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AUDIENCE REVIEW: "The Great Tamer" by Dimitris Papaioannou
November 15th, 2019
On Friday November 15th, I had the pleasure of experiencing “The Great Tamer” by Dimitri Papaioannou at Brooklyn Academy of Music. This performance was extraordinarily different from anything I have ever seen before, and I was left in both awe and confusion.
I came into this performance expecting to see a contemporary dance piece, but rather saw an abstract form of performance/ theatre art. The work was full of endless optical illusions and references to Greek mythology and European art history. While leaving the performance I was desperate to find some story line or meaning to the piece, but later realized that it was better thought of as a collection of metaphors and references relating to time, history, and mankind.
Upon finding my seat I was presented with a dark grey hill made of many layers of flimsy panels covering the stage somewhat resembling a graveyard. This set was designed by Tina Tzoka. A man sat downstage center with his shoes lying beside him. At the start of the piece the man traveled across to stage left where he undressed and proceeded to lay vulnerably center stage on a single white panel. A back and forth began with two men repeatedly covering the naked man with a sheet and uncovering him by dropping a panel of the stage to blow the sheet away. This scene, as well as many others in this piece, continued repeatedly for an amount long enough to make it humorous. This idea ended with the man who was blowing away the sheet walking into the original man’s shoes downstage only to find that the shoes where rooted into the floor. The man then struggled to free his feet from the ground and handstand walked offstage. Perhaps this was a metaphor for mans’ deep roots in history or the impossibility of being able to walk in someone else’s shoes.
The performance continued with the performers referencing several art pieces, such as Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ shown by a naked man being hoisted onto a table surrounded by dancers in white collars who proceeded to pull guts out of the corpse and then eat them around a dinner table. This was only one of the moments that made me feel uneasy, but also in awe. The dark light and set combined with Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube” playing intermittently, gave a mysterious, but playful energy to the piece. Throughout the performance, the stage was ripped apart uncovering endless ideas that made me see the stage as a form of earth. With dirt and debris coming with many objects that emerged, such as a skeleton and a pool of water, I saw references to the history hidden beneath the earth’s surface, as well as the resources it holds for us.
This performance was packed with countless ideas and metaphors that I am still trying to make sense of. Although I can’t unpack all of these moments in one review, I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. I appreciated the different ways it could have been interpreted and the unapologetic way the piece was delivered. At first, I was a bit skeptical at the amount of nudity in the piece, but I thought that it was done in an appropriate way which shaped the piece in a way that could not have been achieved without it. “The Great Tamer” left me confused, amazed, and inspired and was everything I want to see in a performance.