Sasha Waltz & Guests seem to be omnipresent in the programmes of the Berlin dance theatres. Only a couple of months after the reprise of Körper and Kreatur at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele and at the Radialsystem, respectively, the company is back at the Volksbühne with the world premiere of Rauschen, in English ‘noises’ or ‘hissing’. A marathon of images in two parts (and of aesthetically pleasing ones especially in the second section), these leave no traces evaporating like drawings painted with water on a hot surface. Rauschen confirms Waltz’s new choreographic approach and her relentless parting from the old one.

Sasha Waltz & Guests in <i>Rauschen</i> © Julian Roeder
Sasha Waltz & Guests in Rauschen
© Julian Roeder

As the music start, a song from the sixties, possibly the Beatles, the auditorium lights are still on. Unsure of where the action is going to take place, I watch the choreography of the audience caught in medias res: taking a pullover off, adjusting their glasses or simply fumbling with their smartphones. Then, under a towering, curved grey background, a woman in a white jumpsuit appears on the white floor. On one side, two sinks with tanks of water. Her movements between the robot, the figure caught in an abrupt rewind and the body brooding an alien baby inside it, are non-identifiable. The side slits of the costume allow for the ribcage to be seen. Her long limbs and curved torso create a dance of autumnal branches. As another dancer in white addresses her, we overhear a conversation between Alexa and Siri. Soon twelve dancers are involved in ever-changing duets or trios in black and white that feature no human contact. Sporadically, the virtual assistants receive (only too human) requests, such as that for a hug, that leave them puzzled. The atmosphere shifts as they start talking about scary and violent experiences and objects appear on stage – mattresses and a chair covered in plastic, and white Wellies – producing anguished images – a dancer crawls under a mattress' plastic as if a vacuum-packaged piece of meat and one repeatedly jumps onto a mattress like dolphin out of water. On the notes of Born in the USSR, the dancers literally reenact their memories in a cycle. The atmosphere changes as they imprint body parts onto thermo-sensitive squares displaying the fading images or dissolve the dresses under a shower. Finally, healthy human interaction is depicted by an archaic tribal dance of topless women and long black skirts humming their song in transparent didgeridoos.

From my part, it is as if Waltz tried to put two different shows one after the others. It is a long program and the two sections don't have so much in common. As usual, the dance is finely crafted: the movement material carefully selected and so the counterpoint is sequenced. But it is almost too much of a good thing. It is too much to take in without a fil rouge. There is the critique on the assimilation with the digital world, followed by the recalling of traumatic events and losses, and the sublimation through tribal dance. There are many interesting images such as that of a hula-hoop adorned with Bausch-ean high heels, the man repeating his rights while hanging from a trapeze, the dresses that dissolve as the dancers take a shower leaving them naked, or the archaic black skirt dance. Beautifully clever is the light grey backdrop that is used as a drawing surface with water, first for the words ‘NOW’ or ‘ALIVE’ and then during the last transition for Japanese drawings of mountains. I am sceptical about the juxtaposition between songs from the sixties, no music or only some kind of noises – the breathing of the dancers becomes part of the soundscape and later different noises are sampled with a mike. Also, the dancers are not used to the headsets producing involuntary scratchy noises. If the first part is more experimental, the last section in topless and black skirts is similar to what we are already used to from Waltz. The images are beautiful but my perception is constantly being pulled from one side to the other. Sometimes the dance talks to my senses and sometimes to my intellect but neither long enough to leave me changed in some way.

All in all, I recommend Rauschen. It is well made and poetic. It has great costumes (Bernd Skodzig) and a clever scenography (Thomas Schenk and Waltz). As I mentioned in my last reviews of her work, it seems that Waltz is looking for a way beyond Tanztheater. This is not quite there yet. Still, her dances are solidly watchable. 

****1