The triumphal march of the tents from the first part LETTERS FROM TENTLAND went around the world for one year, and after 43 performances in 17 countries, Helena Waldmann changed the perspective of the piece for the Montpellier Danse Festival 06. The Iranian 'Letters from Tentland' were now overwritten, answered and sent 'Return to Sender' by exiled Iranian women. So statements were transformed into answers by return mail.
The bodies of the female performers disappear in the tents, but you can feel their inner tension. In 'Letters from Tentland', six Iranian actresses capture the audience with their anger, their wishes and dreams, but also their call for tolerance and cultural difference. In 'Return to Sender', six exiled Iranian women succeed in formulating a passionate plea for freedom. In this piece as response, the dance is about the supposed liberties of exile. The women perform in tents which their colleagues form Tehran have left behind, and which both groups use to veil their desires. For the exiled, the tent is a symbol of their unstable lives and also a piece of home which they cannot rid themselves of. They move on the dividing line between the two cultures, and heavily bump into both sides. So the tents whirl around like wind blowing from two directions, they fold and unfold, ripping up like envelopes with letters from exile tumbling out. Locked-up moving messages that speak of home as a puzzle of memories, of imminent deportation, of being inbetween, being different. And between the lines we can read how they fight against fear, how they try not to be controlled by fear.
Same way as the first part consists RETURN TO SENDER of dance choreographies and monoloques, framed in video projections and music, that turns into a room of actions and picture, at the end of the play, while the actresses invite the female part of the audience to conversation behind the curtain, turns into a communication area.
As the motion changes with the spoken parts, so consists the projections repertoire of image and text. They act as aframe producing a topographic-cultural background. They summon the Iranian world on the stage using pictures of tents or Tehran panorama, enlarged pictures of tent netwindows and shrouds, interiors of shelter tents or Farsi scripts. This causes a concrete change of the play location. One thing remains different anyhow: the sequence with the dancing woman that can be seen as a white hazy silhouette. It is illusionary.It bings in a sketch what is not permitted (a dance, not to wear Tchador), it fetches out volatilely and immaterially, what during the whole play gets encoded by elaborated symbol language.
Baggage of fear by Sandra Luzina
The tents are still the same, made in Iran. But the inhabitants are others now, with other stories. After the change of government, the performers of “Letters from Tentland“ had difficulties in leaving the country. But Helena Waldmann knows how to confront difficulties constructively. She decided to restage her piece, implementing a radical change of perspective. “Return to sender Letters from Tentland“, which premiered in Germany at the Kunstfest Weimar, is formulated like a reply in the form of a letter. The director begins the first of her five letters with “Dear Banafshe, Mahshad, Pantea, Sara, Sima, Zoreh!“. She knows these letters will not reach Tehran, but she does not want the correspondence to be interrupted. And the real addressees are the spectators, of course. Six exiled Iranian women, all resident in Berlin, are now living in the tents. And first of all, this is a provocation. For most of the young performers (some came to Germany as children with their parents, one has the status of a political refugee) have never worn a chador, and their German is as good as their Farsi. They have experienced or so it seems the blessings of Western freedom and are in a position to invite solely the male audience members to a backstage talk after each performance (with the Iranian women it used to be ladies only). Waldmann shoves these confident, attractive women into a tight enclosure which they are not allowed to leave until the end. It does work: In “Letters from Tentland“ the tent was above all a metaphor for the chador; the hidden world behind the veil was beckoning. Here, it symbolizes the nomadic existence, the lack of an inner home. And it touches upon the invisibility of many foreign women. The foreign skin which turns them into ’the other’ for many. And the tent is also a reference to the baggage of memories dragged around by migrants. “Return to sender“ is no piece about Iran, it is first and foremost a piece about exile and about fear. “I am surprised that there is so much fear here in Europe, too“, writes Helena Waldmann in the second letter. The director’s view put across in a political and polemical tone in the letters is layered over the performance of the women, who repeatedly overwrite individual scenes from the Tehran “Letters“. You constantly have to read between the lines. The amazing final image reveals a disclosure. A utopia, maybe, but a painful shedding of skin in any case. In a wild dance the women throw off their fabric sheathing. And one begins to grasp how difficult it is to liberate oneself form these tents, this protective layer, this hiding place. further performances on 14 and 15 October at Radialsystem, Berlin
© Sandra Luzina, Der Tagesspiegel August 12, 2006
RETURN TO SENDER -
LETTERS FROM TENTLAND
premiere June 25 > Festival Montpellier Danse 2006
from and with > Sanam Afrashteh, Javeh Asefdjah, Salome Dastmalchi, Taies Farzan, Niloufar Shahisavandi, Pujeh Taghdisi
set design and direction > Helena Waldmann
dramaturgy > Susanne Vincenz
light design > Herbert Cybulska
video > Karina Smigla-Bobinski
composition > Mohammad Reza Mortazavi Parissa & Ensemble Dastan Alexei Aigi & Ensemble 4-33 Hamid Saedi & Reza Mojhadas Raz Mesinai, Muslimgauze, Axiom of Joyce
A production of Festival Montpellier Danse 2006, Theater im Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen (D),
Supported by Hauptstadtkulturfonds, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut
. . . .
> Return to Sender -
Letters from Tentland
> Helena Waldmann