Monday, 16 May 2016

Three Versions of Dance

Critics do not provide useful consumer guides to art. Artists dislike being given a label. Baudrillard spotted the rise of the simulacra. These statements may be related. I'm rarely certain.

Only, when it was suggested to me that Robbie Synge's Douglas can be better understood as clown rather than dance, I immediately appreciated it more. 

Three shows on the stage, three cups on the table: Douglas, Void, 5 Soldiers. Beneath one cup, a pea. The pea is the definition. The definition is dance.

Move the cups, and try to keep your eye on 5 Soldiers. Lift the cup and reveal the definition. It's dance! What does dance mean in 5 Soldiers?

Five performers, all alike in ability, only arriving at the same place through different disciplines. Their training lends them diverse physical skills, but certain movements - the extension of leg, the comfort in the body, the range of expression through limbs - don't come from sitting and typing.

Sara Teresa (credit)
And Rosie Kay, choreographer, takes these bodies and applies a vocabulary of gesture. Either suggested by or sampled from military experience, the choreography evokes aspects of soldiering.

It starts in boot camp: tight, minimal, forceful and drilled. It goes on a night out, where the body is set free (the change of costume for the woman signifying her femininity in sharp and sometimes uncomfortable contrast to the four males), and the men camp it up like a body band on the piss. Then combat, then wounded, then mutilation, back in civilian life (and wouldn't it be good if the final scene was a metaphor for the soldier outside of the army? Disabled, struggling without help, not a physical loss but psychological?).

Isn't that what dance is: the representation through a series of gestures of psychological and/or emotional states?

Move the cups. Keep your eye on Void. Find the pea. This time a single dancer.

Void has the same visual business as 5 Soldiers: projections across walls and bodies, only this time, a tighter cage. Episodes, each one a version of alienation, the trained body battling against enclosure. Note the enhanced physicality. Trained, evidently. The tension between this body's expansive potential (when she hangs from the wall, or tries to climb the wires mesh) and the restricting environment... 

Move the cups. Lift the cup. Douglas.

Tries to balance, only to tumble. Moves props around the space. Music is present. As in all three: maybe that is important to dance. Maybe sound. Douglas makes himself, slowly. He is tentatively working out the movement vocabulary that builds his personality (he's more fun than soldiers or dwellers in the abyss, only he is vulnerable funny, not telling jokes). 

Trained body here less evident. Telegraphing meaning in flashes between long, attentive routines. He builds. It collapses. 

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