Woman in black with long arc of hair as she leans her body to the left, against a brick wall backdrop


Isabelle Schad: Pieces and Elements / FUR

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Aya Toraiwa in Isabelle Schad’s FUR. Photo © D. Hartwig
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Slow, steady, serene – an open-air double bill by German choreographer Isabelle Schad

A group of seven performers emerge from within the audience. Arms linked above their heads, they continuously twist their torsos left and right, slowly gravitating towards each other and the haphazard, wooden stage before them.

This is Isabelle Schad’s Pieces and Elements, a 2016 work reimagined for the open-air stage of Globe Berlin. Described as an exploration of how dancers can ‘negotiate their collective body in motion, which can only function as a whole,’ the performance is exactly what it says on the tin.

Almost imperceptibly, the cast shifts between a series of repetitive motions – including firmly massaging their upper backs, lifting up their t-shirts to obscure their faces, and drawing continuous circles with their arms in opposite directions – that are introduced by individuals and subsequently ripple through the group. Watching them feels like observing the gradual changing of seasons, or a kaleidoscope continuously morphing into new configurations.

Surprisingly for a piece about connectivity, contact between dancers is rare. In the wake of the global pandemic, it feels poignant to see this example of how people can build relationships without physically touching. The piece also notably lacks climaxes. Yet at only 30 minutes, Pieces and Elements holds my attention from beginning to end.

FUR has a similarly steady pace. Created on Japanese dancer Aya Toraiwa, it’s intended as a movement portrait of her unique characteristics. The main focus is her knee-length hair, which extends her motions, twisting behind her as she rolls across the floor, and slicing the air as she draws circular pathways with her torso. At times, it almost engulfs her entire body like a shield which she slips her fingers through to perform intricate gestures against its jet-black backdrop, and uses to obscure her partial nudity.

Even when Toraiwa’s movements get faster, she always seems to be in calm control of her luscious mane and never succumbs to a moment of wild abandon. As FUR is a portrait of the dancer, perhaps this is deliberate to reflect a serene disposition?

The bottom line: A double bill of intriguing yet undramatic choreographic investigations
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