How to Spell a Piece

The stage is empty, the floors and the walls are white, the lighting is neutral. Two women, one wearing a red shirt, the other a green one, walk in from behind and kneel down in the front part of the stage, leaving some space between them. One goes down on her elbows, the other one rests her head on the floor, stretches out her arms. From this position they start moving, repeating a certain routine. The one dancer’s elbows are lifted from the floor, while the hands remain there, and with two loud knocks are moved back into the initial position. Reminiscent of windshield wipers, the other dancer’s stretched arms start wiping the floor in a steady motion. For a short period of time the knocks and the wiping are the only sounds heard. The routine is repeated several times, and then, keeping up the routine, the dancer in the green shirt starts talking. “I am a woman who follows a strict routine.” Two loud knocks and the wiping sound. Immediately movements and words are logically combined, the viewer’s longing for decoding the movements is satisfied by this one sentence. The story goes on; from her point of view “the woman” reports things like that she is rigid yet goes with the flow, likes surfaces, cleans a lot thus has an aching back, likes to caress, likes to be on top whilst having sex – which she likes to be soft, not hard, and also that she has a dog. The story told can be “seen”, or imagined, as mirrored in the movements of the two dancers. Words such as “surface”, “wipe”, “caress” correspond to the movements the girl in the green shirt is making; words such as “rigid”, “on top”, “dog” correspond to the other girl’s movements.
There’s a short moment of silence. “I am a woman who follows a strict routine.” The story starts again; this time, however, bits and pieces of the text are changed up and more details are brought in, while the routine stays the same. Also the new words appear to match up to the movements.
When the story yet again sets in with the now familiar sentence “I am a woman who follows a routine.”, first, nothing changes in the movements. Only when the next sentence is spoken, the dancer in the red shirt starts changing up her movements. From the position with her elbows on the floor she stretches out and wipes her hands over the floor towards her lower body, a movement reminiscent of the one that a cat makes when it’s yawning. Her hands move over her stomach, her chest and upwards, until they’re stretched. Now she stands up, her arms come together in the shape of a heart, in a rapid movement they’re torn apart to stretch out again. One hand tightly closes into a fist and is loosened up when the other arm moves downwards. More movements follow and at some point she slowly goes back down on the floor. Still, the story can be seen as connected with the movements; movements, which, and that has to be said, in no way specifically or explicitly carry a certain connotation, that being meaning. When the story is repeated for the fifth time, the dancer who had been with her head on the floor, wiping her hands left and right, changes up her routine as well, as the other dancer starts taking over telling the story. She stands up, bends back, and goes down on her hands and feet, the back towards the floor. These and a few other movements that follow will be her repertory for the rest of the performance.
The correspondence of the words and the movements becomes a pattern throughout the performance. What is more and more evident with each repetition is that while the story changes, while many words are added, only few new movements are introduced. New words don’t change the movements, but the rhythm of their “production”, meaning that the rhythm changes in a way that the movements coincide with the words used. Like the abstract letters of the Latin alphabet, which is limited to 26 characters, the movements that are used in the performance, which are countable, “spell” the respective story, standing in an abstract relation to certain words or groups of words.
At some point “love” and a “lover” are introduced, which leads to a performance of a song (Sam Brown – Stop) about the dancers’ love, “our love”, as they call it. For the choreography, the whole repertoire of movements they’ve built up during the play is used. Looking at the movements as part of this pop-song-dance-choreography, they seem completely devoid of any slightly possible meaning, just aesthetically pleasing. This becomes especially clear, when the movement, in which the arms are put together to form a heart and torn apart, is not used for the phrase “stop breaking my heart”. If the performance can be divided into parts, this song would mark a break between the first and the second.
In the next part, the two dancers continue playing with the viewer’s desire to decode everything that is seen, however with a different approach: They put together their movements in one moment, and give these certain moments titles, creating pictures, by saying “This one could be called… Bambi’s mother died and the stars were shining”. Immediately references to this title can be found in the movements the two of them make. But then they use two different movements from their repertoire and say “This could also be called… Bambi’s mother died and the stars were shining”. When this same picture is yet again to be found in the now different movements, suspicions about one’s own ability of “seeing” or “observing” arise, if they haven’t before. This game continues for a while, other titles and other combinations of movements are introduced, eventually the third part is lead in.
The story now goes away from “the woman’s” everyday life and depicts a particular (fantastic) incidence: The discovery of the lover, who was introduced earlier, as turned into a scary, cruel ghost, and the ensuing fight between the woman, the lover/ghost – and the dog. When the ghost is introduced, the light changes in a way that huge shadows are created on the stage’s back wall. In the style of German expressionist movies of the twenties, apparent in the dancers’ expressionist facial expressions of terror and fear and the named shadows, the story evolves to become aggressive and gruesome in extreme explicitness. The extreme facial expressions and the quite dreadful story give the movements a very different character: they are quite scary, even terrifying, now. Although they are the exact same movements as before, a repetition of the repertoire, in the surroundings they adopt the relating character. In this third part the viewer is confronted with yet another approach to the question of “how to spell a piece”.
What can be said with emphasis is that they’ve made their point, and that very clearly. However the thought arises, that they might have made it too clear. They approached their field of work from different directions, presenting their search, or actually their findings, their answers, in a very well-made – and closed structure. The performance can be considered a thoroughly thought out game with the viewer’s perception. What is promised is exactly what the viewer gets. The performance is very enjoyable to watch, however once it is over, no questions are provoked, because nothing is opened up, there are no gaps that could potentially open a field for debate. The performance only lasts as long as viewer and dancers are physically confronted, the creation doesn’t succeed in transcending the author’s initial idea.

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