As a cast of ten dancers in ripped, blood-red catsuits descend into the darkened, misty arena of Funkhaus’ main hall, hopes are high for the inaugural performance of the newly formed KDV Dance Ensemble, spearheaded by Puerto Rican choreographer Kianí del Valle. As the first contemporary dance show to headline an iconic Berlin electronic music venue – located in a former GDR radio station – and with music by renowned artists Floating Points, Loctic and Raven, Las Casas Invisibles set itself up to be a unique event in Berlin’s cultural landscape, marrying the city’s rich worlds of modern dance and club culture.
Loosely described as an exploration of ‘constant migration’ and ‘the feeling of never arriving’, Las Casas Invisibles has little connecting thread aside from its continual display of intense emotional trauma. Desperate reaches, repetitive pulses, and phalanxes of dancers performing jolting movements in unison – as well as an out of place duet of dancers giggling maniacally while performing movements reminiscent of childhood clapping games and hopscotch – feel like clichéd attempts at presenting extreme emotion, and comes off as inauthentic.
Del Valle does, however, come into her own in her inventive use of space. Presumably influenced by her background choreographing for galleries and museums (she has presented work in the Serpentine and the Barbican in London as well as Copenhagen Contemporary), she makes the most of every nook and cranny. Throughout, dancers traverse different levels of the wooden amphitheatre, squeeze themselves through audience members, and adopt seductive poses in alcoves.
Other impressive moments include a standout solo by Alvin Collantes. Intricately articulating his body, he flings his limbs at irregular intervals so that they pierce the air in time to the light-saber-like swipes in the music. However, on the whole, the cast’s aggressive shakes, crashes to the floor, and histrionic screams married with distressed facial expressions verge on torture porn. It leads me to question: why are so many contemporary dance shows obsessed with showcasing bodies in pain?