Will they come back no more? Cry. Breathe.

To read full article in Polish go to: http://centrumsztukitanca.eu/recenzja-spektaklu-ogrody-opuscily-swoje-drzewa/


I feel nothing. There is nothing but waiting, emptiness. In this emptiness, there is a rope and a naked body tied to it, flung to a corner of the stage. From the twilight, accompanied by a cellist sitting aside , a female figure shows up. In her hands, she holds a ceramic core to which the other end of the rope has been wound. The rope passes through a high block. The woman is singing. At first, her beautiful voice sounds soft like the Dido’s Lament[2], but from minute to minute it becomes more and more fervent. The singer enters into a dialogue with herself and although I do not understand the words, I see that she is also trying to speak to me. Her singing is filled with pain, sadness, but still sounds strong, so much that it completely absorbs me and almost in the last minute I notice another figure coming towards the stage from behind of the audience. I do not know who she is. She hides her face behind a black veil. I do not see her eyes. I do not know if she sees anything, because she seems to walk groping a bit, but she is slowly moving forward. I feel torn – I do not know who to focus on: on the characters on the stage or on the woman without a face. The cellist increasingly leaves the score. My world, the viewer’s world, begins to fall apart, but this is just the beginning.


The world that I see in ‘Gardens abandonned their trees’, Sylwia Hanff’s performance, dies, falls apart. As in the poem by the Polish poet Julian Przyboś[4], which was the inspiration for the title, I can only see the contours and what disappears. Everything here is tangled, scarred, tormented: both people and trees, chaotically lingering on video projections in the depths of the stage. The gardens have abandonned their trees, and the trees have remained because there was no other choice. They stick, hold on to the ground, and to life, as much as they can. This is their tragedy and their heroism. The Limen Butoh theatre wonderfully creates the structure of the play by using the classic literary form: the lament (epicedium) and music form: the opera. It makes me remind all the poems I have read and all the operas I have seen. All of them are beautiful but still filled with regret and longing, they are sad, without a happy end. Therefore, I do not expect a happy ending. I feel that one tragedy will entail another, one agonizing, broken movement of a dancer will spawn another, even more spasmodic and full of internal tension. Every gesture, facial twitching or look are extremely intense. The choreography is the emanation of the inner world of the dancing. The character’s destiny is an internal heroic fight with him or herself, and with something that is more or less undefined, which limits us, smothers and destroys our world.


The dying world in front of my eyes is almost colorless, gray as cobalt and unstable as twenty-five of its isotopes[6]. The space is filled with randomly scattered fragments of metal structures that the characters try to arrange in some order – unfortunately in vain. I have the impression that in principle, with each of their attempts, they are transforming the world again. Each transformation introduces even more chaos: beautiful flowers are torn to shreds, trees change colors, costumes are destroyed and torn, the cord entwining the dancer tangles him and makes it even more cramped. The emotions of the dancers and movements change: they are faster, more violent, convulsive, artificial, as Sylvia Hanff’s crazy smile, when she is smearing and tasting the blood-red lipstick around her lips. The images are vibrating, the improvised sounds of the cello mingle with the sounds of nature, noises and classical music from the off.


Tired of agony, the world is burning. On the ruins, as in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams[8], only those who survived the apocalypse balance between waking and sleeping. The world died and man died with it. On the stage, among the pieces of what is left, there lies an inert man. Behind him, an exhausted, silent, absent-minded woman sits. The pieta – as surprising and intriguing as the whole performance. But if it is a pieta, then maybe there is still hope that the world and man will be reborn. Perhaps the breath will return to the tormented body, and the trees will revive and the gardens will return to their places.

This is a strong picture that perfectly matches the intensity of the whole performance. The Limen Butoh theatre draws from various cultural sources and combines many different forms. The artists create a harmonious, coherent and deep picture of the modern world. This is a place full of our fears, tensions and failures. We can not get rid of them, but we can accept them and, like in butoh, take a deep breath and immerse in ourselves; we can try to feel the world as it is without trying to transform it against its will; we can become a part of it. Maybe it will save us from feeling lost and lonely.

My soul is turning to ashes.

If I breathe out,

They spill from my body.

I breathe myself in and out.

My soul floats throughout the sky

As it turns to ashes and falls.[9]


Fotography by Marta Ankiersztejn

“Gardens abandonned their trees” Cobalt version / The Limen Butoh Theater

Directing / choreography / butoh dance: Sylwia Hanff

Choreography / butoh dance: Marek Kowalski

Mezzosoprano: Elwira Janasik

[1]             The name of the first part of the classical mournful literary work (epicedium) which denotes the disclosure of the cause of the pain.

[2]             Dido’s Lament – aria from Act III of the opera by Henry Purcell ‘Dido and Aeneas’ (1680).

[3]             The second part is characteristic of the construction of a classic funeral literary piece (epicedium), meaning the calculation of the merits of the deceased. [Ibid.]

[4]             Julian Przyboś Evening

[5]             The third part is characteristic of the construction of a classic funeral literary work (epicedium), meaning mourning. [Ibid.]

[6]             Cobalt (Co, Latin: cobaltum) – chemical element from the group of transition metals of the periodic table.

It has 26 isotopes with a mass range of 50-75. Only the isotope 59 is stable, which is 100% of the isotopic composition of the natural cobalt.

[7]             The fourth part is characteristic of the construction of a classic funeral literary piece (Epicedium) meaning consolation. [Ibid.]

[8]             Akira Kurosawa Dreams (Yume), 1990

[9]             From Without & Within, Kazuo Ohno, Yoshito Ohno, Butoh world Kazuo Ohno, Fundacja Pompka, Warsaw 2014

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