The Baryshnikov Arts Center always has a variety of interesting, educational, and innovative projects. The Center is based in New York City; however, it has offered online projects that truly put the facility on the map as a source for dance. A recent film project and world premier by renown Swedish choreographer Mats Ek is a must see. At 76 years old, he demonstrates that age is just a number, and it doesn’t dictate over your artistic freedom of expression. Mr. Ek choreographs and dances the first selection called Medans in Swedish and in English Whilst (2020). Ms. Ana Laguna, originally from Spain, films his work but trades places with Mr. Ek to perform the second piece titled Mitt Brev in Swedish and in English My Letter (2021). The two solos, inspired during the pandemic, showcased a resourceful manifestation of emotion that echoed throughout their body and spirit.
The pandemic hit everyone around the world. The ramifications consumed all ages and all ways of life. Shutdowns happened everywhere, and many went into seclusion. An artist like Mats Ek took the silence and felt the need to hear, move and feel. In the filmed movement of Whilst he is isolated in his country home. The room is undecorated, wiped of any pictures or living furniture. The table could be there but maybe not in his mindful existence. There is only one chair, a small tidy kitchen to one side and three closed doors, reflecting Ek’s frame of mind. Empty, cold, void of human or electronic interaction. It is presently difficult to imagine a solitude void of the internet, phone, television – or is it? Mats Ek takes us on an exploration of the mind in almost its own captivity. You see moments of looking for purpose and possibly finding it at the end. Sometimes we hold ourselves captive only to conclude that if we looked somewhere else, we might see things differently. Mr. Ek’s activities are sometimes silly, a variant of dance skill and fun arrangements used with the camera and the chair. He is purposeful in nature and exudes a nice frame of masculine strength. He has a wonderful juxtaposition of sharp, smooth, and angular rhythms. He chose for his music classical composer Franz Liszt and the recording is of La Gondole Lugubre ll, S200 by French pianist Yvonne Lefébure. The camera direction is congruent and accentuates the movement, filmed by Anna Laguna and edited by Moment 22. One lovely moment takes place when the camera reveals an empty hallway and the other side is presented, frosted windows that you can’t see through. A relevant and moving visual choice.
Then we turn the camera around, a year later, in My Letter, to reveal Anna Laguna. She is moving alone. Created and filmed by Mats Ek, and edited by Moment 22, this piece is passionate in nature and Ms. Laguna expresses her emotions to their final degree. Her reaction/response is deep, dark, impassioned, alarmed and sensual. What an unconventional tribute to women’s sexuality at any age. Ms. Laguna, at age 67, is powerfully mighty and consumed with opening and reading a letter. Mr. Ek lets the audience decide about the letter. We only see her thoughts and actions where we can perhaps conclude about its message. A few progressive surprises are thrown into this piece and the props are effectively used to their full capacities. Both choreographies shown begin in silence prior to the music beginning. Mats Ek picked for Anna’s dance, fervent composer J.S. Bach, played by musician Mstislav Rostropovich of 6 Suites For Cello BWV1007- 12, Suite No. 1 In G Major, Sarabande (Sonatas). An innovative interpretation of movements to this music, which Ms. Laguna danced with precision and passion.
This showcase represents a need or desire for personal connection with something other than oneself. You can see the velocity of their work and strength of character that only a seasoned performer and professional dancer can display. One could easily see these staged for an on-stage performance. An avant-garde work and yet so relevant to societal traumas. One could even see that this enactment surfaced into what is going on today with suicide and emotional health during the pandemic. Music for both performances are courtesy of Solstice Records and are conjoined with an interview by Jann Parry, inventor Mats Ek and dancer/muse Anna Laguna. Mr. Ek’s interview brings about how, “Classical ballet and music, opened the box for his contemporary work.” He also mentions, “That his process and the choice to use the fact that his capacity might be diminished in one way brought about movement that is appropriated.” You can’t help but notice their age but when you look back at the pieces, they could have been danced by anyone of any age. Beautifully filmed and choreographed Mats Ek describes his undertaking as, “Shaped language.” A true inspiration that shows that dance is timeless and ageless. You can see these short, superb performances for a limited time at The Baryshnikov Arts Center website at: https://digital.bacnyc.org/mats-ek-ana-laguna.
To visit the Baryshnikov Arts Center website, click HERE.
Written by Alice Alyse for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Ana Laguna in Mats Elk’s film Mitt Brev (My Letter) – Photo courtesy of The Baryshnikov Arts Center