Tollund

Creation - 1st version (L'appel du destin) from 28 to 31 Octobre 1994, Palais des Beaux-Arts - Charleroi.
Creation - 2nd version from 9 to 17 Decembre 1994, Le Botanique, Brussels


Listening to the echoing sound of movement as it flows through hollow bones, letting it rise up to the surface of the skin, to the hypersensitive outer layer...a certain way of being alive...while dancing the dance of death

Somebody once wrote : "If you spend too long looking at Serge Vandercam's paintings, you may well find you can't ever shake them off."

I was initially inspired by Vandercam's paintings, then later by his ceramics and sculptures too, and the secret world within them soon had me in its spell. That's how I came across the Man of Tollund.
Vandercam discovered him thirty years ago in Silkeborg Museum in Denmark and has been haunted ever since by this man born nearly two thousand years ago who now, via Vandercam's work, has become an obsession of mine too.
Tollund is built up round the body and face of this man who was hanged, them dumped in a peat bog, the honoured victim of some ritual sacrifice. I was fascinated by the vagaries of this man's fate : having been compelled to roam the world beyond, he suddenly reappears in the promised light, and his initiatory solitude unlocks fundamental human secrets-secrets whose importance is still fundamental for us today.
What I wanted to do was to transpose this man's fate into dance, opting for figurative abstraction rather than a picturesque and anecdotal approach.

In my work I aim to move the audience, but also to reach down to their subconscious, to make feelings and emotions that lie dormant within them rise to the surface. I'm not trying to initiate any rational activity; I want instead to spark off a sharing of deep-seated emotions. For each of my projects I have to work out the appropriate choreographic body language, to tackle movements in a way that fits in with the significance -the meaning- I want to give it.
I adore movement that conveys a meaning, movement seen as a dramatic element, which will very depending on who is dancing it. Movements in my work are remote from any stylistic references and they don't imitate any type of technique. They are woven out of the fabric of the dance. in the final analysis, the meaning is determined by the dancer's body. Images from within, daydreams, are the starting point for each movement, for its energy and shape.

The two characters who confront one another in Tollund each evolve their own specific relationship with movement. Because of their divided personalities, the physical differences between them, they each, in their own way, make the choreography their own. This allows them  to invent their own share of personal expression, since no one is forcing them to blend in with stereotyped movements. When they're dancing in unison, what interests me is the difference between them. It's those differences that must stand out. Two beings as unlalike as god and a human being, though indissolubly linked together, demonstrate that difference, yet cannot escape from one another. They form in a way a single being split into two : a physical confrontation takes place and one holds away over the other, which leads to brutal handling, to a struggle, antagonism, a flight that proves impossible.




The characters

Tollund is the slave of Odin or Woden, the cruel Germanic god who has insisted on Tollund's life being sacrificed so that he can assert his own power -or, we might perhaps say, so that he can confirm his own existence.
Tollund accepts his sacrificial role so that he can take on some of the god's characteristics -in death his face wears a mask of calm serenity.  So what is this inner certainty?  What is it rooted in?
Tollund moves forward in time as if to deny that there is any sort of gulf between life and death.
Does his serenity stem from his awareness that Odin can exist only through his, Tollund's sacrifice, and that one day he will re-emerge into the light of a new life, whereas Odin will have become a shadow that haunts the world of men no more?  Does Tollund express the conviction that the life of men will outlast the life of the gods they 've invented?
I see his serenity as a shout of hope from beyond the grave, like a life impulse that is rooted in death.

Odin, a god riding his steed across the heavens, is an incredibly equivocal entity, a character who cannot be pinned down an described in any clear-cut way- he is, and at the same time he isn't, everything he is made of.
This elusing being is a past master at metamorphosis, changing his colour, his shape, his appearance.
He is both poet and soothsayer, possessing the power to decide wether mortals shall live or die.  As a poet, he is skilled with words, with speech that has the power to invent and confer immortality.  This contradictory and polymorphous creature is mortal and weak - and thus eminently human.  Indeed he is only too human, embodying the whole gamut of beings -from the basest to the most sublime.
From time immemorial men and women have always been the same - a mixture of beauty and barbarity, of love and cruelty, and so I see Odin as being a contemporary of ours;  Beyond his death we can indentify with him and his alter ego, the Man of Tollund, our fellow creature.


 

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