3 Solos


 “It might sound horrible, but I think that good things are often triggered off in the moments of despair. The despair which prevents the use of the usual means. It’s like an allergy.”  -- Vera Mantero

One mysterious thing, said the e.e. cummings* is an homage to the tropical siren of the Parisian cabarets of the 1920s, Joséphine Baker. It could be simply called: "Everything you ever wanted to know about Joséphine Baker, but never dared to ask."  She was a black dancer, singer and actress (Zou-Zou and The Princess Tam Tam) from a poor American family. She became famous as a dancer in the once notorious Folie-Bergère. During the war, she collaborated with the French resistance and remained an active human rights activist afterwards. She became the surrogate mother of twelve children in the Rainbow Tribe community. In 1975, in Paris, she was the first woman to be buried with military honours.
When Vera Mantero was offered to make a choreography dedicated to Joséphine Baker (one of the selected choreographers was also Mark Tompkins), she used the words of Joséphine’s compatriot and modernistic poet e.e. cummings who described her as:"one mysterious thing, neither primitive or civilised, or beyond time, in the sense that emotion is beyond arithmetic".
The Joséphine of Vera Mantero confronts us naked, balancing on the brink of being, beyond the glitter and the wild erotic. She is tragically bound to this world, as every moment in human life is.
Critics commented:"Olympia awakes, weary from dreaming. She had a bad night, that is evident. Insomnia and colic have disturbed her serenity; her colour indicates as much.". Or: "...this Olympia, a sort of female gorilla, grotesque in India rubber outlined in black, on a bed, in a state of complete nudity, ...". And: "The auguste jeune fille is a courtesan, with dirty hands and wrinkled feet..." The year was 1865. Their critique was addressed at Eduard Manet’s depiction of Olympia. The model for his impressionistic painting was Victorine Meurent. "A prostitute and a drunkard or a bald and defiant artist?" asks the feminist art historian Eunice Lipton. Olympias the wife of Philip II of Macedonia, could have provided the historical reference to Manet. It is said that Alexander was begotten by Olympias and a divine serpent, and that she had her husband’s mistress Cleopatra killed, together with their daughter.
The Olympia of Vera Mantero is a unique paraphrase of Manet’s painting. A five-minute palimpsest mixture of the impressionistic Olympia and extracts from the book L’asphixiante Culture by Jean Dubuffet is "funny and ostentatious" (Libération), a bizarre interpretation of the simultaneous views of the reader/actor/model.
Mantero never takes dancing for granted. To dance is for her never something obvious. Why dance? There is always that question mark. "What does dance say? What can I say with dance? What am I saying when I’m dancing?" In her improvised solo Perhaps she could dance first... and think afterwards she thematises these creative questions. In her performance, awarded at the Mudanças festival in 1994 and at the Rencontres Choréographique de Bagnolet in 1996, she transforms the experiences of her inner being into motion. Thus movement comes before the thought, before the word, before the beginning and at the end.

One mysterious Thing, said the e.e. cummings
Concept and performance: Vera Mantero; props: Teresa Montalvão; characterisation: Carlota Lagido, Ana Araújo; lights: João Paulo Xavier; executive production: Forúm Dança; support: Casa de Juventude de Almada, Re.Al / Amascultura; production: Culturgest (Homage to Josephine Baker); 20 minut, 1996.

Concept and dance: Vera Mantero; light: João Paulo Xavier; text: Jean Dubuffet; music: Gravation de musique Indien; 5 minut, 1993.

Perhaps she could dance first… … and think afterwards
Danced by: Vera Mantero; set: André Lepecki; music: Thelonius Monk “Ruby, My Dear”; costume: Vera Mantero; luči/ light design: João Paulo Xavier; production: Pós d’Arte 1991;  financial support: Instituto da Juventude; supported by: Companhia de Dança; commissioned by Klapstuk Festival 91 (on the occasion of Europalia Portugal), 20 minut, 1991.

Production and organisation: City of Women
In cooperation with Mladinsko gledališče

Date and time of event: 
Oct 09th 20:00
Place of event: 
Mladinsko gledališče