A journey into identity: Home by Sebastian Abarbanell

Uferstudios, Berlin
August 12, 2021

Be easy.
Take your time.
You are coming
To yourself.

Those are the words by poet Nayyirah Waheed on the promotional literature for Sebastian Abarbanell’s new work, Home, presented at Uferstudios, a centre for contemporary dance in the Wedding district of Berlin.

The piece is introduced as a multidisciplinary dance production placing the body into various relationships with external forces, and processing the journey of findings one’s identity in a society that constantly defines one from the outside.

Identity is generally considered the way we think about ourselves (often subconsciously), the characteristics that define us, but also the way we are viewed by the world. It is a sum of the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that we have. It is what and how we feel. Today, however, the word seems to be navigating an abundance of possibilities and accessions that somehow dislocate and push actual identity into unknown.

In Home, the body becomes the medium that allows Abarbanell to feel and define the self, the sacred space to go back to, the partner to connect with and listen to. His solo merges strength versus vulnerability, resistance versus fatigue, perseverance versus surrender, all through the virtuosity of controlled yoga movements, explosive release of withheld energy, and the danced liberations of a seemingly otherwise trapped being.

At times he appears in love with his own body. Yet, elsewhere, there is a conflict, that same body more a cage than a home. Reflections on the home itself as a cage (as has been the case in much of the last eighteen months) occur briefly but soon dissipate as we witness the body in its full corporeal potential.

Two wooden boxes and a long, knitted dress that recalls a medieval soldier’s chain mail corselet are the only things on stage apart from a large screen on to which Abarbanell’s breathing chest and other parts of his body are projected in close-up from time to time. The boxes are used as pedestals and containers to hide in, while the dress when worn becomes a suffocating and uncomfortable burden.

The stage becomes the arena to explore identities to be expressed and felt, and where Abarbanell investigates and stretches the limits of his body. His sculpted muscles are vividly visible in his thin frame which seems fragile yet inhabited by a fierce force.

The music is at times meditative, inducing a contemplative state of mind, but elsewhere is loud, techno rave that makes the whole space pulsate and vibrate. In the latter, he dances with fiery and channelled force, his limbs rotating at maximum speed.

Home appears as a cathartic experience for Abarbanell. From highly controlled movements, often on one leg, he dance detonates into raging, rave-like moments where he goes through a variety of positions and struggles in, out and around the boxes.

Seemingly influenced by Doses of Pleasure, the movement meditation practice developed by dance artist Alvin Collantes. based on process of finding pleasure and liberation through meditation, rave dancing and gaga technique, Abarbanell has shaped a very personal way of finding his language, his identity and his way to feel at home within his trained and listened body.