Exercise Critical Endeavour


How does it work?


Varinia Canto Vila, a former P.A.R.T.S.-student presented her solo During Beginning Ending yesterday on the opening evening of Working Title Festival. In the title of the piece the normal chronological order of “beginning”, “during”, “ending” is changed. It suggests the importance given by the dancer and choreographer to the process. Movements and thoughts never reach their ‘destination’, but remain unfinished, open and flexible. This doesn’t mean: vague. Using a minimum of means, Canto Vila has created a fascinating solo piece.


There seems to be no scenery. Of course this absence is already a scenery by itself. The white empty floor, the constant and strong light that not only shines on the performer’s body but on the public as well – all these are scenographical choices. The dancer enters the stage and comes standing in front of the public. All gazes contain projections and judgements. Canto Vila gives us plenty of time to look at her, to project and to judge. She’s a tall latino woman somewhere around her thirties. But the dancer also looks back, attentively and slowly moving her eyes from left to right. From the start, she makes clear that we, the public, are also part of the “visible world”.


When Canto Vila puts some rythmic instrumental music on, her eyes turn inward. The uneasily personal relation between the dancer and the public is now blocked: we are safe. Full attention goes to the performer’s body. From the back of the stage she starts to develop a slow dance, using more and more parts of the body as the intensity of the music grows. She holds her arms and head upwards, then bends the knees, moves the hips. In the beginning I’m asking myself: “What do these movement figures mean? What does this body refer to?” I see a priest in trance, performing some kind of sun dance. The glazed eyes and distorted facial expressions make me think of psychiatrical patients. Other associations come and go. In all of them there is a loss of “self” in the people being looked at.


When the music stops, Canto Vila glances up and looks back at us, in a fearful way. As I have the feeling it leads me nowhere, I give up searching for answers to my first question as a viewer: “What does it mean?” This question only provokes narrative reflexes from my part. Soon this question is replaced by another one: “How does it work?” I start to focus on rhytms, tensions, the loss and regaining of control and equilibrium. The dancers body becomes a musical instrument. Dance as music visualised in space.


“How does it work?” The rest of my text should be an answer to that question, but I’m blocked here. I think it has something to do with me not being a music expert and/or a dance critic. I can only describe what I saw – the falling, oscillating, snoring, etcetera – but I don’t know where to start ordering this material, analysing it and – if necessary –  judging it. It’s pure form! I can “feel” the piece wasn’t “vague” or arbitrary, but WHY? 

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