Reviews about Enduring Freedom

Davide Sannia, Genova 2019
Also of the highest level is “Enduring Freedom”, staged by Imre Thormann, direct student of one of the founding fathers of Butoh, Kazuo Ohno. A rare opportunity to see him on stage since, normally, he never repeats his shows more than once a year. The very few spectators present (the performance is aimed at a very limited number of people) are asked to wear a white jumpsuit provided by the organization and complete with a hood. This time the designated place is the adjacent Sala del Minor Consiglio, also in the Doge's Palace. When the door opens, one takes a seat on seats that delimit a rectangular stage space, on the perimeter of which white neon tubular lights are installed. The only element present within the rectangle, in a corner, is a chair identical to that of the spectators. The dancer enters the scene from the shoulders of the audience and takes a seat. He is dressed normally (jeans, brown wool sweater, boots and hat). After a long breath he gets up and slowly takes off all his clothes. Here begins a journey that is difficult to describe in words and far from any defined horizon. It is the activation of a fluid path where the dancer performs a very deep listening to himself, always away from the artifice. His body gives life to intense muscle contractions, the dull sound of his knees falling to the ground hits the audience, less than two meters away. As the performance progresses the sweat invades everything, eyes, arms, chest, while the first tears begin to fall on the faces of the beholder. Nothing can distract from what is happening, despite the fact that there is no music, no words, no small pretext for entertainment. The bald head and the tense gaze in involuntary alien grimaces help to stun those who are now involuntary accomplices of a chasm that is sucking an individual totally at the mercy of the continuous falls and the obvious inability to stand. Then, slowly, everything subsides and, as if in front of a tape that begins to rewind, we find Imre Thormann sitting in the chair, dressed, again. And we are finally able to relax with him, happy with this unexpected survival that concerns us.

Original in Italian
Simona Frigerio, Genova 2018
Of the latter we had already seen Enduring Freedom a couple of years ago, again thanks to the sagacity and courage in their artistic choices of the Akropolis Theater. Reliving that experience confirmed us in our intuitions - however individual and fallacious - about Thormann's theatrical art and, like two years ago, we experienced that feeling of apnea and rapture, we pitied the suffering through a diaphragmatic movement, which reverberated from Thormann's body to ours - Artaud, not surprisingly, explained: “every emotion has an organic basis. Each different breathing method can be analyzed for its symbolic content ", and again: it is necessary" to act on the spectators like snake charmers and let them find the subtlest sensations through the body ".
In Thormann's work (even unlike the other two performances staged on the same day) there is no concession to aesthetics. The public is personally invited to take note of the common matrix, of this soul of ours made of flesh (Artaud docet), and to share it physically, wearing uniformly white, neutral overalls - where there would still be resistance to attend the secular rite of the theater, naked like Thormann.
Like the plague, theater infects, sickens, leads to physical and psychological suffering. The butō serves Imre only as a rigorous discipline that allows him to transform his body, and with it every gesture or breath, into an expressive hieroglyph of a language that finally becomes true, meaningful much more than all those now worn words - of which one feeds the theater too often.
Visually, the fluidity of the movements, the fullness of the gestures, the ability to inhabit the small space that Thormann derives for himself - with a series of neon lights arranged in a ring - inevitably refer to a sculpture that is not crystallized tension, but purity of forms which are drawn in three dimensions, to which a fourth is added, time - in an infinite repetition of presents. As Nietzsche prophesied: "The eternal hourglass of existence is always turned upside down and you with it, grain of dust"; the suffering of humanity is renewed from Afghanistan bombed by Bush for his "good" (the title refers to US military operations launched in 2001) to Yemen under Saudi raids.
"J'ai recu la vie comme une blessure, et j'ai défendu au suicide de guérir la scar" (I received life as a wound, and I forbade suicide to heal the scar, t.d.g., Lautréamont). Theater as the only plague that can heal us from the pain of living.

