Olga de Soto. Reconstruction of a Danse Macabre

28 February – 1 July 2024 / Sabatini Building, Space 1

Rehearsals of The Green Table (Kurt Jooss, 1932), 1964. Photograph: Ger J. van Leeuwen
Rehearsals of The Green Table (Kurt Jooss, 1932), 1964. Photograph: Ger J. van Leeuwen

Choreographer, dancer and dance researcher Olga de Soto (Valencia, 1972) presents Reconstrucción de una danza macabra (Reconstruction of a Danse Macabre), a new project framed as part of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Fissures programme. The work revisits and expands upon a research project undertaken by de Soto over more than a decade ago on Der grüne Tisch (The Green Table, 1932), an anti-war piece by German choreographer which holds a mythical the history of contemporary dance.

Created in the interwar period and premiered in Paris during the rise of Nazism, Der grüne Tisch submerges its roots in a danse macabre and draws inspiration from the political texts of Kurt Tucholsky and Carl von Ossietzky, both of whom had already alerted of the dangers of National Socialism in Germany and its anti-democratic tendencies. Despite the choreography’s international acclaim, Jooss and his company — including a number of Jewish people — were forced into exile owing to anti-Semitic laws and the lobbying campaign articulated by Adolf Hitler’s new government and the Associated Press. The work has been performed ever since by different companies around the world.

De Soto endeavours to explore the lasting impact on audiences who have seen Der grüne Tisch and on the dancers who have performed it through different periods of history and in different countries, thus generating an archive of testimonies stretching across sixty-seven hours and comprising four languages, six countries and two continents.

An archive is not considered as such until it is ordered, systemised and interpreted. All archives are endowed with a grammar, a rhythm, a language of their own. The performativity of the archive unfurled by the artist was first presented on stage in Une Introduction (An Introduction, 2010), with the materialisation of the bodies of the interviewees, the dancers shown in the photographs and the artist in a chain of presence and absence. Amongst, numerous questions arise, reformulated here in Reconstruction of a Danse Macabre: Where do the traces of stage lie? Is the archive of dance in documents, in bodies? Who decides what moves beyond? Which events, performances and actions must last and which ones must not?   

De Soto’s research on dance as a medium, and its history, reception and transmission, makes her a key figure in reflecting not only on the discipline but also on other questions: the archive of the choreographical, oral and corporeal memory and the possibilities of translating the stage into exhibition space. The artist, who lives in Brussels, left behind traditional choreographic productions in 2000 to undertake projects in which dance alters the word, the body becomes sound and physical space turns into mental space. The voice as a trace and the gesture as a vehicle of perception are at the heart of Reconstruction of a Danse Macabre, which is accompanied by an encounter between the artist and Lola Hinojosa, the exhibition’s curator, and a programme of choreographical interventions in the spaces of the Collection, in an invitation to penetrate physically this new fissure realised in the Museo.