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ritin" a#out the $erformance of others Mar"arita Deli"ianni
Subject: “Smoke” by Mats Ek
Mats Ek’s “Smoke” (“Rök”, in Swedish) featuring Syl ie !uillem and the choreogra"her’s brother, #iklas Ek, was created for the Swedish tele ision in $%%& and is included in !uillem’s film “E identia”' Set on an almost naked scenery consisting of an em"ty room furnished solely by a table, the "iece e("lores the bond emerging between the dancers, the lonely s"ace they occu"y, their transition from solitude to contact and con ersely' )ike most of Ek’s work, “Smoke” is a contem"orary "iece that embraces many norms' elements of ballet *from body "ositions and ste"s to choreogra"hic structure+ and yet does not submit to the classical
,lthough Ek may reject the con entional codes of ballet, his choreogra"hic idiom clearly stems from "rinci"les of balletic techni-ue' E idence can be found in the whole range of jum"s and turns, in the footwork, and in the constant use of basic "ositions *such as plié à la seconde+ which recur in Ek’s com"ositions$'
.oesio, !iannandrea, in /remser, Martha’s “0ifty 1ontem"orary 1horeogra"hers”, 2outledge $%%%, "'$34
$' 5 Ek.& looking for so&e sort of nudity. #o ara: 6nstituto !eografico di .. "'$3 4 Ek. $%%. 0s a ery contrary to what he calls “the ambiguity of the choreographer and a dance viewer hi&self. $. Mats. ”Mats Ek ste"s into the s"otlight”. splay their legs (… . iewer. They waddle on their knees. ru!!ing her !elly. duets. I Grandi Protagonisti della Danza. Molly’s ”Mats Ek ste"s into the s"otlight”. we see Guille& !iting her fingers.gostini. Ek says' 6t is this element that significantly clarifies the relationshi" between his characters for the which is con entions and the clich. Elisa’s “!iselle di Mats Ek”. 2 !lent7er. 8ouston 1hronicle daily "ress. Mats. e("osing the most intimately "ri ate moments of naked human nature' 5he dancers in Ek’s work.5he "attern of the choreogra"hy *male solo. May 39 433%..%49 @link last accessed on Aecember 43.s of classical !allet"/. 5uesday #o ember 4. )k confesses to have a strong feeling a!out !oth the physical sensation and the e&otions the audience su!consciously receives and internalizes when watching a dance perfor&ance 1. as journalist Molly Glentzer notes in an interview with the choreographer. !lowing her nose' (iklas )k licks the wall and tre&!les as if in an epileptic seizure. *oth of the& stick their tongues out during their first duet and gri&ace and shout in the second one. May 39 433%. and this serves as one &ore e2planation to why he likes to keep the &ove&ent true and close to the hu&an condition. 43$3' <ne can listen to the inter iew on htt":==s erigesradio'se=sida=default'as"(> "rogramid?. Mats. all with a kind of gentle !rutality" #. inter iewed on “Stark i . Molly.$” broadcast on Sweden’s 2adio.. in !lent7er. female solo+ is reminiscent of that of a classical "as de deu(. “+. 43$3) 2 . $articularly in “%&oke". 8ouston 1hronicle daily "ress. often do “ugly things. "'$3 3 Ek. yet the interaction between the dancers bears no similarity to ballet nobilities' 5heir gestures and facial e("ressions are raw and un"retentious. in :accarino. a ruthlessness of getting to the core”-.
