Leggi la Recensione Dancers of the North: The Picture of Dorian Gray – Χορευτες του Βορρα: Το Πορτρετο του Ντοριαν Γκρει
For three days only, the Dancers of the North present their new production to Thessaloniki’s audience, retelling the well-known tale of Dorian Gray in a new, affected guise that does not do justice to Oscar Wilde’s acute analyses of a Victorian society that still resembles our own despite this monster we call Progress.
On 21 May 1961, Italian artist Piero Manzoni sealed 90 tin cans with a label stating:
Contents 30 gr net
Produced and tinned
in May 1961
His artwork – interpreted as both a neodadaist work and a Nouveau Réalisme manifesto – was meant as a harsh critique to the mechanisms and contradictions of the contemporary art’s system, in which any product was (and still is) labelled as art not for its inherent value, for the capacity of the artist or for the emotions that it begets, but only for the artist’s fame. Indeed, as long as something is numbered, authentic and exclusively produced by an established artist, then it must be art, even if it’s just a tin filled with faeces. As the years passed, the system did everything but change, leading to a contemporary acceptance of art for art’s sake, of performances, actions, plays, happenings and choreographies aimed at nothing but the onanistic satisfaction of both artists and audiences.
And here the Picture of Dorian Gray by dance company Dancers of the North comes into play. As Oscar Wilde himself says – through the mouth of character Lord Henry Wotton – hinting at the duplicity of Victorian society, where lower and higher classes were divided not only by the salary but also by entertainment, «crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders. […] I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations». If then it was the self-indulgent hedonism of a decadent aristocracy to be brought to the fore, now, Tatiana Papadopoulou’s artistic direction suggests (not at all subtly) that the obsession with appearances is not a prerogative of the higher classes anymore (as it never were). Indeed, «the whole world has a mobile telephone in hand, everyone taking their own picture. The selfie generation that needs acceptance through social media, that constantly exhibits itself, looks upon Dorian’s picture with embarrassment. Am I the reflection? The Dancers of the North, without emoticons and illusionary pixels, dance the dark story of addiction to the image of the Self».
If, on the one hand, it is true that narcissism, amorality and libertinage are the pillars of our times, on the other hand, Wilde’s novel cannot be reduced to a mere lackadaisical display of soul corruption due to the debauched pleasure of the flesh. Sure enough, turning Dorian Gray into a woman, switching the painting for a photography and shredding all sorts of Victorian excesses from the already bare scene could have been an interesting interpretation of Wilde’s work, if only the body of the dancers had been actually communicative, if they had actually staged a choreography instead of indulging on a set of routinary movements that fell silently in the void between audience and artists. It is the utter simplicity of this play – and not the pallid display of violence that caused the disclaimer «audience members must be over the age of 15» – what truly shocks and makes one wonder about Thessaloniki’s state of the Art. Simple associations (corruption is a cigarette and a red light, love is literally entangled in a black net), simple scenes (lights off/on, creaking equipment, superfluous and non-functional music) and simple explanations (or lack thereof, since no original thought is presented on a social issue that needs a much deeper analysis than a portrait that does not change that much, despite all of its atrocities) blatantly miss the “target” set forth by the director’s note (no question mark is raised throughout the whole play, neither on identity nor on morality), presenting a tin can as empty as Marconi’s, but without any of its conceptual value.
The Dancers of the North present
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Το Πορτρέτο του Ντόριαν Γκρέϊ
by Oscar Wilde
artistic director Tatiana Papadopoulou
team leader Areti Koutsikopoulou
choreography Tatiana Papadopoulou, Alexandros Stavropoulos, in cooperation with the dancers
music composer and supervisor Antonis Soussamoglou
dramatist Katerina Diakoumopoulou
video artist Mario Ermitikos
set and costume designer Athanasios Kolalas
dancers Dimitra Vlachou, Galini Gyrtatou, Michalis Kiembardis, Dimitrios Margaritis, Ilias Bageorgos, Despina Lagoudaki, Alexandros Stavropoulos