Of Men and Machine

By Eva-Elisabeth Fischer

17.10.2018 /

It is a common prejudice that dancers can only count to eight with the characteristic “and-a” in between: oneandtwoandthreeandfour 

It is kind of funny how PR-flacks still believe in selling tickets via absurd superlatives for mostly analogue events. Where as by now everyone should know that mass does not equal class. Just now then, a notification appears in the data-flow, demanding the rescuing of the date (save the date!) for the “biggest Swan Lake in the world”; December 1st, when more than 48 swans will jump across the stage of the Theater am Potsdamer Platz in Berlin in delicate arabesques – two times more than at the Bolschoi!!! “This production of the Shanghai Ballet lives up to the slogan 'with more swans than one can count'”, is written on the homepage. It raises the question whether they can't even count to 48 in Shanghai, this parade ground of the swan-corps. Or whether they suggest a general difficulty with numbers among the ballet audience, since one also deems it ridiculous enough to measure the quality of “Swan Lake” by the number of ballerinas, drilled to synchronicity by measures of millimeters and fractions of seconds. Dancers themselves, that's the common prejudice, can nonetheless only count to eight with the characteristic “and-a” in between: oneandtwoandthreeandfour. This one bitterish joke, passed on from generation to generation, on the mental ability of those who sweat away their individual self on the barre from early childhood on.

While working away on the PC wearing only a T-Shirt and blinded by the golden autumn sun, guest performances of this kind shove the approaching “merry season” right in one's face, that, according to event managers, has to be met with compensations of all kinds. Even though it is mostly the smaller, more intimate performance experiences which, despite all the lower quality to shatteringly meaningless shows, draw one back to the decade old addiction of the theater. Unheimliches Tal/Uncanny Valley for example. It is therefore essential to stand in line in front of Kammer 3 at Hildegardstraße in Munich for a remaining ticket on October 30th. Rimini Protokoll (Stefan Kaegi) has staged the exact robot-alter-ego replica of the author Thomas Melle, a replica free of all human inconveniences. In the voice of Melle it reflects among other things about how the digital doppelgänger is free of those personal bipolar episodes which the human Melle is particularly frightened of during public readings. 

While listening and watching as if under a spell, one forgets that sitting up front, speaking with the original Melle-voice, is a puppet. One develops empathy for it and questions how this man can handle sitting with that unnaturally rectangular crossed leg for so long. The artificial Melle fuses emotionally inseparable with the Melle made of flesh and bones. And faced with the self-deception one is reminded of how 20 years ago the best friend was worrying about her Tamagotchi if once she forgot to feed the digital animal on time. All the more one laments this sea of swans of automaton-like ballerinas. But this kind of abuse has erstwhile gored the dance theater.


Uncanny Valley