Death is one thing that cannot be experienced. It is an irreversible event from which one doesn’t come back. With the person gone, the possibility of experience vanishes with it.
To this philosophical statement, in her new performance, polish choreographer and performer Renata Piotrowska, with a distance and humor, opposes the experience of theatre, understood by the theorist Peggy Phelan as the place in which society “rehearses for loss, and especially for death.”
Piotrowska’s solo embodies this rehearsal quite literally. As she attempts to stage the encounter with death, she goes through different scenarios making up a performative diptych that travels through centuries of (in)experience with death while she draws on its artistic, cultural and social representations.
Based on the observations that the contemporary body aspires to defy dying more then ever, and that the omnipresence of death in the media is conversed by its evacuation from our everyday lives, she turns to some historical hallmarks associated with the issues of death and dying, such as dance macabre, ritualistic repetition, personification, violence, exhaustion, gore or eroticism.
Choreographing it as an elusive partner through its many faces, Piotrowska is trying to track our understanding, or lack thereof of death today.
Concept, choreography: Renata Piotrowska
Performance: Renata Piotrowska
Dramaturgy: Bojana Bauer
Lights: Ewa Garniec and Joanna Leśnierowska
Production: Burdąg Foundation
Partners: Centrum w Ruchu (Warsaw), CSW – Contemporary Art Castle in Warsaw /Pologne, La Briquetrie in Val de Marne (Paris), CND Pantin (Paris), STSpot Theatre (Yokohama), Soho Theatre (Warsaw), Art Stations Foundation (Poznań)
Photo: Marta Ankiersztejn
Fragment from a review O Death, where is thy spring? by Sanjoy Roy from „The Guardian” (Spring Forward, Aarhus, April 2017):
Piotrowska-Auffret’s solo had me hooked because I had never seen a dance link death and the female body like this before. (…)
In her danse macabre, Piotrowska-Auffret is neither dying maiden nor femme fatale. (Of course, she does not use the ballet idiom, which helps.) She is more like the Grim Reaper, a figure usually personified, implicitly or explicitly, as male. The female body on the other hand, and for obvious reasons, is commonly use to symbolise birth, not death. By playing the Grim Reaper, Piotrowska-Auffret can override the usual dualities to embody her fundamental idea: that life and death are inseparable. We all have dem dry bones, she seems to say, and dancing makes us feel their rattle. Read more
Fragment from a review by Stefan Drajewski in daily journal „Głos Wielkopolski” (June 2015):
Excellent concept of Renata Piotrowska and estonishing interpretation of Ula Zerek do not let us to forget that danse macabre is not only esthetico-philosophical category from the past.
Fragment from a review Necromantism by Mateusz Szymanówka on Dwutygodnik.com (October 2014):
In Piotrowska’s work mortality is a permanent feature of choreography, which, being a practice that organises matter in time and space, produces images and bodies that are in the star of constant decay. Read more