I remained disconnected both emotionally and intellectually from the Stefan Poetzsch and Bettina Essaka music/choreography performance Sunday at Summer Arts.
Poetzsch, a German violinist, violist and composer, joined with Essaka, a German/Cameroonian dancer and choregrapher, in “Cicadas Whispering,” a concert-length piece featuring spoken poetry, movement and a mix of live and recorded music by Poetzsch. The piece in its various movements is meant to evoke the sounds and energy of Douala, the largest city in Cameroon. From the outset, it became clear that motion on the part of the musician as well as the dancer was integral to the piece. Poetzsch paced the stage with precise movements as he played, often executing slick 90-degree turns, and at other times scooting across stage in a rolling chair. Essaka was on stage with him at times performing her choreography. Both got solo turns in the spotlight as well.
I found the experience overwrought and tedious, especially after the hour mark. Poetzsch’s live virtuoso playing seemed swamped by his recorded tracks, giving the whole experience an unfortunate karaoke feel. Throw in the spoken words, and it started becoming a mush. (A persistent hiss in the John Wright Theatre’s sound system didn’t help.) His incessant choreographed movements seemed less an essential and organic part of the piece and more a gimmick meant to rein in multidisciplinary performance-art followers. (Or marching band fans.)
As for that trip to bustling Cameroon — it got lost in the midst of all the artistic fussiness. The heart of this piece just didn’t beat.