Original in Italian
Luciano Uggè, Genova 2018
At the end of the long and rich day, the rerun of Enduring Freedom, by and with Imre Thormann. With this performance we enter a decidedly more Western dimension of Butoh. A body, alone in its own nakedness, which moves in absolute silence, on an equally bare floor and with the only illumination of a circle of neon to delimit the space. The dramaturgical construction takes its cue from yet another Western forcing, led by the United States, to justify an intervention (ie a military attack) with clear economic policy purposes, disguised with the banners of democracy. How to obtain peace and security, dignity for a people, with a means such as war? Thormann takes upon himself and almost seems to metabolize the suffering caused by the stars and stripes surgery through his own body. Disbelief at what is happening, which is replaced by fear, hunger, fear of torture or bombing, and all the paraphernalia that every war brings with it. The body, slowly but surely, collapses, does not hold up any longer - because even endurance has a limit. The eyes, the lips, become the fulcrum of a performance where the smallest movement, even an expressive one, becomes a precise signifier. His face does not need masks to transform itself in front of our eyes, the psychological heaviness translates into the frantic attempt to hold up a body that has lost all vital energy, all hope. An almost excruciating experience that one lives, on an emotional level; and, on the other hand, on an aesthetic level it is difficult to understand how a body, in the short span of time of a performance, can get to make evident what all the words now devoid of meaning of the mass media, the most bloody images of the tv of pain, they can't even remotely express (or don't want to). As every time you find yourself in front of Imre Thormann's art, you are incredulous and grateful.

Original in Italian
Cristina Zanotto, Genova 2018
We prepare to enter with a white overalls, hooded, as if we had to cancel our "shape" to lose the conformity we are used to. The feeling you get when wearing the garment is at first estranging, you feel awkward, awkward. They make us sit in the hall, here we find a space in the space, with a rather compact rectangular shape - for a maximum capacity of 40 spectators - and we sit there. Then Imre enters. Fully dressed, he sits down and after a few minutes starts undressing until he's completely naked.

Thus begins the act of transformation, while I observe him I wonder if he is really here, in front of me or if he is elsewhere, his gaze seems to be projected into another place, space / time that does not belong to this moment - he comes to my aid Roberta Bagni's description that describes: "often during the dance we do not realize what and where we are dancing, we simply are, we simply are, in this present time, as in a ceremony in which ancient forms of life, memories of the earth, being the here and now in full humility in the face of the inexhaustible fullness of what surrounds us. " - here his body speaks to us through a meticulous search for even the most imperceptible movement of which nothing is hidden from us, frank sincere as he is, in front of us, he falls, gets up, falls, continually beats with his bones, knees, head, hips, everything always returns strongly to the earth and he seems not to care about the cold floor, not to care about the pain, nor about the red bruises that begin to appear in his body that begins to tell an extremely intense experience. I suffer a little for him, I think his knees will explode sooner or later, I think the suit is serving me, I feel sheltered, almost protected, because what I see is a little "raping" me on the image I have always had of movement and which is broken with him. In Irme I see an almost primitive language, in which everything is reset to rediscover the uniqueness of a primordial form that goes beyond the word. For this reason I believe it cannot be labeled as a show, here the spectator, perhaps even improvised, has the opportunity to find himself in front of a corporal research where there is nothing "fake" and you understand that it is a privilege - perhaps only of some - to be able to incorporate sensitive experiences, without being subjugated by what observes us from outside.

Original in Italian
Francesca Camponero, Genova 2018
Only 40 people from the audience who, before entering the hall, must wear a white gauze overalls with hood. The chairs are arranged in a row around a neon rectangle on the marble floor. This is the space Imre Thormann enters. He is dressed as he goes for a walk in the mountains: anorak, turtleneck sweater, jeans, t-shirt and hiking boots. He goes to sit in a corner, on an iron chair and after a breath of silence he begins to quietly take off his clothes, one by one, including his underwear. Left completely naked, he begins to shake the body, understood as organs, bones and muscles, as if moved by an ancestral force. His being is annihilated and freed he can do everything. Enduring freedom is indisputably a journey of inner and outer liberation.

Thormann externalizes his own way of feeling far from formalizing itself in a technique, after all this is Butoh. Bent, contracted, flat stomach, bald head, we rediscover a primordial man in continuous metamorphosis. His face goes from tragic to comic, his limbs contract and release according to a distant logic that we may never understand. He becomes small, then large in an inexplicable and unattainable design for mere mortals. The only sound is that of his knees when he throws himself violently on the ground, where he drags himself leaving trails of sweat that mainly descend from the head and face marked as by tears. His body falls, but does not break, indeed he seems to find more and more strength and vitality from an internal pain that hurts. Eventually he gets up from his last fetal position to return to his chair in the corner, gets dressed and leaves the picture on the ground with the indifference with which he had arrived.

The audience cheers, but he doesn't return to take the applause. Perhaps the triumph for him is too earthly.

Original in Italian
Matteo Brighenti, Genova 2016
It is a body dried up in its naked existence calling for a rebellion of the flesh to be reinvented. A body danced at the origin, beyond the daily conventions. Tension, thrill, ferment. Imre Thormann, one of the most prestigious Butoh masters in the world, is the rigor, effort and joy of permanent freedom. And precisely Enduring freedom is called the latest creation of the dancer from Bern born in 1966, a scholar of martial arts such as Aikido, Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Taekwon Do, after an unsuccessful career in a punk band, and student in Japan of the founder of the Butoh, Kazuo Ohno, and then Michizou Noguchi.

