In TWO Greco is joined by a female dancer who closely resembles an androgynous twin. Here the notion of collaboration/opposition that is an undertow in the solo takes on the solidity of flesh and blood. Greco’s persona has to share the space. Has to share the language of his dance. And since that language has roots in his own experiences and memories, he is being called upon to share something of himself. Why should he? Perhaps because he understands the power of two… sees synchronicity as a means of emphasising the choreography, accepts that two bodies can open up new possibilities in terms of using the space. (Mary Brennan – programme book Edinburgh International Festival)
TWO premiered on 9 November, 1999 during Cadance Festival at Korzo, The Hague. Until then, Greco and Scholten, who had started their collaboration in 1995, had created two solos: Fra Cervello e Movimento: Bianco and Rosso. TWO was the first piece in which another dancer entered their universe. However, they do not talk about TWO as a duet but as a solo for two. Greco and Scholten created TWO with dancer Bertha Bermúdez. The piece delves into the consequences of two people sharing the same space. Leo Spreksel, artistic director of Korzo at that time, was one of the first to give trust and possibilities to the two choreographers and to program their work in The Netherlands. 20 years later, in September 2018, the piece returned to Korzo as part of an evening dedicated Leo Spreksel’s 30 years at Korzo – also his farewell party. That evening, TWO was performed by the latest generation of ICK dancers: Edward Lloyd and Sophia Dinkel.
Between these two events in The Hague, the company (until 2009 as Emio Greco | PC, later continuing as ICK Amsterdam) has performed TWO in many places around the globe and it is still part of ICK’s repertoire. Others outside of this inner circle, like Nederlands Dans Theater and Rosie Kay Company have embraced the piece and re-staged it, adding their own interpretations.
Over the years, many generations of EG | PC and ICK dancers were immersed in the complex and exhausting material, in its intensity, softness and power. For many of them it was one of their most intense experiences during their time at the company. Every dancer performing in the piece brings his or her own identity to it. Its choreographers Greco and Scholten always depart from the individuality of each dancer, and have embraced and supported this diversity. In that sense, consecutive casts have each created their own TWO: there are just as many TWO’s as couples that have danced it.
Three generations of TWO
I spoke to four dancers of different generations about their experiences with this piece: Barbara Meneses, who was the first dancer to take over from original dancer Bertha Bermúdez and who performed it with Emio Greco in the early 2000’s; Suzan Tunca and Vincent Colomes who danced it together in the decade after that, and Edward Lloyd – dancer of the present generation working at ICK. I wanted to find out how they experienced the piece and if this changed over time.
Barbara: ‘I was the first dancer, after Bertha, to learn the piece and to perform it with Emio. When I was learning TWO I had already seen Emio and Bertha perform it an infinite amount of times. I was an absolute fan of it. I always had the sensation that I was witnessing a little treasure, a wonder of artistic creation. Performing it next to Emio felt like stepping into my favorite movie. At the same time, when performing it, it did not feel like I was “taking over” from Bertha, rather it was Emio and me recreating it.’
Vincent Colomes wrote to me from Paris, where he currently lives. TWO accompanied him almost the entire time he danced for the company between 2006 and 2013: ‘My feeling at the beginning of the learning process was that I was working with a monument that had already a history and that it was a chance and a great challenge for a dancer to go through such an adventure. The piece embodies the essence of the work of Emio Greco | Pieter C Scholten on different levels, physical, mental, psychological, social, spiritual, musical……At first, I was very impressed and seduced by the virtuosity, the beauty and the intelligence of the material.’
‘I was particularly fascinated by the transformation of my physical and mental state that was at play and that seemed to me like an alchemic mystery. With all this fascination came also immediately the fear of not being able to live up to the challenge. This fear accompanied me during the first times that I performed it, but as I performed it more often it softened and became a more friendly stimulus. The fact that I often taught parts of the material in workshops helped me a lot to understand it more deeply.’
Edward Lloyd, still part of the ICK ensemble, is the last dancer to have performed the piece (up to now): ‘The period in which I performed TWO was one of great introspection. I discovered quite early in the process that I needed to develop a personal relationship to the piece in order to express its original intention. I felt it necessary to immerse myself in the language of EG | PC so I could meet their intention with my own motivations and my own desires. To not only execute their ideas, but meet their ideas and therefore embody their ideas.’
It was remarkable how they spoke with so much love and dedication about the piece, while also acknowledging its high demands.
