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Jochen Roller


Stephanie Burridge






Esplanade Studio Theatre



How Much is a Tendu Worth?

With a degree of wit, humour and pathos, Jochen Roller guided the audience through his thoughts on the philosophy and economics of the arts: an artist faces yet another funding crisis - or he is actually fairly funded in relation to other workers of the world? How much is a simple tendu (a stretch of the leg in any direction with the toe on the floor) worth?

The first monologue, No Money, No Love, was a thesis on the value of dance. Roller appeared in warm-up clothes surrounded by shopping bags which represented our contemporary material world. In between brief phrases of dance, he did various calculations on a white board about the monetary value of dance and the job of a dancer. At one point, he offered an audience member $10 to entertain us - someone immediately took up the offer and gyrated furiously to the music. This proved the point nicely that, in a world bombarded by images, entertainment can be instant and shallow. That's the Way I Like It, which closed the evening, consisted of a series of projected video interviews between the artist and randomly chosen individuals with the same name. Roller was opening up a discussion about the privileged life of a government-funded dancer and how other people in different professions might regard this. I did find it interesting that all the interviewees supported the notion that society needed art and artists but few had actually attended the theatre or remembered any performances; however, by this point, we were getting past two and a half hours of a one-man show and the spirit of the performance - and of the audience - seemed to be flagging; the production ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

My main problem with this work was that it failed to sustain my interest for long on any front because much of the show actually consisted of one man simply talking (in German, albeit with English surtitles) and moving infrequently. There seemed to be an outright denial of the performer's body and his unique ability as a dancer. Roller can sustain beautiful, fluid passages of dance, robotic gestural phrases and full bodied rap and he teased the audience with these from time to time. However, he also forced us to listen to his treatise on arts funding and the role of the artist, most of which was presented rather monotonously and with little dynamism or originality. His theories on evaluating art in terms of itemised costs and the need for artists to multitask as pizza waiters, night security staff and aerobic instructors, for example, were clichéd and only reinforced the easy stereotype of the "poor struggling artist".

It was only the very small passages of dance sprinkled infrequently throughout the three monologues that I truly found truly brilliant and tantalising. Roller's movements were awkward yet virtuosic and choreographically innovative and exciting; they left the audience wanting much more dance and less talking. In the second monologue, Art Gigolo, for example, Roller conversed with a wise puppet about life and art and performed an excellent loose-limbed dance that combined sharp gestures with convulsive whole body movements. Although much of the movement remained contained with the arms pressed to the sides of the body, there was also a sense of joy in the freedom that he allowed himself with this dance. He also ended this monologue with a naked dance which was both provocative and hilarious.

Aside from these moments, Roller forbade himself from entertaining us because, as he said indignantly, "the empty seats in this theatre are there because people would rather be entertained by a musical". Certainly, the tedium of some aspects of this performance went some way to proving his point.

"It was only the very small passages of dance sprinkled infrequently throughout the three monologues that I truly found truly brilliant and tantalising"

More Reviews by Stephanie Burridge

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.