Mask games

DANSER canal historique

« The Fifth Season » by Christian Ubl at la Biennale du Val-de-Marne

04 MARCH 2021 | by Thomas Hahn

Everything seems allowed in this carnival boiling between techno and baroque. Ubl invites to the party. Necessary. Because prevented.

The timing was almost perfect, in the middle of the “fifth season”. This is what carnival is called in the German-speaking hemisphere. Hence the title. By inviting the public to participate in the ball, the choreographer of Austrian origin holds out a pole in the direction of Dionysus, with a frenzied performance. Techno is in full swing and audiences wear masks inspired by the Venice Carnival (even though they are printed glossy). But in 2021, carnival and dance festivals must give in to health measures. It’s unfair, but only to the dance. In Germany, the carnival sessions of 2020 have indeed been identified as hotbeds of infection, while the dance performances are harmless. And this remains true even when the subject of a play is the carnival itself. As a result, we still have to wait until next year before La Cinquième Saison can meet its audience in the middle of carnival.

Mask games

However, the Biennale du Val-de-Marne organized, at the MAC in Créteil, a performance in front of an audience of professionals, and they, who came in large numbers, did not hesitate to participate in the game of self-help gestures. friction and others la ola, cheerfully animated by the master of ceremonies. Thus was kept the basic promise, the satirical raison d’être of all carnival: Borders fall, roles are reversed, disorder is freed. Yet even if the fourth wall gave way, everyone stayed in their place. After the warm-up exercise, the audience took off their Venetian masks while keeping the others on (the ones you know). We sat down and watched. On the back wall, the audience’s image in Venetian fashion broke down into abstract, but cheerful shapes and colors.

© Laurent Philippe

Techno Bacchanals

One thing is certain: Ubl brings their audiences both to the ‘fifth season’ and to the nightclub. Nine performers (including a violinist-singer and a DJ), dressed as for a beach party, perform joyful group dances, poses, gestures, grimaces. These are grotesque, macabre or sensual scenes, inspired by Brueghel the Elder (Fight between Carnival and Lent) between pious and Dionysian imagery. In The Fifth Season, Ubl brews the carnival traditions of the Serenissima, the Caribbean and his native Austria, revisited by clubbing and raves. The bodies grimace, the faces are unleashed, the clothes fall. The Bacchanalia open the gates of heaven and hell. Ecstasy awaits the dancers, and vice versa. From the 14th to the 21st, the centuries overlap like flesh, before a white and celestial act comes to put an end to the excesses. Fevered bodies turn into angels, relieved of their carnal troubles.

While waiting for the crossing

Lent, therefore, after the carnival. Violin and lyrical vocals (sublime!) On the set instead of the electronic drums crossed by vocalizations à la Nina Hagen. The flesh has feasted, the spirit soars. The community finds its bright salvation. What about the public? Must therefore wait to be able, one day, to enter the room without Lent masks to put the Carnival masks directly on his flesh, so that the gathering of the “ephemeral masked public” (as announced by the company) with the satyrs and their dances become longer, more intense and that the intention to cross the border is realized. Under current conditions, we look at The Fifth Season as if we were in Vienna, the birthplace of the choreographer, in front of Brueghel’s painting exhibited at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. So we haven’t really plunged into these universal Bacchanals yet. Will have to go back one day. Without mask.