Scapino Ballet: Songs for Drella

Andy Warhol returned to the Rotterdamse Schouwburg on the evening of April 15th. A couple of weeks ago, he provided Danceworks Rotterdam with inspiration for Anatomica #3. This time, the Scapino Ballet, another dance company based in Rotterdam, performed a work based on the album Songs for Drella written and performed by Lou Reed and John Cale to commemorate the life of Andy Warhol.

The set was stark. Bare, gray boards, bright white lights, dancers dressed in gray, appearing and disappearing from the wings hidden by black drapes. The lighting was positioned overhead and created 2, 3 or even 4 shadows for each dancer depending on their position on the stage. The shadows seemed to form their own parallel world of fantastical, sometimes threatening creatures. Jazz numbers by Charlie Mingus and Jimmy Smith interspersed the music from Songs for Drella to tell the life story of an odd kid from Pittsburgh. “My father worked in construction, it’s not something for which I am suited. Oh, what is something for which you are suited? Getting out of here.” (Smalltown)

The choreographers, Marco Goecke and Ed Wubbe, and the dancers used the set and the slimmest of props (pencils, sheets of paper, oversized pompoms made of silver tinsel) to create a breath-taking and moving masterpiece. It didn’t matter that my knowledge of Andy Warhol does not go much beyond Campbell soup cans and Marilyn Monroe silk screens. Neither did it matter that I’m really not that keen on dance. Most of the time I simply don’t understand it, but I had no trouble relating to this. The dancers performed miracles. The music and the words came alive on the stage. In the amazing interpretation of GG Train (from the album Mingus Ah Um), the sound of the saxophone and bass came alive and moved the body of the dancer on the stage. The same happened with the electric guitar and other instruments. It was a tremendous experience. If the Scapino Ballet ever comes your way, don’t miss the opportunity to see them.

The Scapino Ballet channel on YouTube features this short teaser of the work. It’s only a pale shadow of what I experienced at the theatre, but it gives an idea.