When everything was still one big question mark, how we live together, what we consider normal, Emio Greco | Pieter C. Scholten started creating Blasphemy Rhapsody. With Blasphemy, the choreographers search for the space that is created when you let fixed values falter, when certainties are shifting. The theme of the performance got outrun by the current events. This interview was conducted in April, when we didn’t even know when theatres would reopen. Meanwhile, the premiere of Blasphemy is scheduled for October 14 at Internationaal Theater Amsterdam.
Blasphemy literally means ‘smearing the gods’. Which ‘god’ do you turn against?
Emio Greco (EG): We don’t so much address one god as the whole idea that there is a hierarchy, gods above people, people above animals and nature, including all possible doctrines that go with it. We seek, rücksichtslos, ‘the higher’ and with that we want to let the inviolability of the Divine waver. Either, we worship and blaspheme at the same time, resulting in a kaleidoscope of sentiments. It’s a continuous flirtation.
Pieter C. Scholten (PS): The moment you take something or someone down, you also confirm its value. We play with that irony. You need both. When man begins to imagine himself to be more and more God, through scientific progress or a feeling of superiority, that duality disappears.
EG: Blasphemy is ‘questioning’. Claiming that the earth is round was once blasphemic. The Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake because he proclaimed that stars are a kind of suns around which planets orbit. And look where we are now with our views on the world… Nothing is certain and rock-solid certainties can dance.
PS: In our work we look for the clash or a constructive friction. Where two worlds collide, fire, energy is created. Between brain and movement, between sacred and profane, mass and individual, these kinds of paradoxes are the engine of our work.
Where can this form of Blasphemy lead? What do you put in its place?
EG: Space. The ability to rethink and reframe something. A new way of taking the measure of things.
PS: Space can also prevent numbness in people. We are sometimes lived by the constant and relentless flow of media and news. Especially in times of crisis. That dullens because it fills all the emptiness needed to think for oneself. With Blasphemy we want to give space to emptiness.
In that sense, is the performance also idealistic?
PS: we do ask ourselves the question, how can we guarantee this space in the long term? Therein lies an ideal. This applies not only to the performance, but to ICK’s entire operation. In the plans for the next four years we have put the motive: rücksichtslos idealism at the centre. Reckless in the sense of daring, idealism from a drift, a necessity, from the intuition of the body. This motif is not only important to us, but we also make it discussable with the young makers from the ICK – Artist Space whom we support in their development. What is their drift? How can they make certainties move from their artistic necessity? And at the ICK Academy we are conducting research into the intuitive body. Everything intertwines and strengthens each other.
EG: We capture the rücksichtslos idealism in the figure of Quichot. He (but it might as well be a she) takes us by the hand and lets us ask the question: which windmills do we want to fight? Quichot creates space and at the same time another reality to believe in.
In 2001, philosopher Antoon van den Braembussche already wrote about Extra Dry: ‘This vision of a transcendent world, where the tension between the profane and the sacred is becoming increasingly acute, underlies Extra Dry’. Why this enduring fascination with the sacred versus the profane?
EG: Extra Dry is the third part of the trilogy Fra Cervello e Movimento, of which the first two parts (Bianco and Rosso) are solos. In Extra Dry a second dancer is added. Yet we did not see this as a duet, but as a solo for two. This is strongly linked to the idea of profane versus sacred. On the one hand the dancers searched in their movement for stability, anchoring with the earth and on the other hand for a way to transcend one’s own body to a physical and spiritual encounter with the other. This way of synchronizing with each other has always played a role in the work. We are firmly convinced that the sacred lies in the body itself. We are profane beings and at the same time the sacred is contained in the mysterious workings and beauty of the body.
PS: In our dance language we often speak of ‘not knowing’ as the most important factor. In the moment of not knowing, everything falls silent for a moment. Herein lies the ultimate holiness in which the body surrenders itself to the moment. In addition, the sacred is also in the inner structure of the work. The ritualistic aspect manifests itself through repetition and surrender.
In Blasphemy you draw inspiration from both the Charleston and the Pizicca. Why these very specific dance movements?
PS: We like to lock other ‘familiar’ styles into our performances, if only to cause a clash. For us, The Charleston is a ‘Back to the future’; the 1920’s as a prelude to a renewed energy in the dance of a century later. The same ‘feet off the floor’ drift we see in the Pizicca that eventually turns into ecstasy.
EG: The perseverance in both dances intrigues us. The dislocated limbs, the submission to the rhythm, the joy and the drama. The Charleston has something of controlled wildness. You surrender – and at the same time you construct the rhythm. The Pizzica is a dance from my native region, Puglia. Pizzica means spider bite. When someone was bitten, he had to get rid of the poison as quickly as possible by dancing wildly. It’s still danced a lot at the village festivals during the summer. The dance is a liberation from death and is so closely related to the theme of Blasphemy Rhapsody.
Is there an idea already for music?
PS: We are inspired by Le Sacre du printems by Stravinsky. But it will not be heard in its entirety. This time it is mainly the theme of the piece that moves us. The ritual, the sacred combined with Nijinsky’s earthly choreography. The premiere caused quite a stir in 1913. Blasphemy!
EG: We combine Pop songs, folk, rap and banda (southern Italian fanfares) for the time being…
The creative process was drastically disrupted by current events. How did you and the dancers experience this?
EG: we dealt with it very pragmatically and adapted to the conditions. The dancers thought about the themes from home and, based on our input, created solos that were undoubtedly influenced by the small spaces in which they found themselves. Pieter and I had to work from a feeling of absence. We didn’t have the dancers with us in the studio. With those absent, immaterial bodies, we had to create something. It forces you to constantly assume. If… then this… It’s a new, challenging way of working and redefining our relationship to the moving body. Same for the dancers. They were taken out of their comfort zone and left more to themselves. In that sense you could even say that they were more involved in the concretion of a production than during other creative processes.
PC: The hardest thing is to ‘live in the now’ because nobody knows how long the situation will last. That causes unrest. On the contrary, we want to start from the mobility of life in every circumstance. There is no such thing as ‘on hold’. It is precisely this ‘not knowing’ that offers opportunities and creates space. The constant act of ‘assuming’ what Emio is talking about, is about creating something, redesigning space. In that sense it also fits in with the work we make. We like to pretend that this is the working method we have chosen for Blasphemy.