The light reveals a set design that resembles a minimalist building site: pieces of fabric, construction cones, a crumpled silver space blanket, a pile of books, a tall metallic structure, pieces of wood. The five performers of Daniel Linehan’s new sspeciess walk towards us with smiling faces and kind looks, immediately opening an empathetic channel between them and the audience.
Each performer grabs a cone and climbs up in the rows. The light turns off and the dancers blow gently into their cones; the sound of wind rises, a stereo version of a first breath. Interconnection and co-existence between elements – human bodies, air, light, natural and manmade objects – draw the focus. Precise choreographic choices put this sense of connection in action. The dancers are individuals, spinning around like autonomous satellites, yet each one is part of the same moving web; the effect of each movement ripples out.
Our attention is also invited to shift between different scales. A seated Louise Tanoto tells a story that starts in the sky before coming to Earth, depicting with fluidity an expansive, open environment. The dancers’ bodies share this same quality: gliding, with light arms floating at their sides, or engaged in soft twists, then blending into an amassed magma where the five of them are entangled while progressing on the floor.
Small actions become small, playful games, but they never feel naïve or sugar-coated, as Linehan weaves these actions with a subtle delicacy, recalling the intense focus of children. sspeciess evokes deep ecology, a branch of environmental philosophy that considers the world as a web of co-existent ecosystems. This is most acute in a beautiful sequence where each performer names a being to protect, to be attentive to: the orca whales, the Siberian Tiger, mycelium, my nephew.
Such a porous conjunction of materials anchors our imagination in a complex universe, reflecting both our present and our future, where the sixth mass extinction coexists with Extinction Rebellion. sspeciess shares small rhizomatic pieces of hope, opening up from the stage a sense of ‘becoming-with’, as Donna Haraway would put it, and questioning our being in a powerful and yet radically soft way.