Before choreographer Marcos Morau starts his tour of the Netherlands this fall with a new piece for Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, he came to International Theater Amsterdam with his company La Veronal to present the show Pasionaria. But despite Morau’s being an interesting voice in European dance, Pasionaria does not convince entirely in the end. 

A stage is something that can transport you to other places, as Morau has shown time and again. After the immaculate space of a museum in Siena (2013), the set for Pasionaria looks equally monumental initially, but why this place is the scene of action remains the question. The scene depicts a huge hallway, with a staircase descending in a twist down to the floor. A long bench rests against the stone construction. There is a telephone on the wall, a big window, and a door. Even though a great deal of thought has gone into the aesthetics of the space – it breathes a certain grandeur – the place of action itself seems nowhere in particular. Who ever really takes notice of their surroundings while walking down some stairs or crossing a hallway? The set is edged in with a white frame of lights that places an extra barrier between the scene and the audience, as if the people over there belong to a different world.

At first sight the people inhibiting this space seem to have their own routines. During the night, security guards walk around with their flashlights. A nanny tries to calm a baby. During the day, the woman of the house descends the stairs, or someone is seen cleaning the floor with a machine.

It is in the characters’ movements and actions, however, that their peculiarity reveals itself. The team of workers with caps on their heads move with an incredible souplesse, flipping joints and limbs at will. Their partnering is smooth to a nearly unnatural level. There is a woman who descends the stairs with the locomotive traits of a puppet. In order to bring such an inanimate object to life, it is often shaken, and the tugs seem to express its urges and emotions. The movements of this woman in Pasionaria have the opposite effect. While she is real and alive, her movements make her look mechanical and inhuman. 

As night follows day, outside influences start creeping in. It takes quite a while before you realize it’s not the space where the action takes place that is the trouble; it’s the outside world that is the worrying part. The first clue is when smoke enters the room, which at the time seems merely a funny effect. But the view through the window in the background grows more and more alarming, especially when the moon is shown to be heading on a collision course towards the house. It appears that this rather familiar space is nowhere near us at all, it is somewhere far away.

Pasionaria is filled with developments and small actions like these that make you wonder. There are a few strong scenes, such as when an action of one of the women is repeated by another person, who then adds their own action, which is followed by a new repetition and another addition by a third, and so on, adding people and actions one at a time. Moments like these drag you into the same timezone as this strangely fascinating world. And at times the show is also quite hilarious. But all in all the development of the piece is not convincing enough. It’s not difficult to speculate about the origins of these creatures. But what are they heading for? The feeling that something is missing, lingers throughout the performance. And unfortunately, in the end the overall expectations raised with this elaborate production are not entirely met. 


Seen: September 24, International Theater Amsterdam.

Photo: Alex Font.

Director & choreography: Marcos Morau - choreography & dance: Àngela Boix, Jon López, Richard Mascherin, Núria Navarra, Lorena Nogal, Shay Partush , Marina Rodríguez & Sau-Ching Wong - costume design: Silvia Delagneau - scenography: Max Glaenzel - soundscape: Juan Cristóbal Saavedra - light design: Bernat Jansà.