Dance art facing land
Tiit Tuumalu

Nicolas Philibert, one of the most successful documentary film makers in the world, for us familiar as author of the film “Etre et avoir”, told recently in Pärnu, that he never does a film about something, but always with something.

There is a principal difference. First one closes, second one opens oneself to the subject. Figuratively speaking: if one is cooping the subject up in the cage, then the other one is letting himself to be cooped up. The result is accordingly illustration or poetry.

Unquestionably Philibert is a poet. Also German dance maker Thomas Lehmen is a poet, but differently - he is a poet-scholar. Despite the fact that he is curiously observing life and letting the life to form him he never looses his sober mind. Behind the sharp and direct perception you can always have a hunch of theoretical backstairs, why and for what.

Indefinite like poetry, punctual as mathematic, such is the dance of Thomas Lehmen.

At the festival “Stuudiotants” on Saturday in Märjamaa culture house we could see, how to make dance with something. Namely in this night was presented Lehmen’s work-in-progress “Funktionen”. At the moment he is preparing his new work with Estonian (Krõõt Juurak, Mart Kangro), German, Japanese and Hollander dance artists in village Kuusiku close to Rapla.

As the title says, the basis of “Funktionen” consists of different functions, stepping in at the moment the person starts to relate him/herself with surrounding. How much is being left over from our selves, how much are we taking over from others? Such dilemmas are flowing through dancers’ bodies mirroring every ones personal experiences.

It’s astonishing how much of documentary artist Lehmen is. He is not so much appreciating dancer’s physical potentiality as his/her personality and culture layers accumulated through time in his/her body. There is no special stylization in “Funktionen”, there is nobody dancing technique or combinations on stage, performance is forming of common, everyday movements, rituals and clichés, the dancers’ own or humankind collective ownership.

Such a thing could become boring. But it doesn’t. Etudes performed on stage are genuine and humorous. The old trick of taking a thing out of its real context and putting it into new one is working perfectly. Evidently dancers are enjoying their performing.

And most important, “Funktionen” does not claim to have the one and only truth. It’s asking certain questions, but not closing our “gates of perception” giving us freedom to answer the questions the way we understand them.

Here the other aspect intervenes. “Funktionen” has many layers: its surface is entertaining, but deeper inside you can find the philosophical sense. Everyone can find something, even those who are restricted to first layer.

“Funktionen” could stay for ever in the process, not ready made, in stadium, where searching is more important than finding and process is more important than the result. It could be performed only in small “studios”, such as Märjamaa. Isn’t it loosing part of its genuinity while the process is polished to a product?