In Geneva, three dance solos revive the wars of our grandfathers

A South African grandmother who had a dazzling love affair with a German officer. An Andalusian grandfather who experienced the plagues of the civil war in Spain. Another, Hungarian, who was detained in Russian prisons during the Second World War… At Galpon, in Geneva, Rudi van der Merwe, Susana Panadés Diaz and József Trefeli dance their heredity in turn, riddled by the violence of history. Projected on three sides of a box-shaped scene, images – often archival – of the group RDYSTDY envelop their subject.

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Genetrix, multimedia project, seduced by its profile both powerful and delicate. Images again, with a film screened after the intermission. In Soursweet, the Chinese-Irish dancer Victoria Chiu evokes its Chinese culinary heritage. Based in Australia, the artist was unable to join the project due to the pandemic, but the restitution of her hypnotic work around her hair and peanuts perfectly shows the burden of her origins.

Blanket and routed soldiers

Genetrix can be found in the Galpon white room, more intimate than the dark room which usually hosts creations. Spectators and dancers come face to face to dive into these life stories that make you travel. First stopover, South Africa and its struggles for independence against the British crown, its defeat, then its very strong identity withdrawal. Rudi Van der Merwe knows the sclerosing effect of this resistance, the hold of which we can feel in patriotic songs and a series of period photos. We see, in large format, his grandmother at different ages of life who, surrounded by her family, seems as much to carry the weight of a nation as that of her opulent dresses, with multiple layers and ribbons.

Fabric again with this multicolored blanket that the dancer, who knits a red square on stage, seems to be asked to extend. Against a backdrop of images of cavalcades, flames and battlefields, Rudi Vann der Merwe adopts a slow gesture, most often close to the ground, as if the time was not for lightness. Later, standing, his arms tracing orthogonal arrows, he recalls the martial days of combat. In this beautiful solo, heredity often appears as a burden.

Andalusian ghosts

The atmosphere proposed by Susana Paradés Diaz is more ghostly. While the Andalusian dancer moves in the dark and without music, the three walls of the stage light up in touches, according to photos showing the different rooms of the family home. Like a souvenir treasure hunt. Especially since a fashion model accompanies this exploration, testifying to the activity his grandfather was fond of, perhaps anxious to patch up his past torn by the civil war. Later, on guitar arpeggios, the dancer delivers a revisited flamenco, more angular and minimal than the classical form. In this solo where the dance is magnificently mastered, an impression of gravity also dominates.

Hungarian boots

Everything becomes lighter with Jozsef Trefeli and his Hungarian folk dances that he has often explored with Gabor Varga. The dancer first swings back and forth, as if hesitating between past and present. Then, putting on traditional boots, he sets off the typical point-to-heel figures to the sound of an accordion. Over the course of the solo, we hear his father evoke his grandfather and we learn of the grueling stay that the grandfather spent in Russian prisons between 1945 and 1946. A distress that the videographers reproduce with a formidable image of a prisoner exodus in the snow. On this long human line, compact and gray, a red path emerges directly, a route on which the dancer makes a horse figurine walk. Violence of war always with these images of many destroyed bridges whose steel carcasses float in the Danube …

These sensitive solos have this merit: to remind us that in Europe, as elsewhere, our grandparents experienced major heartbreaks, the legacy of which we must manage with understanding and gentleness.


Genetrix, Galpon, Geneva, until January 16.

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