The elsewhere of a perpetual movement has shaken us to such an extent that we enter into communion with what was happening a few inches from our eyes, forgetting the sirens of the ambulances or the screams of children in the garden of Villa Rossi Martini, in Genova, home of the national premiere event for the VII edition of the Testimonials research actions festival promoted by Teatro Akropolis.

A neon rectangle on a blue and white checkered marble floor is the space into which Imre Thormann enters with a normal attitude. He is dressed like every day, as he will remain even after the show, at dinner: dark blue pinstripe with narrow ribs, close to us spectators sitting on all four sides, black boots, white shirt, black hat with a wide brim. He looks like a hitman, a killer or a spy, who didn't come from the cold like the protagonist of Le Carré's novel, but from the rising sun. He goes to sit in a corner, on a chair just like ours, and after a breath of silence he undresses with calm solemnity. Once on his feet, Thormann melts into the fullness of a dance that words can try to restore as long as they become organs, bones and muscles of ancestral forces, almost divine, not to represent reality, but to create new reality. Man reduced to nothing can do everything.

Hunched, gaunt, contracted, thin legs, flat stomach, bald head, Imre Thormann rediscovers himself as the first man on Earth in continuous metamorphosis, Adam coming out of the Garden of Eden, and comes forward and hugs and laughs and turns and writhes in all that is. He manages to become very small and very large, it seems to never end. He throws himself on the ground with a crash, drags himself anchored to his knees, collapses, moves not only outside but also, above all, from within. Sweat runs from his head to his cheeks and neck, they are the tears of effort and absolute control of the gesture. The hits on the floor become the only music in the room. The blows and his breath. Hands up, mouth pulled like a Japanese mask, then feet up, and keep rolling, jumping, hitting the floor, that does not react (cannot), but neither does the body break. It is a holding on while falling, a sliding by clinging, a dynamic use of the void. We are stunned, stunned, annihilated, a boy cries irrepressible tears, yet we cannot help but look, because that abyss into which Imre Thormann has descended looks at us, a chasm of moths attracted by the light of selfishness that ignores compassion, chasm of men on Dr. Mengele's marble table of economic exploitation or under the rubble of democracy exported with the bombs of the operationEnduring freedom, launched after 11 September 2001 by then US President George W. Bush against the Taliban in Afghanistan (the homonymy with the show is no coincidence).

The dancer's head is now a stream of sweat that invades the body, red from the blows taken. He rolls over to his chair in the corner, finding himself in the fetal position. When he gets up and goes to get dressed there is a jolt of life, we return to breathe as a single, large lung that has held our breath up to that moment: Thormann is still alive, indeed, he is alive again. Then we too can survive, we too have the strength to resist and be reborn.
What seemed impossible before, we have seen happen with our own eyes. The applause, many, welcoming and grateful, say that we understand and we will not forget it: change is written in our body. An arm, a leg can be enough to say and do everything.

Original in Italian
Simona Frigerio, Genova 2018
As Imre Thormann dried up his performance (it was the second time that he performed the performance without live music), he came to the essence of the content and the form - no longer with the intention of the sclerotic result, a technical implementation to achieve, but as an immanent sign of universal importance. In this case, in contrast to other depictions of Butoh, an expression of a cultural imprint. Enduring Freedom is a question and at the same time a possible answer, how humanity can preserve itself in a world where it is believed that freedom (or peace and democracy) can be achieved through wars. An oxymoron that conceals other goals (economic and geopolitical) shows itself in complete senselessness without Thormann uttering a single word. In his body as a performer, the viewer can recognize himself. The same flesh, bent and suffering, old and sick, on the edge of the abyss, is nevertheless able to straighten itself up again, to lift its head at the last moment and smile, because it is really true that only “beauty can save the world ”.

Original in Italian
Simona Frigerio, Genova 2016
And in this groove, the thrilling and profound work of Imre Thormann entitled Enduring Freedom starts from a personal need of the performer. Find a solution, an escape route or an alternative, and give an answer to those who claim to ensure the freedom of a people by waging war on them. If Bush, in Afghanistan, has given way to that endless series of bombings, targeted killings, destabilization of national entities, mystifications of language that bear the name of the War on Terror, Thormann does not stop at the denunciation. He crosses the thin red line that separates lucidity and madness, to live and breathe the suffering of the victim, who is part of the self, as we are all human beings, united by the same body. And everyone could make Shylock's words their own: “If you prick us, don't we give blood? If you tickle us, don't we laugh? If you poison us, won't we die? "