in a bare room with a dis"ro"ortionately large table in it' 5he em"tiness of the s"ace im"lies his loneliness. The dancer e2ecutes a &ove&ent with her right leg. "'$34 7 Ek Mats. 0s $oesio notes though. grey world. and justifies his claiming to identify “with modern dance: the floor. e eryday as"ects of life seem to him due to his loneliness D' . 8ouston 1hronicle daily "ress. !iannandrea. a middle+aged man. “Aans "E scenen och dans "E 5:: Scenens och t +mediets kommunikationsramar EskEdliggjorda genom en jFmfGrande analys mellan Mats Eks danser 2Gk och Solo fGr t E”. then shifts to her left. 85 $%%D 3 .t the same time. dark.%till. the weight. they often do not escape a co&&on feature of classicis&. 2outledge $%%%. "'$3 8 :irdefors. Molly’s ”Mats Ek ste"s into the s"otlight”. these elements are treated from a contem"orary "ers"ecti e and interwo en with fundamentals of contem"orary dance techni-ue. certain &ove&ents are often repeated four ti&es. May 39 433%. which is a very classical pattern 7any dancer trained in !allet can sense the typical eight counts !ehind it.t some "oint he decides to climb on the huge table.nna. in /remser. then repeats with the left' she &oves towards her right. at least in Guille&4s solo5 %y&&etry.oesio. and the si7e of the table might symboli7e how small he feels and how huge and difficult e en the most common. he looks across the surface of the table and catches a glim"se of !uillem "ee"ing on him *she is 6 . . Martha’s “0ifty 1ontem"orary 1horeogra"hers”. the dark grey color of the walls re eals his "sychological mood' 8e is alone in an em"ty. 6urther&ore. in !lent7er. however natural and non3stylized &any &ove&ents &ay !e. . the falling mo ement”C' 5his a""roach is necessary in order to e("ress the solitude and need for contact the characters e("erience in “Smoke”' 5he "iece begins with the entrance of #iklas Ek. such as freer "el is mo ements and the use of the floor and of the body weight'B 5he same a""lies to his clearly balletic ste"s and mo ements as well. which is a sign that he has not abandoned ho"e' 2eaching the to".
and yet one that brings the desired result: !uillem’s hand a""ears out of nowhere and caresses his hair' 6s it real.eter.e idently hanging from the other side of the table just as he does' 5his short moment they share here. when #iklas Ek sees !uillem balancing on her coccy(. lets a bright smile break o er his face when !uillem instantly lifts him on her back: 5he relief to not need to a""ear strong or bear one’s own weight for a while *how rare it is for a man to e("erience this with a woman. their facial e("ressions tell us that there is some instant understanding between them. “Syl ie !uillem on A:A Evidentia”. that they share "erha"s the secret of their common loneliness' So stunning and une("ected was this encounter for the male dancer. "The smoke which comes from their clothes and mouths is what they say to each otherH $3' 5hroughout the "iece there is smoke coming from the dancers. since it is the first contact #iklas Ek has with some other "erson in the "iece. let alone a middle+aged man' )ifts where 9 /radley. IJ. /allet Maga7ine. the middle+aged man hea y with loneliness. gliding from the table' 5he medium of tele ision and the benefits afforded by editing are used here to great effect% and the fall seems ceaseless' 5he longing for contact is dis"layed again later. merely by looking at each other. or is it his imagination> 5his doubt regarding the dancers’ relationshi" recurs in the "iece and may well refer to the doubt we all ha e sometimes on whether the feelings and the connection we think we share with someone a""ly to reality' 5he dancers’ first definite encounter occurs later. it is followed by a fall. !uillem is s"eaking to herself here.ccording to the choreogra"her. 4334 10 4 . Aecember 4334 /radley. shaking and e(haling smoke' . since Ek has not a""roached her yet' 5he duet that follows is tender and dreamy' #iklas Ek. . after his lonely wandering in s"ace *and although the dancers’ contact here is ery short and seemingly distant. making the first clear manifestation of her own loneliness. and if we are to belie e that it re"resents their communication. when he climbs a few stairs leading nowhere and he knocks on the wall *a seemingly ain gesture. is ery im"ortant and emotionally striking.
