Fire dancers take over history museum

La Salamandre fire and dance troupe light up the Energy Show

The History Museum in Bern has become the backdrop for the latest cultural event in the city’s Einstein Year.

This content was published on August 9, 2005 minutes

All this week an open-air extravaganza, the Energy Show, is thrilling audiences with its mixture of physics, comedy and circus entertainment.

From fire-dancers to science comedians, the sheer range of talent in the multinational cast is impressive.

And the connection with Einstein? Director Dirk Schulz aimed to put together a show with energy as the central theme and the great scientist makes an appearance at the end of the evening.

"After the show, the members of the audience are not just enriched by the images they have seen but also know a lot more about the basics of energy," Schulz says.

The sound and visual elements were chosen to complement each other. This is achieved most successfully in Mädir Eugster’s balancing act, enhanced by the instrumental and vocal performance of Mongolian artist Enkhjargal Dandarvaanchig, or Epi for short.

Epi is an exponent of the strange and ancient practice of overtone or throat singing. His unearthly tones reverberate in the night air producing a magical atmosphere.

Striking a balance

The balancing act begins with a giant wind-shelter plastic cube being lowered by crane onto the stage to create a wind-free space for the act. The directions are given by the Swiss comedy duo Hell und Schnell in their broadest Bernese dialect.

Eugster, of Rigolo Dance Theatre, then proceeds to lay one palm leaf spine on top of another in a criss-cross formation until he is carrying a three-metre-wide interlocking mobile work of art, relying purely on balance.

"The mobile is incredibly fragile and can fall apart at any moment," Eugster explains. The audience holds its breath until the artist walks away from his creation, leaving it balancing on the final spine.

Fire ritual

The stone bears, which sit atop the gate pillars at the entrance to the museum, keep an eye on the proceedings and soon enough one of them gets his moment in the spotlight.

A member of the French dance troupe, La Salamandre, introduces fire into the show, dancing at the feet of one bear.

The Salamandre segments of the show are reminiscent of ancient rituals with fire, dance and percussion combining to produce a powerful effect.

Towards the end of the evening, one Salamandre performer scales down the facade of the museum building itself while another soars upwards, both carrying their trademark fire torches.

Finally, the castle-like museum building is illuminated with projected images of the solar system in a light show designed by Swiss lighting artist Gerry Hofstetter.

The museum is already hosting the biggest ever Einstein exhibition about the life, times and work of the scientist.

Everyone will take away his or her own personal highlight from the Energy Show. It has moments of absurdity, scientific comedy, musical wonder and spectacular visual stunts.

Magic Andy from Germany and Physicus & Narr supply the scientific explanations in the form of comedy sketches.

Billed as a show for three generations, the audience capacity in the specially constructed arena is 1,500.

International cast

Schulz thoroughly enjoyed working with the ensemble of Swiss and foreign artists. "It is wonderful working with an international cast. They are all very open, great artists who work very professionally."

"We are speaking three languages at the moment, sometimes not so well, but we understand each other all the same. Because we know what we want from one another and can communicate a lot with a look, a laugh or a gesture."

Einstein’s connection with Bern inspired these centenary celebrations. In 1905, the then 26-year-old physicist was living and working in the Swiss capital.

The year became known as Einstein’s "miracle year" as it was when he produced much of his most important and famous work.

His 1905 work included one paper entitled The Special Theory of Relativity, explained in the Energy Show by 11-year-old performer Mara Schenk from Wichtrach, Bern.

swissinfo, Clare O’Dea

Key facts

Performances daily until August 14 beginning at 8.30pm, weather permitting.
Admission costs: Adults SFr48 ($38), children SFr24. Ticket price includes all-day entrance to the museum's Einstein exhibition and physics "experience park".

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In brief

Energy Show is an evening variety performance being staged in front of the Historical Museum in Bern as part of the 2005 Einstein Year celebrations.

In the show physics meets entertainment in a circus-like spectacle presented by artists from different countries and disciplines.

Bern is honouring physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) with a programme of cultural and scientific events, including a special exhibition at the city’s Historical Museum.

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