It’s really simple
As I went out into the driving snow on Friday evening to attend the performance of Scores that shaped our friendship, created by and featuring Lucy Wilke, Paweł Duduś and Kim Twiddle, I said to myself: “You’ll now have to walk through the cold for half an hour, then you’ll be rewarded with a special kind of warmth. A warmth that will slip inside you within the first few minutes, slowly spread in your belly and stay there for a while.” How did I know that? I’ve had the good fortune to have already seen this piece before: in Italy in the summer, at the Santarcangelo Festival, during an almost unbearable heat wave. As a dramaturge in festival mode, you see three to five performances a day. I like this state because it silences the critic inside of you and makes you open and malleable. You judge less; the impressions enter the body directly, without giving you time to subject them to the professional pros and cons. In a way, what you remember and what you don’t remember sorts itself out by itself. What touches you touches you immediately, and what leaves you cold you leave behind. That sounds kind of brutal and it probably is.
Of the many pieces I saw at the festival, Scores that shaped our friendship was one of those that were exceptionally memorable. It touched me instantly and opened up a form of intimacy that was never uncomfortable, constructed or intrusive, but simply warm and beautiful. I realise that “simply warm and beautiful” doesn’t sound particularly dramaturgical, but as harmless as these adjectives may seem at first glance, they are well and truly charged on this expertly composed evening. The world, which isn’t especially warm and beautiful, is never discounted as a foil, so each gesture and each glance becomes a radical strategy to set something beautiful against the ugliness, to counter indifference with empathy and cruelty with tenderness. In seven “chapters” choreographers Lucy Wilke and Paweł Duduś examine togetherness to live music by Kim Twiddle in a – please excuse the term – cuddly cushion landscape. The fact that Lucy and Paweł are well-versed in the language of bodies isn’t just evident at the beginning, we also experience it through our own physical presence in the sixty minutes that follow.
The chapter headings reveal certain directions of search. They outline some of the themes and hint at the evening’s special brand of humour and its subtle irony:
- My body
- Survival of the fittest
- I recall
- Stretching time, testing your patience
- A tribute to Tinder
- It’s really simple
- The house over there
Lucy Wilke is a performer, director, writer and, together with her mother, a musician in the wonderful band blind & lame. She was born with spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair to move around. She does without it in the first part of the evening, however, because she and her partner, Paweł Duduś, who refers to himself as queer-nonbinary-migrant-feminist-ally, are sitting on one of the mats on the stage floor. Lucy’s body is moved by Pawel’s body, and yet almost all of Lucy’s movements seem to originate from her, it is she who initiates most of the movements – through looks, words, sounds.
The physical intimacy between Lucy and Paweł, the unaggressive way in which they communicate with each other, the playful ease with which they implement something they have agreed upon and respond to the other body, touching it, listening to it, combine to create a language in its own right. A language beyond heteronormative mechanisms of body alignment and power. In this kind of physical togetherness lies a great freedom, a conscious decision to be different from what we all have become with our commodified bodies that can be optimised and controlled but are no longer used to explore by touch and through feeling a world that nobody understands anymore anyway.
Later, when Lucy sits in a wheelchair, Paweł gives almost inaudible instructions (in German) such as “the elbow thing”, “the hand on the joystick”. Surprisingly, this never sounds like a command – a rare feat, especially in the German language. When Paweł moves Lucy’s legs and arms, it never seems patronising, and when Paweł puts his head back, there’s no need for him to check first because Lucy is there to hold him.
In this posture – his head on Lucy’s lap – he asks her:
“Lucy, what are you doing?”
– “I hold you and feel your warmth. And what are you doing?”
– “I’m relaxing into you.”
Sara Abbasi works as a dramaturge for Performing Arts at the Ruhrtriennale.