Basic architecture of dance

During Beginning Ending by Varinia Canto Vila

Where does the body end and where does the dancer start? That seems to be the central question in Varinia Canto Vila's preview performance During Beginning Ending at the Brussels Working Title Festival.

Dancer-choreographer Varinia Canto Vila is standing in a white, light space. She watches the audience as we watch her -- with a neutral onlooker's, attentive gaze. Then she walks towards her computer and turns the music on. After this somewhat clumsy start, the dancer sets of on a quite interesting exercise. As from now, until the very end of the performance, when she again will watch the audience briefly, we no longer seem to be part of Canto Vila's experience. During Beginning Ending is all about herself: the relation between the dancer and her own body. In the back of the room, she starts trying some arm movements. What happens to me when I make my body do this? The movement grows: How far can I push it? The dancer seems to be exploring the possibilities and limits of her body. During each movement, she observes meticulously what is happening. How does her body react? And moreover: what does this experience do with the person inside? When she seems to have reached the limits of a certain movement, she tries out another one. A step, a turn, a swing, a roll... Often, she starts out small and lets the movement grow bigger. The reason why this quite repetitive pattern does not start boring the audience straight away, lies more in the facial expressions of the dancer than in the choreography itself. Sometimes the movements of her body seem to bother her. They are difficult, do not give what she expects of them, they exhaust her, bore her or threaten to become painful. Sometimes though, they surprise her or just feel pleasant. Now and then the movements get stuck in automatisms and the dancer's concentration turns inwards, from her body to her own mind. All this can easily be read from the dancer's face, which does not only serve as a good guide of what is happening, it also keeps the attention of the audience from drifting away and regularly triggers some giggles from it, thus giving the whole thing a somewhat lighter touch and breaking the repetition.

The actions and movements of this choreography have been announced as comparable to 'construction-sites'. And indeed, this first part of the performance can be interpreted as separate building stones of human movement, the very beginning of what will become dance. During Beginning Ending is not just that, though. Somewhere halfway, Varinia Canto Vila turns the process around. Or better still: the body takes over. By now, the music has stopped and the dancer no longer observes what she is doing with her body. The body is now moving the dancer. This switch in focal point becomes again most clear from the dancer's expression, which is less actively concentrated -- she is undergoing the movement more than she is instigating it, as she was doing in the first part of the choreography. The experience is being stressed by snoring sounds that the dancer produces when breathing in, which intensify the sometimes humorous effects of the dancer's facial expressions.

If you can call the first part of the performance the construction-site where the dancer builds dance from the possibilities and limits of the body, then you might state that part two is the construction-site where the body refuses to be just the beginning of dance and its possible ending. It claims acknowledgement for the entire accomplishment. When the body takes over from the dancer, the performance can still go on. When the body stops moving, however, there is no more choreography, no more dance, no more dancer. Without the cooperation of the body, the choreography is restricted to be a mere plan, but there is nothing to be built.

Ines Minten

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