Financial Times London

Johannes Wieland, New York

by Apollinaire Scherrr

Johannes Wieland’s ingenious roadkill transpires on stage, on screen and, most suggestively, in between. The dance-cum-video by the Kassel State Theater’s recently appointed resident choreographer consists of a double duet. Harassing the live dancers Eva Mohn and Ryan Mason are their hip screen doubles high on the theatre’s back wall. “Eva, relax,” orders her outsized celluloid self via English subtitles. In knee-high boots and lilac miniskirt, this casual screen goddess belongs in some European art film from the 1970s – Wim Wenders’ The American Friend, say. An identically dressed Mohn , squatting on the floor, stuffs her head into her leather satchel. “Hey, Eva,” her double continues, “have some fun.” The dancer hurries across a tiny patch of ground with steps so small they would do a centipede proud.

Meshing video, dance, avant-rock composer Ben Frost’s chameleonic score and a set that conjures an abandoned aircraft runway, with its borders of trash and rotting leaves, roadkill depicts a state of self-alienation that tips easily into numb ennui or useless frenzy. It captures this limbo with admirable economy, but then founders. Halfway into the hour-long work, I am tired of these people, with their fake dilemmas – their “Should we have fun or make a plan?”

Wieland might have taken a lesson from those wanderlust films he invokes. Destination may be less their point than the open road but they do proceed as if there is one. There’s a real drama distracting us from the existential crisis; in roadkill, the dancing might have done more of that. Performed with lush precision by gorgeous Mohn and handsome Mason, the dances prove uncanny. Wieland assigns steps associated with one part of the body to another, keeping the rhythms intact. The dancers transfer ballet’s delicate, bouncy steps for feet and legs to the arms; the wrist, elbow and shoulder fold and unfold at surprising angles. Mason makes a log roll exciting by concluding it, absurdly, with a pin-up pose. Again and again, the movement throws us into a state of déjà vu – and Wieland’s work leaves the runway and becomes airborne.