Dark Matters: Tania Carvalho at Festival Transameriques

“From me I can’t escape, have patience!”

Bomba Suicida (Lisbon) at Festival Transameriques

Choreography and music by Tania Carvalho

Performed by Tania Carvalho, Marlene Freitas, Luis Guerra, Maria Joao Rodrigues, Richardo Vidal

Theatre Prospero, Montreal, June 8-10, 2010


Reviewed by Beverley Daurio, <evidanceradio.com>


Expressionism, an artistic movement that traces its origins to 1905 Germany, could be considered the morose, subjective sibling of impressionism. Dark, often delving deeply into the less healthy and more peculiar elements of the human psyche, in theatre and dance expressionism informs presentation that eschews the pretty and the light. It does not seek to make rational sense, but rather to command, elicit and elaborate raw and powerful emotional reaction in its audience.

Tania Carvalho’s highly wrought version of expressionism as presented in “From me I can’t escape, have patience!” is purity wrapped in wildness. The piece’s precise black magic speaks of her wide international experience as a choreographer, composer, performer and musician.

Out of the simple darkness of a black stage—the Unconscious, perhaps?—appear a grand piano with focused, attentive pianist, to the left, and a rectangle of light—canvas for her waking dreams?—to the right. The four dancers appear one by one, apparitions of a moving nightmare or daydream, and begin in separated positional spaces, so distorted that this could be called anti-ballet.

Tania Carvalho

Inspired by a poem by Patricia Caldeira, “From me I can’t escape” is replete with lyrical ambiguities. The performers are all costumed in black, as if belonging together as part of the same surrealist impulse, yet they work within the rectangle of light in rigid isolation. The movement is by turns elegant and awkward, with twisted, then elongated limbs, quick takes from the circus, from vaudeville, from a world of contortionists. One woman performer’s hair is piled 18 inches high on her head; one of the male dancer’s faces is painted black and white, not quite a harlequin, not quite a clown. Visually arresting, like life-sized Rorschach images, the pictures conjured by Carvalho with her dancers maintain a scary ambiguity and interpretability—almost daring the audience to courage and empathy, to become involved.

The music is played live by Carvalho on the grand piano with fervour, emotional intensity and occasional frenzy. Ranging from agitation to minimalist calm, the score combines original composition with complex samplings from recognizable music. Snippets from the classical canon shine through, then subside into delicate avant-garde, anti-melodic, reconnoiterings. The music also supplies the piece’s shape, returning four times with the dancers to beginning position through the piece, thoughtfully, as if here is a chance to try exploring again, perhaps this time in a different emotional country.

The dancers are tugged and jerked about by the music, perhaps even conjured by or dependent on it for their very existence. The dancers move sometimes with the music, sometimes like nasty puppets under Carvalho’s fingers’ direct control, at times seeming to resent it, struggling. At one point a dancer dares to venture outside the lighted square toward the piano, and the two interact, inside the sound. The piece progresses with a beautiful, dangerous precision that always feels fresh, creating a sense of both ugly beauty and transcendent hope.


The radical nature of Carvalho’s project is clear from her company name—Bomba Suicida—and program notes: the artist, she says, lives like a terrorist. Except that the bombs are constructive, exploding with what she has called the “candy” of ideas; in tune with her intentions, this is a deeply memorable and affecting show. 


Reviewed by Beverley Daurio, <evidanceradio.com>