Homo non est
Tamás Halász / "Színház", Budapest, Vol. XXXIII No. 7, July 2000, pp. 39-41. (in Hungarian)
The invitation card for the latest premiere of Attila Csabai's KOMPmÁNIA contains a widely stretched photo-portrait of a young boy of serious glance. In the face of the boy a grooved co-ordinate axis is inserted referring to the years of 1973, 1983, 1993, and 2000. The first number coincides with the year of Csabai's birth: it is easy to conclude that the boy in the photo is Csabai himself.
27 years old artists very seldom take the courage for bringing about a production inspired by their "autobiography". And such productions are even more rarely successful enough to deserve some attention. The young choreographer belongs to this successful, remarkable minority. Normally the World generates much more interests in 27 years old boys than they he can make rise in the World. Normally the world-view of a young man of theatrical interests and abilities for adaptation can be found interesting, more interesting than the short life he actually experienced. Normally, and generally....
However, the company which was brought about practically from "nothing" by Attila Csabai and his co-creator, Márta Ladjánszki, during its short career has grown up and perhaps has become the most noteworthy formation in the world of the young Hungarian modern dance. Their premieres have special artistic "air" and step by step became remarkable events. Their productions are original and convey remarkable novelties even in comparison with each other. In the same time these works form a continuously developing stylistic unity. With his latest production the young choreographer crossed the border of a "restricted domain" defined by himself formerly. Decoded or rather re-coded the whole system of symbols he formerly used and made himself more approachable than ever. Because his productions always made the observer realize: we are not allowed to see the full reality. He might be oriented either by Wittgenstein's ideas (Vorüber man nicht sprechen kann...) or simply only by a kind of natural modesty.
The characters of Homo non est seem to be some ecclesiastical persons or spiritual leaders. Their actions seem to be the parts of a mystery play constructed of several well defined elements as well as a lot of components which cannot be clearly defined. They are strikingly frank and straight self-manifestations, self-defending rites, the most embarrassing self-devotion putting the observer out of his/her countenance. It is a sudden and daring jump of an artist of the most reserved nature into the floodlight.
This already outworn notion of reserve is symbolized by a fence situated along the whole length of one of the walls of Szkéné Theatre. This fencing symbolically separates the "sanctuary" of the hidden, invisible, secret world and the realm of directly displayed regions. It is the symbolic border between the restricted mental territories which cannot or must not be revealed, and the public, open fields. In the foreground, in front of the fence, strange objects are located. They may be interpreted as gymnastic equipment as well as instruments of torture, though they are almost completely out of use in the production. The ground of the play is surrounded by small heaps of common, white chalks. At the end of the fence two doors and a wonderful arm-chair of green "hair", that is living grass, are situated. The green pieces of grass make the observer remember Meret Oppenheim's famous "hairy" coffee cup...
The staff presenting the play consists of tree equally ranked male dancers in the leading role, Ágens, the singer, Ádám Jávorka, the viola player, and a silent and still actor. The dancers are Attila Csabai, Krisztián Gergye, and Balázs Károlyi. They have exactly identical rights, obligations and tasks during the play: it can be risked to state that they represent the components of a single personality. Csabai plays the role of a majestic and dignified personality which becomes embarrassing in the most unexpected and unforeseen moments. Gergye, -formerly known as a Bali dancer-, for the sake of this play was transformed into a brilliant contemporary dancer. Károlyi's fallible character irradiates strong suggestivity. These characters keep the observers in constant strain during the whole play.
In our recent talk with A.. Csabai a foreign dance company applying too much nudity in an obtrusive manner was touched. I vividly remember that Csabai heatedly made a remark: "I would like to question their choreographer whether his little esteem regarding his own body makes him displaying the other persons' bodies so easily". The Homo non est itself is the pure manifestation of the nude human body. However, it touches the aspect of eroticism in a very restricted and tangential manner. Its dancers displayed their bodies on the basis of a very deliberate, almost dramatic decision of the choreographer always dealing very cautiously with nakedness. This is the ultimate gesture of manifestation, opening one's heart. Neither clothes, nor hair covers their body. Csabai forms the whole body like a hair-dresser: for each of his productions the hair-cut of the dancers is carefully designed. So did he now, too. The dancers' hair is removed in order to make each tendon, beam of muscle fibers, vein and artery be well displayed. He is so careful as the professional swimmers when they remove each piece of hair from they body to reduce drag.
