We at ArtsTalk Magazine love the Korzo Theater in the centre of The Hague and its large main room, the Zaal, in particular. Normally a conventional performance space with comfortable raked seating at one end and the stage at the other, it works equally well when the banks of seating are miraculously concertinaed away, leaving a vast and inviting open space.
The creators of SOUL #2 Performers, Jérôme Meyer and Isabelle Chaffaud, set out to break down the notorious fourth wall, the invisible barrier between audience and performers and were immediately successful. With only a few chairs and stools around the edge of the room it was clear this was not going to be an event for mere spectators. As the audience filed in we were immediately invited the share the stage with the waiting performers who, standing on chairs, soon established their own circle of followers.
People were encouraged to close their eyes and be led around, as though blind, by other audience members, weaving in and out of the dense crowd to a disco style pounding, though not too loud, soundscape – a strange sensation in this day and age when our world has become so image driven. This activity increased until there was a steady stream flowing in ever turning and interweaving circles. In a way, this was an exercise in trust – some, suddenly re-enacting the experience of a sightless person, looked uncomfortable and anxious, some giggled while others looked truly blissful, as though all responsibility was lifted off their shoulders. All the while the proceedings were being filmed by Mr Meyer with the live images beamed onto a giant screen.
After a while this haphazard movement culminated in bodies slowly, almost imperceptibly, being woven in strange, interconnected forms and people reaching out fingers to touch each other like in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. Some leaned on each other for support as though drunk or crawled through gaps in the maze of bodies in their joyous exploration. It all reminded me of the once ground-breaking musical Hair, and one was half expecting a rousing chorus of The Age of Aquarius or Let the Sun Shine In.
The avowed intent of the creators of Soul #2 – Performers was to achieve a close relationship between audience and dancers who, despite their ability to perform extraordinary physical feats are, in fact, people just like everyone else – the idea here was remove the dancers from their pedestals, to blur the line between audience and performer. In the initial meeting of minds and bodies it was often impossible to separate the audience from the performers so, in that sense, Jérôme Meyer, Isabelle Chaffaud and the rest of their company achieved their aim and all the participants, no doubt, went home happy, enlightened and fulfilled. Astrid Burchardt 18th April 2018
Production photo by Robert Benschop