The 2021 RIDCC Finals in Rotterdam

Erika Silgoner’s Synthetic Love

There are myriad dance festivals and competitions around the world but oddly there were none dedicated to the duet. Odd because the duet, the pas de deux, has always been an intrinsic and integral part of any and every form of dance, whether it be Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

This situation was rectified in 2018 by Maya Roest and Mischa Van Leeuwen, two principal dancers of Scapino Ballet, when they created the Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition – the RIDCC. The event is more than just a competition. The finalists can take part in workshops, benefit from a dramaturg and receive advice on developing their careers.

Now in its fourth year, but only third running due to you-know-what, the finals were held at Theater Rotterdam, the spiritual home of both Scapino and the RIDCC. Due to ongoing restrictions the event was held behind closed doors and live-streamed.

From the original 417 entries from choreographers from 62 different countries, sixteen European – limited to mainland Europe because of travel restrictions – choreographers/duets were invited to Rotterdam to take part in two days of semi-finals. Subsequently, seven acts took to the stage for the grand final which we, with a handful of other invited guests, were privileged to attend in person.

There were several prizes up for grabs. The main one, the most prestigious accolade, was the XL Production Award worth €100,000. The eight Partner Awards would enable the recipients to work with leading Dutch contemporary dance companies while the viewing audience made the selection for the . . . err . . . Audience Award.

There was a common theme running through the evening – one which I suppose was inevitable given the format – that of exploring the relationship and interdependence of two people. There was harmony and there was discord, there was tenderness and there was exploitation and finally, some humour.

The show got underway with Fifty-One/Fourty-Nine by Dutch couple Emma Evelein and Remy Tilburg. Dancing under a single spotlight which gradually got larger and larger the couple displayed a tender relationship despite their initial robotic movements.

Lost and Maybe Found  by Dutch/Italian couple Winston Arnon and Pamela Monreale portrayed a more down to earth relationship with initial hesitancy developing into the occasional hostility that all couple face at one time or another.

I particularly liked Spaniard Pablo Girolami’s  T.R.Y.P.O.P.H.O.B.I.A. Again, lit by a single spot light directly above and to beautiful ethereal music, a lone, pale male figure was revealed, naked save for a small loin cloth. His body, covered in plastic cups à la ancient medical treatment of cupping (look it up), immediately put me in mind of Saint Sebastian, the cups replacing the arrows. Then, when he was joined by another identical guy in the small island of light, I was immediately reminded of the work of Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Powerful stuff.

We needed some light relief and this was provide by the last piece of the evening, La Bohème, choreographed and danced by Swiss David Gross and Italian Matteo Santoro. The humour started straight away when we realised the performance was being done in reverse. The two guys were taking their curtain call as the lights went up and then proceeded to sit and cavort on a leather Chesterfield sofa to the slightly less than melodic harmonies of Charles Aznavour singing  La Bohème backwards.

The high spot of the evening, and the winner of the main prize was another Italian, Erika Silgoner, whose very theatrical Synthetic Love explored the darker side of relationships. A stereotypical “dirty-old-man” in soiled raincoat, naked underneath except for a pair of Y-Fronts, circled his prey. The vulnerable mannequin was coaxed into life and exploited and abused for the pervert’s selfish ends in what was a brilliant but often disturbing piece. Nevertheless, there seemed to be some resolution to the relationship because, as the lights went down, the couple enjoyed a quiet post-coital smoke together. A worthy winner.

As with Synthetic Love, the performers were not always the choreographers and it was a pity there was not more information available about the dancers themselves when this was the case. Also, it was a pity that the music/soundscapes, which were such an important element, were not credited.

Once again RIDCC has brought together and highlighted the amazing talent that is around in the world of contemporary dance and it has focused on and presented an aspect which one would have thought was obvious – the duet.    Michael Hasted    27th June 2021


XL Production Award
Erika Maria Silgoner
Audience Award
Pablo Girolami
Partner Award – Nederlands Dans Theater
Emma Evelein & Remy Tilburg
Partner Award – Introdans
Sophia Nappi
Partner Award – Skånes Dansteater
Erika Maria Silgoner
Partner Award – Club Guy & Roni
Lea Ved
Partner Award – Conny Janssen Danst
David Gross & Matteo Santoro
Partner Award – Codarts Rotterdam
Maciej Kuźmiński
Partner Award – MAAS Theater en Dans
David Gross & Matteo Santoro

Listen to the ArtsTalk Radio interview in which Michael Hasted talks to RIDCC organizers Maya Roest and Mischa Van Leeuwen