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Home » ART[icle]S, Independence Issue

Independence Issue: Traces, a Story of New Life, Both On and Off the Stage

Submitted by on February 2, 2011 – 10:00 amNo Comment

A Traces dancer.

“Traces is an investigation of the spaces that lie in the interstices of the modern world. In three poetic pictures the dancers are reclaiming a space to exist, struggling to leave traces in the nothingness that surrounds them.”

Traces, an expressionistic approach to the human experience, from birth to death, took up the battle against the “official theatre world” of the West end by performing at a dance school in Greenwich, London.

Shown at the Bonnie Bird Theatre, Traces featured three dancers – Sarah Armstrong (German), Wei-Shan Lai (Chinese), Elisabeth Schilling (Danish) – each with their own culturally inspired music track.

Relying heavily on the music, lighting and props to create the atmosphere, the entire experience however lay on the dancers’ shoulders. With the expressionistic style being the red thread, the dancers had no help from a plot or dialogue to make the audience understand what was happening on the stage.

One particularly moving scene featured each dancer improvising while a voice spoke in their respective language, German, Danish or Chinese, telling a nonsense story. This created a completely different experience for each member of the audience depending on how many, if any, of the stories they could understand.

While the show has no apparent plot, just a moving set of scenery to indicate the passage of time, after seeing it you still feel as though a story has been told. An explosive start indicating birth, a careful introduction of the dancers for childhood, improvisation for adulthood and a darkening and slowing down at the end, symbolising old age.

Wanting to bring back the expressionistic style of theatre to the big public, Christina Andersen decided to find venues with no artistic restrictions and start her way from the bottom up. She believes that the theatre world has become too mainstream, with a focus on only either the classics (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables) or purely commercial success (The Lion King, We Will Rock You.) This has blocked out all chances for new and alternative styles to grow and glow.

To combat this, she used every performance as a chance to advertise her new concept to both the public and the movers and shakers in the industry. By lowering prices and advertising in local media she drew in an audience from all over London, to test how to combat the high prices, that is often cited as slowly killing theatre when cheaper alternatives such as cinema are available. She also jokingly added that she almost felt more like a PR agent than an artist “after having to organise and send out so many invitations to theatre directors and critics.”

While the long term future of her experiment is still to be seen, Christina was very optimistic after the first handful of shows. Her pricing tactic drew in record numbers for an underground performance and she had three more shows organised by interested directors and theatre owners. “We’re moving on completely new ground here, while small theatres have used these ideas before no one has tried this method with just a performance on a fluid basis. The first attempt went well, but if we can continue the lucky streak, who knows?”

Choreography: Christina Brøndsholm Andersen in cooperation with the dancers
Dancers: Sarah Armstrong, Wei-Shan Lai, Elisabeth Schilling
Composer: Bo Riemer
Set and Costume Design: Vicki Stevenson
Lighting Design: Gregor Knüppel

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