Maguy Marin’s theatrical dance work MayB, premiered in 1981, was soon recognized as a cornerstone of a new genre, which challenged the budding new expressionist dance with socio-political perspective and new aesthetic propositions. It also derived powerful images directly from playwright Samuel Beckett.
A group of 10 performers move together, shuffling their feet hesitantly. Perhaps they are survivors of war, refugees of an asylum, product of some traumatic experience.
Take your pick.
Dressed in drab garments, a cross between shrouds and underwear, covered with dust and ashes from head to toe, wearing shabby shoes, they look grotesque, as if life was sucked out of them. Yet, some primal instincts keep them going. The lame, the poor, the old and the ugly, a group of miserable misfits shuffle their feet, grunt and heave through their endless journey from nowhere to nowhere, moving in order to survive, dancing to feed their animalistic urges.
Marin redefines compassion through desolation and despair, misery and destitution. She composed MayB as homage to Beckett, one of the pillars of the theater of the absurd. In some respect, the work has also common ground with our own late playwright Hanoch Levin, who knew a thing or two about life’s miseries and misfits.
Since her first visit to Israel festival in 1989, and again 13 years ago, the relevance of her piece has only grown. 33 years ago, her proposed revolution of aesthetic and body politics was shocking. Since then, contemporary dance has gone much further, charting new borders. So did Maguay Marin in the past three decades, investigating and re-challenging herself, defining new targets.
As time passes, the revolutions of yesteryear call for new perspectives and MayB, like the truly cohesive masterpiece it is, contains inherent qualities that transcend time.
In the end, it’s not the wrappings that matter, but the basic integrity of artistic components.
With her unsurpassed quest for inner truths, she morphed the metaphoric ashes into a diamond.
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