The pinnacle of excess; Masterwork by Emese Cuhorka & Csaba Molnár – review

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Csaba Molnár & Emese Cuhorka performing Masterwork

[An Emese Cuhorka & Csaba Molnár review by Léna Megyeri]

I remember Boy George – a rather colorful character himself – once saying about Lady Gaga: „She’s the pinnacle of excess”. In that sense, we could call Emese Cuhorka and Csaba Molnár the Lady Gagas of contemporary dance in Hungary. Over the past few years, we were able to see them work in different formations, therefore we already know quite a lot about them. We know that they are fearless creators and performers who are not afraid to be crazy, vulnerable, even ugly or ridiculous on stage. No matter what is the piece, they always subject themselves 100% to the creation, while still preserving their unique stage personas.  Masterwork was announced as their first mutual independent work, although Pandora’s Box outpaced it by a few weeks in the end, inevitably making the two pieces complementary. Masterwork looks like a distillation of the many influences its choreographers have collected over the years, perhaps most unmistakably by Adrienn Hód, who they both frequently work with.

Masterwork, Emese Cuhorka - Csaba Molnár review
Csaba Molnár & Emese Cuhorka performing Masterwork; photo by Károly Csorba.

The other driving force behind the piece is the ideal of Bauhaus, the German art school that celebrates its 100th birthday this year. In Cuhorka and Molnár’s interpretation, the body becomes the mechanical, functional object that is the masterwork of one’s own and of others. In a long opening sequence, wearing only underwear and body paint that looks childishly simple, the two dancers move like clockworks or perpetuum mobiles. Their machine-like, automatic and emotionless movements are dictated by Ábris Gryllus’ non-stop electronic music, and are sometimes mixed with a little bit of 80s Jane Fonda-aerobic.

Emese Cuhorka performing Masterwork
Emese Cuhorka performing Masterwork; photo by Károly Csorba.

In this sequence they never touch each other, and yet by the time the music finally comes to a halt, their body paint is completely smeared. What comes next is a series of short scenes or sketches, ranging from erotic to ironic, from mysterious to playful, and sometimes just downright crazy. Emese and Csaba are no strangers to exaggeration, and true to form, everything is a bit over the top in these scenes, from the props (for example a huge fan) to the satire and parody of some of these episodes. They maintain their emotionless expressions throughout – after all, they and their bodies are only tools here.

Masterwork, Emese Cuhorka - Csaba Molnár review
Csaba Molnár performing Masterwork; photo by Károly Csorba.

In one scene, Emese appears naked, with a long fake braid, cords curled around her body, a pair of clogs on her feet, and starts dancing to ‘ballet music.’ We immediately think of the famous scene of The Wayward Daughter – but the music is actually from The Nutcracker. Soon she’s joined by a naked Csaba and the dance merges into Broadway jazz. This is typical of the duo: there’s always a twist and you should never take them too seriously.

The gym mats of Pandora’s Box make a guest appearance here, turning into toys but not really finding their place in the context of this piece, and soon, both performers are swallowed up by a huge black costume. All this weirdness is more form than content this time, but it is only natural of a piece that is inspired by the functionality and formalism of Bauhaus and examines the body as a masterwork – capable of anything but inevitably soulless at the same time.

Click & read the portrait of Emese Cuhorka.


Creators & performers: Emese Cuhorka & Csaba Molnár. Music: Ábris Gryllus. Lights: Kata Dézsi. Costumes: Csenge Vass. Menthor: László Fülöp. 22/02/2019. National Dance Theatre

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