an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:


This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on October 16, 2006.

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) — Intimate is the word for Slovenia- based Betontanc’s “Wrestling Dostoyevsky,” at the Danspace Project Thursday through Saturday. The audience is seated just inches from the performers on all four sides, breathing the same few cubic feet of air.

That air fills with tense, raw emotion in the chamber-scaled troupe’s “physical theater” take on the Russian novelist’s “Crime and Punishment.”

The performers speak, loudly and largely unhappily. They move, making gestures that are sometimes abstract, sometimes abrasively readable. Gradually, they work themselves into a frenzy.

The atmosphere heats up through some deftly choreographed violence, including, in chronological order, attempted murder, epileptic seizure, sadistic training in gymnastics, rough sex, and lurid hallucination.

The performers also interact directly — and ironically — with the spectators, begging, hat in hand, and offering plates of cookies.

The troupe, founded in 1990 by the theater director Matjaz Pograjc, is, like most revolutionary art-world enterprises, “trying to make it real.” Translated into English, its name means Concrete Dance.

So out go received ideas about performance as well as stagy tactics that try to pull the wool over your eyes. This is nothing new in dance. Consider such radicals as Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Merce Cunningham. Betontanc simply assumes the iconoclastic job needs doing again.

Betontanc performs at the Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church, 131 E. 10 St. at Second Avenue, Oct. 19 through 21. Tickets: (1)(212) 674-8194. Information:

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

an ArtsJournal blog