It is very difficult to outline what is the main motif of this production having no similar counterpart in our domestic fields. What is the essential fluid which penetrates all of its details? It would be an oversimplified and superficial observation to say that its essential ingredient is homoeroticism. It would be less that half-truth. Homo non est eroticus. The play is built up of a special texture of homosexual aesthetics. The characters of the play have only minimal connection with each other on a sensual basis. The essence is let only be guessed and is not explicitly declared or "uttered", neither by gestures, nor by movements. It is unspoken and cannot be simply expressed.
Csabai and Károlyi form lanky characters in "Gothic style": their struggling movements are fresh, almost seem to be improvised. Their glances are significant instruments of expression, no less important than the movements and the gestures. The choreography fulfills its purpose via using twinkles and blinks. With his torn hair Mr. Gergye appears like a loner while performing a demonic creature of lizards' -like movements. With his twisted out movements he remains almost unnoticed while descending from a ladder-like construction to the ground in order to disappear behind a door.
At the beginning of the play time seems to pass slowly on the stage which is more or less similar to an arena. Csabai takes a chalk and draws a childish drawing of a man constructed of small sticks on the fence partly hiding, partly revealing the depth at left side of the stage. After finishing the last stroke he keeps the chalk pushed on the fence while disappearing behind it. He leaves his traces on the fence like a snail. In the meantime Ágens, the talented singer appears on the stage, performing a pregnant women. At the time of the premiere she really was pregnant, she really represented a radiating, blossoming womanly character, the symbol of maternity and motherhood. On the top of the scenery, sitting in a wicker-chair, Ádám Jávorka, the virtuoso viola-player is sitting. Both of them also are the actors of the performance and play significant role in realizing it.
On the stage a strange and mystical field of "magnetic forces" arises: different sections of time and human age are piling up. On the fence the drawing of the clumsy man of sticks stares at the audience. It symbolizes and summons the depressive feeling of the awkwardness of childhood. The viola player over the stage and Ágens on the stage's level act as absolving animators of the soul, this latter one has real motherly character. Being the "pair" or the counterpart of the "cartoon man", over the scenery a nude young boy sits silently and almost completely still, symbolizing the innocence and fragility of childhood.
Csabai's choreography is built up of excellent musical materials selected with a firm hand and a whole string of "video clips" properly invented for the components of the music. In the "musical architecture" of the play pre-recorded movements are "mixed" with the brilliant live singing by Ágens who also gleams her qualities as an actor. By the peculiarly playful character of this music her own "personal musical world" gains new shades and colors: traces of a subtle sense of humor and self-irony can be disclosed in it. The characteristic features of the "traditional" "KOMPmÁNIA Style" as "dramatic and sublime attitude", and surrealism are enriched by the ironic elements filtering into it mainly from Ágens's sessions (e.g. her adaptation of the song "Strangers in the Night") in this vivisection-like performance. In this play the singer also becomes a witness of mysterious power. She simultaneously is a lady and a servant. Her enigmatic character is indispensable in the play as well as Annie Lennox's presence is essential in Derek Jarman's "Edward II": an absolutely necessary, emblematic component among the ingredients of a sensual story of men.
In the current and eddies of the play innumerable biblical allusions can be revealed: gush of grain, ritual wash offered to a son, white wash-bowl, a mysterious flood of milk from a strange source, petals, pregnant and nursing motherly characters, and heart-piercing allusions resembling the observer of the traditional representations of the crucified and the taken-off-from-the-cross Christ. Besides these factors, a peculiar and permanent stress permeates the whole play: nude bodies totally curtailed of their sensual attributes and notion, the slippery nature of the tightened muscles, manifestation of the living young body, clinging pairs completely ignoring sexuality. Similar tension is generated by the physical, bodily appearance of the dancers: athletic-looking males using articles of clothing otherwise serving as the attributes of the ladies' wear, or hiding their genitals between their hairless, smooth-skinned thighs. Their movements become touched, not definitely effeminate, rather androgynous in unexpected moments. This strange feeling of constantly "being en route", this unsettled, indefinite identity, permanently unanswered questions and doubtful existence seem to inspire the play. Csabai does not claim to have any answer to these feelings and questions. The victory of the characters is nothing else that their longing for some liberation. No one of them can find solution. They simply manifest themselves, and by this means they find some relief. They confront themselves and the spectators with sacred and profane scenes and "pictures". They gather force of their minor victories over their own fallibility. They are able to proceed and really dare go further on that way which leads from its commencement in 1973 to the future, searching reasons, solutions, and peace.
(Translation by J.K. Tar)