OSKARA: Haunted by Our Selves

Pre-pandemic, I used to see 20+ dance shows per season. I cannot wait to witness again the magic of storytelling through movement! In honor of International Dance Day 2021, I’d like to tell you about two shows that stayed with me for years: Oskara and Pink Unicorns.

Oskara by Kukai Dantza

From all my years as an avid theater spectator, I got only one poster. I pleaded with the box office manager to let me take it from the window after the performance. Then I implored the stage manager to let me backstage. Then I begged the company manager for the dancers’ autographs. I needed a memento from the Afterlife. I travelled overnight to see this show again. In a year since I first saw it, I did not stop thinking about it. Well, maybe not thinking. I could not shake the feeling(s) of it. Life, death, desire, despair, camaraderie, competition, all of the above: choreographer Marcos Morau had created a monolithic work of art about masculinity as an embodied myth. How does one (un)become a man?

The poster hangs in my office. I am looking at it right now. Words are just (another) limited form of expression. The haunting Basque songs, the mesmerizing scenography like that fateful slow-motion sports match against the thin veil of existence, and the stunning costumes by a brilliant bridal couturier Iraia Oiartzaba worn by the dancers Alain Maya, Eneko Gil, Ibon Huarte, Martxel Rodríguez, and Urko Mitxelena. So many moments that make you hold/lose your breath. The sum total of Oskara‘s parts is indeed great(er)!

I saw Oskara yet again, a year later, in my native Russia – its own myth of masculinity so toxic, life expectancy for Russian men is stuck in mid-sixties, one of the lowest in the world. I went to see it with a childhood friend; an affirmation of lifelong bonds too. It stung me differently from that Moscow stage once graced by the likes of Rudolf Nureyev, himself an iconic embodiment of complex identities… In the summer of 2020, Kukai Dantza was commissioned to re-interpret Oskara as an installation in the immense space of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to commemorate its re-opening after the coronavirus lockdown. It’s Guggenheim Bilbao monolithic, oh yes.

Check out Kukai Dantza tour dates (I’ve seen their Erritu and Topa, both cool shows even if Oskara they are not 🙂 ) and follow the Company on Instagram. Ask your local performance venue to book them! I first saw Oskara during Tercera Setmana festival in Valencia in 2017, then again at Auditori Torrent in 2018 and again during the Dance Inversion festival in Moscow in 2019. I look forward to seeing it again elsewhere…

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