and then she gets undressed only to get dressed again +rhythmically shifting her weight from side to side all the while+ indicating the daily routine she is tra""ed in while her ritualistic yearning goes on' 5he e entual reunion in the end of the "iece lea es room for doubt: She is dancing a walt7 with an in isible "artner. and that they feel “bigger” themsel es$$' 5hey try to dominate each other * they re"eatedly attem"t to immobili7e one another and then "erform a trium"hant solo with jum"s indicating their will to con-uer' iolently . the dimensions of which are now normal' She seems to ha e regretted the se"aration and is in a state of constant longing.men lift women are ery common in the dance world *as they are outside it+.ggressi eness alternates with tenderness *one moment they handle each other claiming control. one might say. making her a""ear as though she is getting dressed. her gestures and mo ements are re"etiti e. when Ek is suddenly materiali7ed in his "lace' 6s he real. or he des"erately and "ossessi ely fills her with kisses' 5heir occasionally synchroni7ed identical mo ements im"ly that there is a great mental com"atibility between them' 5he table does not constitute the only use of objects in this choreogra"hy. abru"t. and the ne(t !uillem holds and su""orts Ek caressing him. consisting of a solo by !uillem *or. suggesting that their new+found confidence makes them iew as small and unim"ortant what was "re iously seen as huge or difficult. where costumes are used as objects as well: #iklas Ek for instance is using his hat as a steering wheel to rule the relationshi". but !uillem lifting Ek is a sign of their mutual su""ort of each other' #e ertheless in the second section of the film the dynamics of the dancers’ relationshi" change and so does their outlook on life' /oth the music and the mo ement become more energetic. and becomes outraged when he loses it to !uillem' E entually his "ossessi eness leads her to "ush him away' 5his is where the third section of the "iece begins. or is she imagining him> 11 Virdefors 1998! 5 . at times resembling a "rayer' 5he film editing has an effect once more. aggressi e * but the most remarkable change is related to the table: 5his time it is too small. a duet between her and the table. almost ritualistic.
ustralian musician and scholar' 5he music consisting of a solo for "iano in the first "art. but these two or three notes are inherently e("ressi e and thus not minimal at all” $4. "ercussion in the second. and the music score by .ook/ +reenwood 0ress 2002 1!361! 13 -radle# 2002! 0oesio 1999! 14 6 . dis"laying of classicism and contem"orary aesthetics. so you can get the breath of it and be struck by it immediately' 5hatMs maybe one measure' . suiting Mats Ek’s ideal for music in choreogra"hy "erfectly: 6 like good music' /ut for dance. ) -iocritical "ource. mo ement' 5here needs to be some air left in it $. realistic and dreamlike' 6t is not "ossible to grow tired of it' 12 "itsk# $arr# %&usic of the Twentieth'(entur# )*ant'+arde. it has to be not o er+com"licated' /rahms is ery rich music' /ut itMs still melodic. says )arry Sitsky. which.Frt intensifies the emotions e("ressed with its sim"licity: “8e K.' Similarly. .5he dancers dis"lay an astonishing e("ressi ity throughout the "iece. and "iano and iolin in the final "art. always maintains its unadorned -uality. although attenti e to "sychological detail and intense in its "ortrayal of human feeling.r o . thanks to “the ju(ta"osition of strong images and humorous e"isodes” $9' “Smoke” is at once gri""ing and funny. there is always room for some “air” in Ek’s choreogra"hy. both in their mo ement and in regard to their acting skills. it ne er becomes “hea y” or dark.FrtL may use only a few notes.nother is that thereMs s"ace left for some sort of addition + in this case.
. May 39 .5:: Scenens och t +mediets kommunikationsramar EskEdliggjorda genom en jFmfGrande analys mellan Mats Eks danser 2Gk och Solo fGr t E”.-i. /iocritical Sourcebook !reenwood . IJ. 43$3) :accarino. 6 !randi . "'. Aecember !lent7er.ress.gostini.lio2ra1h# /radley. . $.%49 @link last accessed on Aecember 43.rotagonisti della Aan7a. $ :irdefors. in /remser.oesio. )arry @4334) Music of the 5wentieth+1entury . /allet Maga7ine. 5uesday #o ember 4.$” broadcast on Sweden’s 2adio. Elisa.nna @$%%D) Aans "E scenen och dans "E.B$' “Stark i . #o ara: 6nstituto !eografico di . . ant+!arde: . @$%%. 43$3' 5he inter iew can be found on htt":==s erigesradio'se=sida=default'as"(> "rogramid?. 85 7 .eter @4334)”Syl ie !uillem on A:A E identia”. 8ouston 1hronicle daily "ress. 2outledge Sitsky. ..)“!iselle di Mats Ek”. Molly @433%)”Mats Ek ste"s into the s"otlight”. Martha’s @$%%%) 0ifty 1ontem"orary 1horeogra"hers. !iannandrea.