between humor and sadness, in her own style, which is con- stantly questioning itself, mirroring inward-outward.”
Supported by: Swedish Arts Council and Konstnärsnämnden
Foto Imre Zsibrik
Foto Imre Zsibrik
FUTURE MEMORY är en personlig och fysisk dialog om vad det innebär att ärva en dans. I centrum för föreställningen står koreografin Dixit Dominus som den tyske koreografen Kurt Jooss 1975 skapade för den karismatiska indiska dansaren Lilavati.
Rani Nair fick ärva verket efter Lilavatis bortgång genom hennes svenska make, Bengt Häger, som var en legendarisk profil inom svensk dans.
Efter att ha gjort en rekonstruktion av Dixit Dominus 2003 ställer sig Rani idag frågor om verkets underliggande logiker, sammanhang och samband. Vilka var upphovspersonernas uppsåt och önskemål? Vad händer när verket lämnar dansarkivet och tolkas genom en annan kropp, genom vår tids erfarenheter och värderingar? Hur kan vi förvalta och levandegöra danshistoria?
“What you take, shall be lost to you – what you give, will remain yours forever.” Kurt Jooss
Koncept, koreografi, performer: Rani Nair Dramaturg, historiker: Kate Elswit Kostym: Amanda Wickman Teknisk konsult: Tobias Hallgren Dokumentation film: Anna Hwa Borstam Dokumentation foto: Imre Zsibrik Grafisk form: Bergen Produktion: Rani Nair, Anna Thelin
Urpremiär 4 december 2012 Future Memory skapades i residens hos Cullbergbaletten och på Dansstationen i Malmö.