SECOND at Dansmakers, Amsterdam

After seeing the preview video I was excepting a pensive, intense dance performance, depicting a struggle with the self, the other and the movement of life, which is unavoidably coursing towards an existence determined by digital influence. But what did I get?

Staged at an industrial warehouse, Dansmaker (located behind the Oedipus brewery in Noord Amsterdam), it was a modest setting for such a thought provoking evening performance. As it was an intimate event, we were able to choose comfortable seats in the tiered stands close to the stage. The stage was a blank canvas, white, square, empty; along either side there were standing lights were ready, as yet giving nothing away.

In a black-out, two lone figures entered from either side. Illuminated by a sudden harsh light, clothed in what looked like non-gender specific, futuristic, partly transparent outfits and back dropped by a frantic beat, they seemed to shake and pulse in an out of control motion. Apart. Alone. Lost perhaps.

They continued to be contained by this self-perpetuating and almost agonizing struggle until they came together. Over a more steady electronic bass line they embraced. The pace slowed. Time almost stopped. Space filled the room as we adjusted to the antithesis of mood, emotion and began to interpret the storytelling that was unraveling in front of us.

As the deep digital music developed they began to move in a way that suggested a connection, with fluidity and a certain rhythm of life perhaps. But there was also a disconnection, evident in the distant stares and distracted nature of the two personas. With the base line beginning to surge and soar, their movements became more rigid, agitated and, for me in the audience, their inability to make eye contact made it uncomfortable. Ultimately their connection appeared to be fracturing.

What was this reminding me of? Perhaps the distractions – our phones, laptops, the display screens, beeps and vibrations of the digital world – always drawing us away from our real life connections or relationships? Or is that just life in general: pulled between responsibility, wants and desires and what is right or others’ expectations? It was reminiscent of the idea that we are all searching or looking for something: something different from what we have – maybe something better. And in doing so, we avoid and potentially ruin what is directly in front of us. The staging, costumes, lighting and digitalised music only helped to exemplify these feelings of reflection, confusion and even fear.

Later on, they are drawn together again. In a post-performance chat, which everyone was invited to, the dancers opened up the discussion about why this had happened. They wanted to delve into “the different ways their visual representation had been interpreted by” the engaged audience.  “A fear of loneliness” (Daniel suggested), frustration, our addiction to being with others, like the social creates we are, even if that relationship is toxic, unwanted or causes anger (Enrico alluded to). Enrico told us the choice of the “funny, ironic” song in the second part was a deliberate comment on the ridiculousness of the scenario unfolding or a provocation of the audience: to challenge the viewers to consider what they were identifying with. The costume designer was there too which enabled us to explore the process from conception to the performances further.

The whole performance from this talented duo, collectivePRIME, was thought provoking; even after the discussion and the cycle home (when our deconstruction continued), it was clear that each person took their own meaning from the dynamic and distressed dance. Much like the relationship struggle shown in performance between Shia LeBeouf and Maddie Ziegler in Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’, it is unclear who they are and their connection is changeable: father and daughter, lovers, friends, enemies. This is something which Enrico and Daniel said they had intentionally left open to interpretation. Each night has an organic feel it, the dancers confessed: they used the energy of the different audiences to define their physical interactions on stage.

Also, for me, parallels can be made with Tom Yorke’s ‘Anima’ music video released earlier this year. Daniel Barkan (from Israel) and Enrico Meijer (from the Netherlands), the concept creators, choreographers and dancers of this piece second, similarly set out to explore the idea of intimacy, of influences and choice.

Curious?  It is a must see.  After tonight there is one last performance on 14th September    Rose Fawbert Mills     8th September 2019