Spring Forward Festival – Where Magic Shows and Time Dances!

Guten Tag, dear reader.

This year we were in Germany for the 2024 edition of the Spring Forward Festival, which took place from 21 to 23 March. On the programme? A discovery of twenty creations by young choreographers which were supposed to represent Europe, a sort of Eurovision of contemporary dance.

Spring Forward Festival. Photo: Sinah Osner / Aerowaves.

Spring Forward Festival. Photo: Sinah Osner / Aerowaves.

Robin Lamothe Author Robin Lamothe

And yet, here we are a long way from the diplomatic tensions and geopolitical stakes of Eurovision. Here, everyone has already earned their place and the atmosphere is relaxed and good-natured.

What made this year's festival so special was its happy attempt to invite us to travel around three German cities: Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, and Mainz. With the weather set fair, it was a great way to discover the roads and highways of this dancing land. Indeed, if it weren't for the time spent on the road, the quick pace of life at the festival would have conditioned us to feed on nothing but shows, sometimes resulting in a little indigestion.

The opportunity to discover an exceptional selection of the best of the European contemporary dance scene prompts us to examine the predominant themes which, perhaps, reveal preoccupations or shed light on our society. And it seems that the state of the world is making us want to dream, to dream of magic.

Yes, magic!

REFACE. Photo: Sinah Osner / Aerowaves.

Not the magic of the Cirque du Soleil, but a magic that plays with our perceptions and invites us to rediscover our inner child.

With their creation REFACE, Les Idoles retrace the journey of two matryoshka dolls who use their own make-up to adopt a new skin, a new character.

In a white, empty, luminous space, they appear frozen in a denim ensemble, their faces resembling wax figures, slightly softened by the heat. They sway gently, imitating passengers trapped on a bizarre journey, wrapped in plastic, through the valley of the strange. As the performance unfolds, the transformation begins.

The props and costumes are ingeniously multi-functional: a cascade of blonde hair becomes a makeshift beard; a pink mouth turns into a whimsical clown nose; a trail of red stickers becomes a fearsome dragon's tongue. Each layer removed intensifies our anticipation, leaving us oscillating between amusement, unease, and anticipation of the next bizarre form they will take.

In a never-ending dance of transformation, with eyes open or closed, the duo use subtle gestures, eloquent head tilts, and nuanced changes of posture to reinvent themselves in hypnotic, disconcerting, and ingenious ways, over and over again.

They offer a satire of our plastic society, from the plastic we ingest, sometimes at our own expense, to the plastic we voluntarily inject into ourselves under the influence of the dictates of beauty. The transformation becomes magical, and we are transfixed by such mastery and surprise.

It's magic, I tell you!

Iterations. Photo: Sinah Osner / Aerowaves.

In the context of contemporary dance, magic allows us to demystify the performative space and relax, not our demands, but our need to understand everything.

With Iterations, Tom Cassani revisits the literal magic trick, demonstrating the highly choreographic nature of the magical gesture that plays with rhythm, silence, expectation, and humour to reveal the audience's laughter and fervour.

In an enigmatic approach, he exposes the rigour required for a performance that appears easy on the surface. Like an illusionist revealing the mechanisms of an illusion, he highlights the commitment and precision needed to perform it, showing us the compromises required to make the exceptional a reality. Devoid of any bitterness, his charismatic presence fascinates us from start to finish.

The skill of his gestures and his mastery of prestidigitation, combined with impeccable physical and comic timing, demonstrate remarkable bodily control. However, it is his narrative talent, spontaneous interactions, and a mastery of theatrical techniques that truly make his work stand out. In the end, magic is found where you least expect it.

Magic, pure and simple.

Microworlds. Photo: Sinah Osner / Aerowaves.

And it was with Microworlds that artists Jazmína Piktorová and Sabina Bočková were able to demonstrate that magic, while designed to fill our eyes with wonder at a sustained rhythm, can also be sedimented step by step, as if by surprise, in a well-crafted dramaturgy. This is a show for young audiences, so with only cultural professionals in the audience, they did not really reach their target audience. Yet, the body language and borderline cuteness don't displease anyone, and something happens.

That's the magic of live performance.

We are drawn into a micro world that forces us to literally change our posture. Throughout, the artists introduce small miniature toys and then invite the audience to take their place in the space and play, in small groups, in the construction of a new world, a micro-world. And the magic happens when we no longer see ourselves as the directors of cultural structures but as adults allowing themselves to become children again for a moment. It's moving to see.

Not everything about this festival was magical, of course, but I still came away from these three days with a full heart, tired but happy to have been able to reconnect with my inner child.

So yes, magic and dance still have a bright future ahead of them, because when the world is up in flames, we need to be able to rediscover magic, not just through a performance, but in the smallest corners of everyday life, to continue the fight and try to make our world more desirable, more desired, and above all, more magical.

Auf Wiedersehen, Spring Forward Festival.

Auf Wiedersehen, Germany.

Auf Wiedersehen, dear reader!


Written from the Spring Forward Festival in Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, and Mainz, 21 to 23 March 2024. 

Témata článku

AerowavesSpring Forward