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AUDIENCE REVIEW: "The Great Tamer" a piece by Dimitris Papaioannou
Earlier this month I was a witness to an incredible dance experience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On the weekend of November 15, BAM was featuring the Greek choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou’s work, “The Great Tamer”. This hour and forty minute piece cannot be described as a dance show but a dance experience that utilized every element of the theater while tantalizing the audience’s curiosity of why, what, and how.
I came into the theater lost and unaware of what I was about to witness. When all was said and done from this performance I left in as much confusion as when I came in, but I could not help but feel in awe and amazed by the performance the ten dancers had crafted on stage for the audience.
As I walked into the theater, a raised stage consisting of large gray sheets with a single dancer in a black suit greeted me as I waited for the performance to begin. When the lights finally dimmed the dancer carefully walked across the stage, undressed himself, and laid down on one of the gray sheets[KG1] . A dancer slowly emerged from the edge of the platform and whipped over a light blue cloth to cover the naked man. Shortly after, a third dancer went over to the now covered man, and picked up one of the sheets to then drop and blow the cloth away. This process of covering and uncovering the man would repeat and progressively get faster. When this almost ritualistic action stopped, Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube Waltz” began to play, and more dancers emerged.
One woman was propped up on two men to look as if the men’s legs belonged to the woman. Another had a pot on her head, and slowly squeezed herself into a hole that appeared from the floor. Suddenly, the music stopped, and an astronaut appeared from the back, and all that was heard was the sound of their breath as they walked towards the center of the stage. The astronaut then ripped a hole open from the floor, and dug out a naked dancer from the floor. During the whole beginning section, I had so many questions on what I was watching, but most of all I questioned why. I wondered why the dancers would repeat an action over and over again? Why did an astronaut appear and pull a naked dancer from the floor? But no matter how much I questioned why there was no answer. From there I understood, “The Great Tamer” is not a piece that makes an obvious statement, the viewer must simply watch and appreciate it as it is; nothing more, nothing less but just an experience.
As the piece progressed, themes of European history and religious themes emerged, like the crucifixion of Christ and the creation of the autopsy. There were so many themes and different elements thrown at the audience, it was as if they were trying to consume us with new experiences all within the time frame of under two hours. At one point, the dancers erected a wall of sheets with the white side facing the audience. The dancers moved as if a dramatic fight scene from a film was being played out. But a stand out moment from the middle section was when a dancer appeared to have a plaster cast of their body on them. This quiet moment allowed me to take in the madness that occurred previously. As the casted dancer hobbled towards the remaining person on stage, the person proceeded to liberate the plastered dancer from their prison by slowly embracing each limb and cracking the shell until all that was left was a pile of white plaster shards scattered on the floor. This whole process put me at the edge of my seat, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off from the dancers. Each moment seamlessly flowed into the next but still gave an element of surprise never ceasing to satiate my curiosity.
By the end, the insanity, and utter chaos of the piece reached a climax. Arrows were being thrown, dancers were emerging, and falling into holes that magically appeared from the floor. A dancer bathed them self in a pool that was hidden underneath. A pinnacle was reached when a skeleton was revealed from the floor. As the dancers slowly propped the skeleton up, the sound of the bones sliding to the floor sent chills down my spine. When the piece slowly came to an end, the stage was no longer pristine. There was dirt, water, remnants of arrow, broken pieces of the stage, and holes created by the dancers was all that remained.
After this performance, I left completely changed in my perception of dance as a form of expression, a way of communication, and as a form of art as a whole. I had never seen anything quite like it. Papaioannou held back nothing and completely shocked the audience with what he had stored in the depths of his creative mind. What I covered was only a small snippet of what happened, and I don’t think there is anyway to fully describe “The Great Tamer” and completely summarize what went on within the two-hour performance. The only way that this performance can be understood is to go see it and to take it for what it is; an experience that feeds the innate curiosity and madness that is in all of us. If you ever see that this piece is ever being shown in your city, I highly urge you to go see it because there is nothing