The choreographer, dancer and dance researcher Olga de Soto has been looking into the history and reception of dance for many years. The second phase of her documentary/choreographic research into the German dance innovator Kurt Jooss was funded by TANZFONDS ERBE in 2012. The reception and impact of his socio-political ballet Der Grüne Tisch (The Green Table), which became famous for its timeless rejection of war, are at the centre of Débords. Reflections on The Green Table. De Soto set off on the trail of The Green Table, from its creation in 1934 until today, and impressively documented how memory is maintained, transformed or even forgotten – but is always on the move.
Débords. Reflections on the Green Table was awarded Belgium’s Prix SACD Spectacle vivant prize.
Olga de Soto is a choreographer, dancer and dance researcher. After training in classical and contemporary dance in Spain, she studied contemporary dance at the CNDC in Angers. She worked with Michèle Anne De Mey, Pierre Droulers, Felix Ruckert, Meg Stuart, Boris Charmatz and Jérôme Bel. She began her own choreographic work in 1992.
In recent years, she has focused on projects resulting from a long documentation-based research process in which choreographers work with an atypical notion of time that is wholly detached from traditional production logic.
Her 2004 work histoire(s) was a documentary video performance about the legendary premiere of Jean Cocteau’s ballet Le Jeune homme et la mort on 25 June 1946 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. She assembled eight interviews with people who had seen the premiere to create a memory trace on film that not only described the impact of the piece on its audience but also the hardships of life in post-war Paris.
She began working with Kurt Jooss’s ballett Der Grüne Tisch (1932) in 2009. In an intensive research phase, she conducted numerous interviews with contemporary witnesses she searched for and visited around the world. In 2010, she presented the results of her search for traces of the tradition and reception of the internationally renowned work in a lecture performance entitled An Introduction. The full-evening stage production Débords. Reflections on The Green Table was the second phase of her documentary/choreographic research into the German dance innovator Kurt Jooss.
Concept, choreography, documentation, camera, sound – Olga de Soto
With – Fabian Barba, Alessandro Bernardeschi, Edith Christoph, Hanna Hedman, Mauro Paccagnella and Enora Rivière
Video – Olga de Soto
Video editing – Julien Contreau and Olga de Soto
Technical direction – Daniel Huard
Lighting – Philippe Gladieux
Testimonies – Juan Allende-Blin, Jeanne Brabants, Jacqueline Challet-Haas, Edith del Campo, Françoise Dupuy, Fernando García, Christian Holder, Ann Hutchinson Guest, Bruno Jacquin, Philip Lansdale, Michèle Nadal, Marina Grut, Toer van Schayk, Nora Salvo, Hanns Stein, Joan Turner Jara, Andras Uthoff, Jeanette Vondersaar and Gerd Zacher.
Production – Niels & Caravan Production
Co-production – Joint Adventures/Tanzwerkstatt Europa (Munich), Les Halles (Brussels), Culturgest (Lisbon), Festival d’Automne à Paris, Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou (Paris), Tanzquartier Wien, Centre Chorégraphique National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon (CCNM) as part of Jardin d’Europe
With the support of the European Union and Open Latitudes (Les Halles-Brussels, Latitudes Contemporaines-Lille, Le Manège de Mons / Maison Folie-Mons, Cialo Umysl Foundation-Warsaw, Teatro delle Moire-Milan, Sin Arts und Culture Centre-Budapest, Le phénix, scène nationale de Valenciennes, l’Arsenic-Lausanne)
Funded by TANZFONDS ERBE, an initiative of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes
With the support of the French Community Wallonie-Brussels, Archives Jooss (Cologne/Amsterdam), German Dance Archives Cologne (documentation)
With additional support from the Centre de développement chorégraphique d’Uzès
This project received research grants from the French Ministry for Culture and Communication and the French Community Wallonie-Brussels for the development of documentation.
Olga de Soto was funded by the Ministry of the French Community Wallonie-Brussels and is artist in residence at Les Halles (Brussels) and in administrative residency at La Raffinerie – Charleroi/Danses, Centre Chorégraphique de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles.
From Toute la Culture Toutelaculture.com
[…] And that is the strength of Olga de Soto’s artistic expressivity: her approach is exactly the opposite of that of Faustin Linyekula. His reconstruction of a historical version of the Ballet nègre is at the centre of a contemporary piece. By contrast, de Soto uses the opportunities afforded by assembly and staging […].
The seven performers (including herself) move on stage between projected images and mirror images. They manipulate the screens in a game of breaking up and superimposing that becomes increasingly more complex as the piece develops. The artistic means may seem redundant at the beginning, and the expressiveness of the contemporary witness recordings seems to suffice, but gradually their meaning is revealed and the ballet allows a concrete image to develop inside us.
More than the symbolic power of the original ballet, its various figures and the narrations of the performer (the Diplomat, the Partisan, Death, the Wartime Profiteer), it is the performers’ emotions, which they convey through dance, that touch us. They show their disturbed state, which is in turn mirrored by the audience. This reminds us of the first performance in Germany after World War II, in 1951: absolute silence in the auditorium and behind the scenes.
The intelligence and depth of the dancers’ views, the way they remember as well as their earnestly expressed doubts about particular details of the choreography, wholly and fully serves Kurt Jooss’s universal concern: the condemnation of war and wartime profiteers. They also direct members of the audience to their own responsibility. The Green Table ends at it started, at the negotiation table where, as we know today, no worthy discussion takes place, as the diplomats are in truth the instigators of war.
Rarely have we been so affected by the style of a choreography. We leave the theatre in the knowledge that we have witnessed a particularly successful interpretation of The Green Table. She touched us deeply. Brilliant.
Charlotte Imbault, Mouvement 11/12:
“I’m not interested in producing an identical reconstruction of an illustration. I’m interested in discovering the extent to which timecasts shadows over it, how a person’s experiences and memories erode.” [Olga de Soto] In other words: what effect does time have on our perceptions of works of art?
In his work Der moderne Denkmalkultus (EN: The Modern Cult of Monuments) (1903) the nineteenth century art historian Aloïs Riegl defined three memory values with reference to monuments. Firstly, the age-value, after a work has become and organism and no one is allowed to oppose its ageing process.Secondly, the historical-value, which is based on the original condition and thus also permits restoration (as partial decay is disturbing), but in moderation (as the original should remain recognisable). Finally, the memory-value, the key principle of which is restoration on behalf of the eternal present.
Olga de Soto doesn’t adhere to any of the three types of restoration, but instead looks freely at the various traces in the contemporary witness reports and thereby clarifies the full dimensions of the work. At the same time, it is a wholly intimate journey through time. “Part of the work was to understand the relationship between the piece and everything beyond it. It quickly became clear that it was not possible for the intervieweesto talk only about what they had seen. What they said went beyond the performance, beyond its scope, as they were talking about their own lives. This was particularly the case when we were talking about the scene with the refugees, as many of the contemporary witnesses had taken flight at some point in their lives themselves, from Nazi Germany or Czechoslovakia…” [Olga de Soto]
Translated from German versions of the original French articles.