Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quick quick face the wall - a dance review

This piece by Club Guy and Roni, a husband-and-wife team of choreographers based in Groningen, was divided in two parts, with women interpreting the first, and men interpreting the second. The moment I stepped into the theatre, I saw a translucent screen and wondered if it was a film screening instead. It turned out to be a mixed media sort of theater, with not much movement, and by the end of the first half I wished I was watching a real film instead.

On stage right, near the audience, a quietly comical woman plays the piano and very seriously puts on a platinum-blonde wig halfway through to play a Japanese lounge singer who sings in an plaintive and non-erotic way. Meanwhile, the screen shows a long, drawn-out, and ultimately overkill video about the experience of a woman who loses her husband in a car accident. What I found completely strange was the interweaving of absurd characters (like a man dressed up as a small girl, wearing a blue dress with pigtails) into the otherwise tragic story. Comedy and tragedy unfortunately did not mesh in this story.

To assign more cooks to the broth, sounds from the film like footsteps and swerving tires were repeated and amplified by the dancers behind the screen. I found this wholly unnecessary since film as a medium is both visual and auditory; it seemed like a whole lot of work and resources to do a job already done. Sometimes simple really is best, and perhaps adding their touches to a silent film might have been more interesting.

The second part had for a setting half-stage and half-living room. In one corner is a set of drums and in the other, a tall girl watching a small television from a sofa. The male dancers enter and exit in a variety of personas: drunk macho, drag queen uncomfortable in heels, crazy kilt-wearing and drum-beating acrobat, and quiet-but-devastatingly-handsome nerd. At some moments they dance together to set movements, but it is the individual personality of each dancer that really makes the piece amusing and enjoyable.

A piece of furniture in the middle of the stage is also unexpectedly functional - in the beginning it serves as a bar, then a magician's box to make people appear and disappear, and finally as a platform for a short moment of extreme machismo, involving parading around in their underwear.

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