FOLK-S – Ein Schuhplattler, der nicht aufhört

Auch hier kennt man ihn noch, den Tanz aus dem östlichen Alpenraum, der auf dem Schlagen auf Oberschenkel und Schuhe zu Landlermusik beruht. Sergio Lo Gatto beschreibt, wie sich Alessandro Sciarroni der Tradition des Schuhplattlers annimmt und zeitgenössische Tänzer*innen an ihre Grenzen stoßen lässt.

The still or moving image is always the starting point for Sciarroni’s work; he remains an actor, loves performance art and draws inspiration from photography and literature. In the case of Folk-s, he took a short by Sam Taylor-Wood portraying the American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, framed in the sacred whiteness of a bourgeois interior, wearing traditional Trolean costume. Short breeches, thick, woollen knee socks and a comfortable, relaxed pose, detached and earnest, centred in his potential estrangement. „I felt that this image could have a powerful impact on the present day“, the Italian artist then explained, for which one of the keys, capable of opening wide the spectator’s perception, yet without relying on prefabricated categories, is the courage to place sensible elements in contexts where they do not belong, shattering expectations and preconceived shapes within a radical redefinition of codes. This happens because the reaction of this artist to images and suggestions is a kind of surrender, a removal plot that evades a completely rational elaboration, and instead happens as a gradual response to a request, to an obsession.

In Folk-s, a group of six performers gathered in a circle undertake an absolutely philological performance of a pattern (and its variations) of the Schuhplattler Tanz, an exhausting Tyrolean traditional dance based on striking the body and the shoes with the hands. The dance produced rhythmic, rigorous and aggressive sounds, welcoming the audience as they take their seats, as well as emphasising by its ingenuous performance the age of the tradition and its faraway origins. Going well beyond minimal spectacle and durational performance, Sciarroni invents a third way: not a „challenge to the spectator, nor a simple study on how to wear out the body“, but a radical argument around the concept of vision, incarnate in high-level, physical work that, in a symbolic and allegorical way, stages the passing of a tradition and its opportunity to endure longer, and even indefinitely (hence the question Will you still love me tomorrow?) simply through visual suggestion and the complete participation in what becomes here, to all intents and purposes, an experience. Within the boundaries of those arts sitting entirely within the codes, stage and stalls are comfortably in place in their own roles, complicit in a common jouney to formal perfection, while still running the risk of attenuating a possible, and perhaps necessary critical vertigo between art and those enjoying it. In this case, the code is instead programmed to explode into a thousand splinters of creativity: „I am setting out to resolve an enigma, asserts Sciarroni, from creation to presentation to the audience, in which I am trying to make this same desire for a solution resonate. And the search continues on the stage, with the spectators.“ No argument is therefore tackled in theory, but instead is carried onto the stage just as it is, triggering the explosion of its meaning directly before the gaze of the observer, a kind of „all-seeing narrator“ to use the term John W. Graham gave to the first-person narrator of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, chosen as the element that completes the creative process.

In this kind of „fairy circle“, in which the movement actually never stops, but only follows the circle of variations, drawing the spectator into a game of which the rules are readily explained, the perfection of the patterns and their aesthetic potential successfully symbolise, in translation, the slow and inexorable exhaustion of emotional roots, that would make a carnal experience like a traditional dance (dense with almost tribal symbols in what is for us a non-exotic reality) into a sharp cultural tool, a moment of real sharing. And thus a completely human event.

The narrative process enabled by Folk-s acts directly on the sharing process. The group of dancers respects a strict, but in some way liberating religion of silence, whose dictates do not consist of fixed dogma, but are collected rules of movement used as an open structure, an experimental module in which space and time become permeable dimensions, through the carhartic action of a powerful relationship. In a strict semantic device, the looped repeats of the steps make a purely rhythmic element and dislocate the joints of time and space, moving towards another, unconventional dimension.

The interaction of the dancers – joined by a single, steady and attentive focus in which muscles and sweat restore the procedure itself from the physical event – is rendered complex and multi-layered by the addition of music played by the performers themselves, signals from an outside world pulsing and evolving meanwhile, together forming reactive agents: at the sound of the footsteps – handled by Pablo Esbert Lilienfeld mixing original pieces and repertoire, but also open to a random selection – the circle opens and closes like a huge animal, breathing deeply and uneasily. And it is in these breaths that the spectator’s participation happens, never carried onto the stage, but involved in a kind of ritual, hypnotic journey, an empathic process not normally known for such strict ways of moving.


Sergio Lo Gatto

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