Udo Zickwolf's outdoor dance performance during Tanzwoche Dresden has a long tradition, but I watched it for the first time this year. The weather was ugly with a drizzle, even the stream of tourists pouring through the place was thinner than usually. The dancer and his accomplice just arrived. I expected a service team and a truck loaded with sound and lighting equipment but the artists came with bikes, carrying leaflets about their performance to distribute to the passengers. When Udo Zickwolf took off his jacket and stood there in the midst of dashing tourists, fragile and scantily clad for the cold weather, I nearly felt sorry. Poor guys! No stage, no audience, how are they going to start?
[*The music was hidden from the audience because it played only in the headphones of the dancer.]
Udo Zickwolf put on the headphones, went to the wall of the Fürstenzug and rose his hands. In this moment everything changed. The drizzle stopped and the space suddenly acquired a new quality. The intention to perform made an ordinary street a special place. Although the stream of tourists has not slowed down, everyone noticed. Even the tourists who merely glanced at the dancer while passing by and the street artist earning money by embodying a statue of a medieval knight.
Moves and movements in Zickwolf's choreography were triggered by signals in his headphones, which made the performance distinctively non-interactive. It was not just a smart idea but seemingly the only adequate strategy for this place.
Sometimes the dancer blended with the crowd as on the photo on the left. Sometimes children passing by got excited and wanted to stay and watch him but their parents dragged them away. They seemed uncertain whether they should regard the man in black posing on the sidewalk in their way as strange, inappropriate or even embarrassing. Usually the safest reaction was to pretend that they have not noticed him. Exactly this effect - challenging passangers with an unexpected situation which enforces judgements and decisions, even if the decision is to disregard - is a central goal of performance in public space.
Text and photos: Petr Karlovsky