On that aching body, where every muscle, tense in agony, becomes an expression of human suffering, the eye becomes an unsuitable means for the spectator to share. The public experience is not unique. In the small room of Villa Rossi Martini, the reactions are very different. Everyone can only describe their own experience, which arises from their personal experience and from the empathy that is established with Thormann. The more one is open to the other from oneself, the greater the involvement will be. Some in the hall cry; others remain petrified; still others look away or have to leave the room because they are overwhelmed. There are those who remember the death of a family member, others the disease that awaits us around the corner. Someone comes out unscathed. Maybe others will even be annoyed. In this case, the theater made its own deaths. But even in the most painful bodily and emotional expression, it is humanity that seems to raise its head and win - in that faint smile, in that stubbornness not to give up. The nude itself, deprived of the liberating sense, is a further means of destroying the individuality of the other from oneself (not to be confused with individualism). Nude that, like the striped pajamas, homogenizes everything in a shapeless mass, which makes the ignominy even more tactile and earthly. When Imre gets dressed, as if he were returning to civil life, to everyday life, the poor remains (symbolically and psychologically speaking) are the means to regain one's own dignity. And when, in the end, he puts on his hat and sits down, we understand that humanity has won. And with it, we too. Sentenced to death from birth, what matters is how we live the while.

Original in Italian

Reviews about The False David

Simona Frigerio, Genova 2021
The Chela, the Saint, Father Sergius von Tolstoy or the Jedermann enters and breaks through the door like a mystic in the church, like a newborn in the womb. The Buddhist monk always has little with him, a bowl and the rope that surrounds his hips: is it the fisherman's soul / human net that he is casting? The christological reference returns and directs me to the next image that transforms into Pasolini, sacrificed on the altar of truth, the antihero par excellence of Italian bigoted communism of the 1970s, who denounced the dictatorship of the righteous before going into the open Sewer of a putrid and rotting Italy was stoned.

I detach myself from the here and now in order to grasp the key to the problem, to that life that the mystic contemplates and the antihero wants to leave behind - finally free from duties and burdens. "You only leave footprints in the sand that are wiped out at high tide," I read years ago on a mural on Tao Island. But can one be free by depriving oneself of the other?

When Thormann squeezes out his robe - like Linus his blanket - I feel my heart sink, and another antihero appears. The romantic Che - like all revolutionaries - real, or sensitively sublimated by Soderbergh, who does not believe in God, but in people. He knows that he can lose and remembers: "If you don't fight, you have already lost". But David will never defeat Goliath. Capitalism, which imposes schedules and rules on you to sell your life against the illusion of security, also convinces you that belonging and conforming to the system is the only possible world.

For a moment the man is mistaken that he could become a sparrow - but the flight is short. The inherent femininity causes us to tear ourselves apart. The monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey has not yet discovered the primacy - it prevails or it succumbs. And then it is necessary for Sisyphus to take on the weight of the world, this humanity who beats like a moth against walls that do not seem to exist because they are made of transparent glass, but withstand every effort and extinguish the last flap of their wings. Marilyn Loden's ceiling will also be made of crystal, but we can't break it.

How can one renounce humanity without renouncing one's own humanity?

The piper who is leaving is the one from Hameln (from the Brothers Grimm). And we follow him like mice towards the abyss. I feel like I've been holding my breath for 50 minutes and now when I return to breathing I feel alive like I haven't in centuries. Antonin Artaud theorized that the theater, like the plague, appeals to "forces that lead the mind back to the source of its conflicts by example". Theater is revelation because it "urges people to see themselves for what they are, to drop the mask, to expose lies, to laxity, baseness and hypocrisy". Imre Thormann realizes these theories on stage in a close and punctual dialogue with the clarinetist Pierre Lassailly - transformed into a narrative that needs no words because they are inscribed and engraved on the body (even without the tinsel of fake blood) - in the emphatic and revolutionary contact of the meeting bodies.

Why does political power fear the public square and the theater? Because men and women who manifest, who share an aesthetic or ideal experience in a real physical space, can use the power of beauty to undermine the status quo. Thormann carries out a silent revolution with the power of sweetness.

The rest is silence.

