"iHome" - the new dance piece at the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Theater Görlitz-Zittau

Boris Michael Gruhl
Dan Pelleg and Marko E. Weigert have conceived this evening together with their ensemble. The 13 performers come from 12 countries and bring with them, above all, the experience of what it means to become at home in faraway places.

Dance is part of the special profile of the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Theater Görlitz-Zittau. Once there was a ballet company here, danced mainly classical and neoclassical. After the death of the chief choreographer Franz Huyer in 2005, Gundula Peuthert consistently performed modern dance theater.

Since 2010, the company has been led by Dan Pelleg and Marko E. Weigert. Pelleg comes from Israel, where he studied dance, Weigert was trained at the Palucca School. As founders of the Berlin Wee Dance Company, they have a name in the dance world. They have been able to establish dance even more firmly, and their work is particularly popular with younger audiences. In addition, it proves to be clever that they also give special accents to productions of musical theater through their choreographic collaboration. Thematically, they often have their finger on the pulse of the times, as in their take on a classical theme such as "Romeo and Juliet," and even more so in "The Little Mermaid," with its touching tragedy of a young woman who breaks down from being lonely and speechless among strangers. The own and the foreign, the home and what we think it is, this is also the subject of the new dance piece with the title "iHome".

Dan Pelleg and Marko E. Weigert have conceived this evening in collaboration with the dancers, and this is where authentic accents of this current theme come in. The 13 participants of this production come from 12 countries, almost all continents are represented. They bring with them life and cultural stories and, above all, experiences of what it means to become at home in faraway places, not to give up one's own and to open oneself to the foreign. Provided that such a process is based on reciprocity and the foreign, the unknown is not understood as a threat to one's own. The resulting conflicts and everyday experiences, which are at stake in the context of current challenges, are taken up by this new Görlitz dance theater production, sometimes very directly, sometimes too directly.

This already begins with an obviously foreign man demonstrating his affiliation as a street musician and scratching the "Germany song" on his violin, to which two dancers behave quite violently with each other, the musician is then fobbed off with thrown change. Then a woman from the audience is asked to come on stage. This is of course staged, she wears a burka. The moderator is jovial, according to the motto: Don't be like that, everyone can join in here, we are completely open, only you have to conform to our standards.

On Markus Pysall's stage there is a large structure, a building, many rooms, a glass house, you can see inside, but not everyone is allowed in. Those who have managed to get in, settle in, bring the signs of their "home" with them: Teddy bears, pillows, curtains, flower boxes, vacuum cleaners, even ritual objects of distant cultures. Thus this house becomes a fortress or even a prison.

There are two women practicing Far Eastern customs, with kimono and tea ceremony. There is a dance reminiscent of Indian clichés. A storming group of tourists is keen on a "selfie" with the woman in the burka. And again and again the individual or the group, and this can then sometimes become a horde, storming the stage with powerful ghetto blasters on their shoulders: "Foreigners out"!

The selection of music and the sound design by Dan Pelleg are intended to thematize the different "homeland sounds" both musically and dance-wise. Present are mainly titles of the Polish folklore group "Dikanda" with own influences, but also from other eastern countries, furthermore from the Kurdish and again and again from the Yiddish. Sometimes it sounds Far Eastern, Indian, one hears sounds of the Roma. But this musical search for a home also holds dangers. The dance to it can quickly become exclusionary and delimiting, here the group, there the individuals. Here the house with glass panes, those inside, those outside, there is not enough room for everyone. One's own place, one's boundaries must be defended, even with violence. The program booklet quotes the visual artist Alexander Polzin, who has also worked with this company. He calls such behavior "selection" and concludes: "The principle of Auschwitz still surrounds us."

Courageously and with commitment, the dancers face up to this provocation with the different means of their movement language, which also succeeds if they don't fall into the mistake of delivering a misleading folklore show, or if, for example, a parade with waving national flags fits a bit too much like the famous fist on the eye.

One of the strongest scenes is probably the one in which there is actually no dancing. Again, this woman in the burka. A voice from off-screen, very friendly - in the manner of: "Well, you see, that's possible, it's quite easy..." - makes her get completely naked. This process alone is shocking. And when she then saves her naked skin, this sometimes somewhat revue-like Heimatabend does become existential. Ultimately, homeland is not the so often sung about homeland kitsch: "Our homeland, that's not just...". No, it is the naked skin, which we can hide under as many shells as we like, but when it comes down to it, we have to save it and make a decision about when the house is full, who decides that and who regulates the admission. Or do we have to bury all these home dreams, as a picture at the end of the evening of these Görlitz home dream dancers suggests? Namely, when in front of the Glass House all these comfort accessories are draped like grave decorations with flickering memorial candles in front of teddy bears.

Thus this dance theater evening, which was received with great approval by the audience at the end, does not lack associative images. These are sometimes in contrast to the dancers' directness. Unless it experiences the power of individual presence and is danced with convincing, technical demand, as for example by Jeremy Detscher, graduate of the Palucca Hochschule für Tanz in Dresden, and quite new, hopefully not a stranger, in the dance company of the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Theater Görlitz-Zittau.