Mårten Spångberg: Powered by Emotion (UK premiere)


Mårten was wearing turquoise socks and black ballet shoes and grey tracksuit bottoms and a black t-shirt with ‘Enjoy Coca Cola’ written on it.
I just thought of Toad of Toad Hall. In The Crown pub after the show.
Chisenhale was on summer fire. Laura Sweeney is leaving and there were pre-show drinks celebrating her. It was hot and windy. There wasn’t enough air in Chisenhale. Not for the first time, it was stuffy.
But Mårten made a smart move. No black outs in sight.
The fire escape was open (just in case). He asked for the studio door to be wedged open.
He started with a modest speech introducing himself and what he was about to do.
He was paying attention to us, and I like that.
I am losing attention…. Mårten tried Aspall cyder, my Aspall cyder, about half an hour ago. I warned him it was sweet, “a bit like fizzy port”. I told an anecdote about a stupid order I made in Porto, not realising the local white wine went best with pudding, and not at all well with the local catch, which translated something like “Goldfish”.
Back to the plot.
Joe Moran is sitting opposite me. There is a lady in a very brightly coloured turban and dress on the TV behind Mårten. She is wearing dangly earrings and great specs – really strong frames. She is talking to a famous newsreader. I just saw the icon: KIDSCOMPANY. I register it must be the founder of that charity that’s been in the press so much of late. I think I first came across it when I lived on Russell Avenue in Turnpike Lane in 2007 with Eleanor Sikorski and Natali McCleary and Jitka Tůmová. Camila someone. Her name just came up on the subtitles. Too slow. (Too fast).
“Unexpectedly long” – just spoke to Karolina Kraczkowska and she was saying how she enjoyed relaxing into the piece. Which reminds me:
I totally lay down on the steps and shut my eyes in track #4 of Mårten’s Buena Vista Social Club tribute. I thought: Okay, we’re getting into concert territory here; I’m going to act accordingly (I always tend to feel at liberty to fall asleep at the opera). The doors were open, after all.
I was most captivated by Mårten at his stillest, his quietest. His reputation precedes him. I am writing about the show now. In the after show talk Mårten talked himself, his ideas and his choreography up in my estimation. Words book-ended dance in an illuminating and transformative way. Mårten said that he hoped we knew there was no irony in his performance of Powered by Emotion, originally performed in 2003.
My hand rose in the air of its own accord. No irony? I was 15 in 2003. Pub maths. My most memorable t-shirt reference point was “I <3 NYC": explained to me by the wearer, a guy I had a crush on, "it's ironic". Surely no-one could wear this t-shirt without irony? The same guy suggested I was shirking anti-neoliberalism by looking... well... so good at his 28th birthday party last week. Mårten was poker-faced when, in answer to my question, he replied: "What, the trousers?". No Mårten, not the trousers, and you know it. The "Enjoy Coca Cola" t-shirt and your footwear (original 2003 costume). Time has warped, but surely that's not a straight 2003 throwback? [caption id="attachment_22197" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Image credit: Flora's illustration of Mårten's footwear Image credit: Flora’s illustration of Mårten’s footwear[/caption]
What do I know? I was only 15. I was like… watching Bewitched in concert (you’d enjoy them, Mårten).
In the post-show talk, I wondered if Mårten ever makes a concerted effort to bring up women’s work. All his reference points were choreography made by men. Admittedly they are giants. And he wasn’t littering names. We’re talking about a precious church of choreographers who have made an indelible mark on dance. Really and truly.
I think Mårten might really enjoy going to dance school: the structure and the discipline he might appreciate; the indignation he would undoubtedly experience. He would be a top student in his way: outspoken, arrogant, infuriating, inspiring, influential, humbled, in-awed.
I wonder where he’d go, where he’d choose. Is it possible to study, really study, these days?


The night ended on an awesome statement about… basically… the power of dance. How awesomely powerful “just dancing” is in the face of late neo-liberal capitalism, the commodification of affect, relationships, text, thoughts (even unspoken ones).
The best bit about it was the sense I got that I knew what Mårten was talking about. Maybe what makes him a great speaker is the fact that I felt like I knew about what he was talking about before he talked about it. I knew about it because I dance. Here enters my evangelism (I didn’t start dancing in earnest until I was 12). Isn’t it peculiar how we define who we are, what we do, what we are capable of and passionate about?

On the condition of dance (2015 and into the future)
Mårten Spångberg: workshop and performance
Curated by Joe Moran

Workshop: Sat 4 – Sun 5 July, 11am-6pm, £80 funded places / £60 for independent/self-employed/concessions (including performance)

Performance: Fri 3 July, 7pm, £8/ £7 concessions

Powered by Emotion is a 45-minute solo created and performed by Mårten Spångberg. It originated from a desire to dance and sing without having access to skill and technical capacity in relationship to the production of, on the one hand, territory and, on the other, perhaps more tangible, notions of identity and belonging. Starting with an interest between territory and political potentiality, the choreographer explores two over-determined artistic materials Walter Verdin’s film of Steve Paxton’s dance to J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations and the songs of Buena Vista Social Club. Through the performers inability and nonplussed relation to the material it appears that the spectator is urged to reconsider a politics of aesthetics. What we see and hear both is and isn’t Stave Paxton dancing and Buena Vista Social Club voicing sentimental love. Powered by Emotion is utter artificiality in its most natural form.

The performance is followed by short conversation between Spångberg and Moran ‘on the condition of dance, 2015 and into the future’.