Original in Italian
Luciano Ugge, Genova 2021
Later we attend and participate, in the Sala del Minor Consiglio, in the performance of Imre Thormann - The false David, with the musical contribution, on the clarinet, by Pierre Lassailly. Recalled (announced) by the sweet sound of the instrument, a monk laboriously advances in his gait. Continue or stop, believe in your own possibilities or even retrace your steps: everything passes in the short blink of an eye. Life is a heavy burden that we try to share with others but, often, we fail to do so. The body tries to get rid of the weight but the bonds that bind us - really and metaphorically - are difficult to dissolve: we even try to throw them as if they were nets (to catch dreams?), But we always remain empty-handed. Our request for help seems to remain stifled: naked, but still weighed down, we attempt a more incisive impulse - perhaps stretched into an embrace - but without success, while Thormann's face fades from hope to pain to despondency. The music well supports these moments which, slowly, lead to the awareness of the difficulty, and perhaps the impossibility of sharing. Memories pile up, even visually and, around the head, the ties of painful memories seem to force us to an eternal return. Renunciation seems the only possibility but the burden, at this point, turns into the choice of a future of solitude. "Not being up to par" is the doubt that assails - "but of what?", One wonders. The inner path manifests itself externally in all its drama. And, as is customary in butoh, the dancer moves away, followed by the musician, without the need to receive those applause which, in the theater we are used to, are an outward gesture which, by now, is completely devoid of meaning - dispensed to anyone with the same ease with which we turn a channel at the end of a television program.

But Imre Thormann's works never have a real end, they continue to spin in the brain and recur - on an emotional level - even in the days to follow. At times, now we seem to almost grasp a miraculous catch which, however, does not turn into an epiphany. The net pulled on board is empty, but is it the human being who is not up to par or is it humanity that has lost that spirit of cooperation that was perhaps the reason for its development? It is said that those who sow wind reap storms. But in the silence of the world we realize that, often, waiting on the shore is no longer enough. The urge to participate and take up the challenge runs under the radar, leaving us with the anguish of not having done so. But tomorrow is another day.

Original in Italian
Jean Marie Gourreau, Paris 2019
The Butoh Festival 2019 has just opened its doors at Espace Culturel Bertin Poirée in Paris with the performance of a fascinating dancer, still little known in France, Imre Thormann. Through the character he embodies, The False David, he brings us the vision of a Butoh who is different from the one that the forerunners of this art, Tatsumi Hijikata and Kuazo Ohnô, left us.
The False David embodied by Thormann is not a hero of the legend as he specifies it, but a traveler that any of us could be. He is a being “whose pain of birth sounds like an infinite echo; a kind of phantom that arises from our shadow, searches for itself and tries to find its reason for life and existence.

The poignant images that are born under his gesture tell of fear, oppression, sadness, pain, and even death. They are reflections of the soul of a character who has suffered and who is still suffering from a being who seeks spiritual renewal, guided, embraced and entwined by the thread of life, the umbilical cord, delicate and fragile as it may be. A body that tries helplessly to rebel against adversity, spins in circles, but keeps returning to where it started. His dance is the dance of life with all the questions it can raise, whether material or philosophical. He translates the images that emerge from his subconscious in order to capture them, to understand them, to listen to them, to think about them, to react to them without, however, opposing them. Movement always goes hand in hand with emotions in his dance.
Kazuo Ohnô once said that "dance is the prayer of instinct". Through this instinctive prayer, Imre says, we can access the inner forces that move us and discover what it is like to live.

If the dance he practices today is strongly influenced by the art of these two dancers, it turns out for him that it can reveal the inner beauty of man and express his "inner flower". “What I try to offer when I dance,” he said, “is to open up this body so that this inner flower can grow, this inner flower can express itself, this inner beauty can be brought into play. Value”. That is why his dance calls on us, touches us and makes us vibrate.

Original in French
Julia Niedziejko, Teatre Kana, Szeczin 2019
Where is the beginning and where is the end of the circle?

During the discussion between Imre Thormann and the audience about the piece “The False David”, Imre Thormann turned out to be an advocate of mysticism. He gave broad and ambiguous answers, as if words could demystify his spectacle with carefully constructed dramaturgy. Like a Buddhist master, he maneuvered between natural metaphors and affirmed self-awareness and stoicism. No wonder Thormann lived in Japan for many years, where he researched the secrets of the Butoh dance under the watchful eye of Master Kazuo Ohno. The influence of his master was clearly visible in the project presented in Kana.
I had the impression that the answers that Thormann gave the audience during the conversation did not so much explain the topic of the performance itself, but gave the audience an overview of the artist's creed.

It is a presentation by an actor who, in motion, interweaves a web of meanings. The formal minimalism he used emphasized the simplicity of the smallest gestures full of symbolism. The rhythmic wandering along the circular path, which was the only stage design element of the performance, can be freely crossed with numerous associations. There are no contemporary contexts, no bundle of academic discourses, no obvious cultural references. The title The False David is an archetype of a man whose journey illustrates the clashes on many planes of existence.