Suzan: ‘TWO is the most challenging piece that I had the chance to perform so far. There is no strategy to make it easier, no escape from its superhuman speed. Dance naturally requires a sacrifice from the dancer, in different ways in different artistic expressions. TWO demands a very specific kind of sacrifice, rock steady endurance, complete mastery of the body in extremely fast motion. It requires being able to navigate between the extremes of every detail, a sense of supreme suspense and mastery of the body with a speed that lies beyond what we think that the body is able to achieve. The body can fly through the space (as one with the other) when it is almost being pulled – by some imaginative but real force – through a pre-destined path from beyond space and time that is remembered again by the skin that had marked this path already beforehand. It requires the ability to multiply one’s sense of self and the body in motion of the other.’
Edward: ‘The intense work required to perform the piece, both physically and mentally, demands of you to keep searching for an intention, a perspective, and an awareness of what you are creating on stage. Over time this shifts and transforms, and I found that I needed to continuously refresh my relationship to the piece so it could become more than a repetition of what happened before.’
Vincent: ‘Suzan and I had the chance to premiere and perform it together for two weeks in Sydney, and to experience the evolution of our relation with it and with each other in this continuum of time. I experienced – even in my flesh – that there is no such thing as certainty in this piece, because everything that is at play is sharp and fragile. The moment you are performing it, you have the responsibility to allow the beauty of the piece to exist by your action and to create this existence. You have no choice but to offer yourself fully – body, mind and soul, both to the piece and to the one you partner with. By doing it I experienced that this offering is also an immense source of joy and trust. I can say it is a spiritual experience and this reality exists also because you share it with your partner, and with the audiences.’
Barbara: ‘You need to absolutely believe in the piece and in your own capacity to live up to it. This requires dedication to the work, a surrendering to the movement and trust in your partner.’
A timeless piece of art
This brings me to the last question: Why is this piece still relevant to (and loved by) audiences today?
Barbara: ‘Every good piece of art is timeless. And I dare say TWO is a masterpiece. But if you want to be more analytical… one could say that it is because it addresses very abstract and timeless ideas, it is about two bodies in search of synchronicity, it is about the curiosity of the body discovering the space around it. It is also totally gender neutral, the relationship between the two dancers is extremely abstract. Furthermore, it is a virtuoso piece, it’s short and compact and it has an ingenious dramaturgical build-up which carries the audience through to an ending which is even more ingenious.‘
Suzan: ‘The relevance also lies in that the language of the movement can be read both on a personal and on an abstract level. Personal, by regarding the movement in terms of clearly recognizable movement intentions and abstract, by looking at the movement in terms of lines, curves, spirals and sheer speed.’
Edward: ‘In my view, what makes TWO so timeless and still critically relevant today is its simplicity. Of course, the movement is incredibly rich and complex, but the essence of the piece lies in how the performers deal with themselves and each other; how, with exhausted bodies, the pursuit of speed and precision of movement reveals something in the characters of those performing it. TWO demands a certain consciousness and concentration from both the performers and the audience that can only be experienced in the present moment. I think it’s interesting to see how this energy is manifested through the bodies of new performers every time the piece is re-staged.’
For Barbara and Suzan, who are both still working for ICK (as Coordinator of the academy and researcher) it is clear that is early piece by Greco and Scholten condenses the essence of their work.
Barbara: ‘For me it has all the ingredients which are part of their work and which you can find in different proportions and amounts in their other creations. In TWO they are presented in a purer and more naked form, which funny enough doesn’t make the piece more simple but just more authentic.’
And Suzan agrees: ‘From the perspective of a dancer, it is a kind of initiation into Emio Greco|PC repertoire. A threshold to be passed before being able to proceed further. In terms of the evolution of the work of Emio and Pieter, it was the first time that Emio transmitted his way to another dancer: Bertha. All ingredients that will have been developed from then onwards are there, condensed, intensified, amplified.’
Also in the sense of archiving and the perseverance of dance history, it is relevant to keep a piece like TWO alive. To let it enter in dialogue with a younger generation of dancers, who keep its essence but gives it a new individual energy and meaning to it. Give visibility to the development of an oeuvre and build a contemporary dance repertoire.
Drops of sweat glide down my forehead to the tip of my nose.
Our two bodies vibrate with a palpable energy
as the voice of Nina Simone billows through the hall
This is not the full list of dancers that have performed it, this also include Victor Callens, Neda Hadji-Mizraei, Helena Volkov, Arnaud Macquet, Quentin Dehaye, amongst others.
_Two _has been performed in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Israel, United Kingdom, Switzerland, South-Africa, USA, Korea, Hong Kong, Finland, Czech Republic, Greece, Austria, China, Australia, Lebanon, and Turkey