Nobody, yet everybody; Ex Nihilo: Shapers review

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Ex Nihilo, outdoor dance in Rakoczi Square, Budapest.

[An Ex Nihilo review by Zsuzsanna Komjáthy]

Sometimes I wonder how space and environment can affect a performance; how they can disturb or heighten both the way of acting and perception. Last year I saw a genuine site-specific co-production by Pôtoň Theatre Derbis Company, Honey and Dust and Sláva Daubnerová  (Miracles) where the surroundings penetrated into the play and became the rulers of attention. After midnight, there was an etude in a desolate church happening where despite because of the minimalistic & plain way of acting, spectators could experience a dense and mouldy mystery. What made us encounter with such an exceptional adventure? What weight had the environment and what weight had the play in that?

A simple yet complex question that is challenging to answer; since if the body is the medium of kinesthesia, then the environment is the medium of perception that originally bears a kind of dynamism per se. So mobility accumulates and generates an impervious network between the layers.

Shapers, outdoor dance in Rakoczi Square.
Shapers, outdoor dance in Rakoczi Square, Budapest, photo by Balogh Attila.

This imperviousness builds the background of Shapers, an outdoor choreography by an international collaboration (lead by the French Ex Nihilo). The busy streets of Budapest – and in other cases cities of Spain, Egypt or Bosnia – shape the body of the choreography, affect movements (such as improvised plays with the found objects in the square, or as the acrobatic elements that are using the wall of the market hall in the background); and they also shape or rather deflect the perception. Just as dancers disturb the ordinary function of the streets.

This is how the environment makes spectators’ attention to become dispersed and lumpish, and on the other hand how everyday people’s routine (who just come and go) is subverted by the performance. And this is, how a weird temporary community – as the creator Anne Le Batard puts it – or an ephemeral and shared theatrical space is created, in which nobody is home entirely, yet everybody is.

Shapers, outdoor dance in Rakoczi Square, Budapest.
Shapers, outdoor dance in Rakoczi Square, Budapest, photo by Balogh Attila.

On the other side of the fence, the no man’s land that is evolving does not adjust to the environment thoroughly; in a tiny second for example, when a little girl tried to join the team and climbed up to the walls of the market, she was just pulled over, without getting involved into the play.

Therefore, we can suspect that most of the movements may fit into every city’s landscape and sudden situations are not deeply calculated into the play. Answering the question of a spectator, the choreographer nodded: they work with a frame and then they snap improvised parts into that, defined by the location where they intend dancing.

Zsuzsanna Komjáthy


Conception and Artistic Direction: Anne Le Batard, Jean-Antoine Bigot. Dancers: Lucia Bocanegra, Mourad Koula, Natacha Kierbel, Shady Abdelahman, Elvira Balboa, Ayoub Kerkal, Aurore Allo, Ahmed Shamel. Music: Pascal Ferrari, Jean-Antoine Bigot. Placcc Festival, Budapest, 03/09/2018.

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