Partway through “The Encounter: Buffalo,” the new project in physical theater at Torn Space, one of the performers delivers lines taken from a monologue in the Hungarian film “Werckmeister Harmonies” (2000). The speaker is the hero of the movie, and this is a fragment of his speech:
“All I ask is that you step with me into the boundlessness, where constancy, quietude and peace, infinite emptiness reign,” he says. “And just imagine, in this infinite sonorous silence, everywhere is an impenetrable darkness. Here, we only experience general motion, and at first, we don’t notice the events that we are witnessing.”
Now, another quote from the film, from a working woman: “So how can you explain this all in normal terms? The mysterious unknown plagues are here.”
And so, within scenes from an Eastern Europe film made more than 20 years ago, a message is transmitted about the latest project at Buffalo’s most experimental theater company. Step into the boundlessness. Experience general motion. Begin to notice what you are witnessing.
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And then try to explain it in normal terms.
Physical theater defies efforts to describe it when the entire concept is for it to be experienced in person. development, Kimberly Bartosik gives it a try. Bartosik is a choreographer and director based in New York City, now in Buffalo as part of a residency at Torn Space Theater Company.
She said she originally planned, back in 2019, to bring a performance piece to Buffalo, but Covid-19 changed that.
“After the pandemic interrupted, I knew then that I wanted to do something with the people who are here.” Nine performers were chosen from open audits; none are dancers by training.
For Bartosik, that was not important.
“This is about reconnecting to our dreams and our lives,” she said of her new piece. “We are reflecting on how time slowed down and sped up during COVID.”
Through the movements of her actors – she doesn’t call it “dance” – Bartosik wants the audience to experience “all these things we are carrying: grief, love, change. Just dealing with all the loss.”
For her, it is personal, and that is what she hopes the audience will take away from “Encounter.”
“It’s what is inside the audience,” she said. “The goal is that the feel, not a specific emotion, but that they feel something. They shouldn’t be sitting back, watching. They are active witnesses to the performance.”
A “normal terms” comparison might be that of going to a Bills game and, while staying at the stands, being actively invested in what is happening on the field.
Bartoik’s residency is the latest in a series at Torn Space to bring nationally and internationally known artists to residencies in Western New York. A former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, she has won multiple awards for her work, which has been performed around the globe.
“The Encounter: Buffalo”
Physical theater project exploring identity in a post-pandemic society, created by artist-in-residence choreographer Kimberly Bartosik, Torn Space Theater, 612 Fillmore Ave. Performances are Fridays through Sundays through May 22. Tickets are $30; $15 for artists and students, at tornspacetheater.com.