Apoptosis, the science of programmed cell death, drives a frightening piece for five dancers: Starving Dingoes, a collaboration between Léa Tirabasso and cancer specialists Simone Niclous and Alexsandra Gentry-Maharaj.
Dressed in gym clothes, the dancers line up flat on their stomachs on a stage covered with sand-like fragments of orange rubber. Shuffling face down, they advance in regular shunts, chanting operatically. These dancers are cells, and their survival is perilously dictated by the functioning of one another. Unpredictable, mutant movement from one triggers shrieking panic in the rest. The first to break the pattern digresses into spasm while another frantically tries to soothe his seizing limbs.
Back in a cluster, momentarily unanimous, they chant and stamp to an electronic beat, like a rotating, ticking bomb, awaiting the dreaded departure of the cell that dysfunctions, signalling decline for all. When it happens, they disperse explosively, stumbling into bizarre interactions, pummelling into each other’s torsos, comforting the ones who whimper only to drag them by the head back to the pack. Bodies are adrenalised with involuntary jerks and twitches, posture distorted, and fingers spiked as if electrocuted. They communicate through messy, primal impulse, a pre-language.
Again, they uncomfortably return to clusters, circles that expand into wider ones, engorging the space with agitated rites. The steep escalation of the piece locks us into a dystopian snowball effect, a prolonged death of cancer cells possessed, dangerous to themselves. Ridiculous interactions are comedic until their desperation wears our laughter thin. No choice, no joy, just a harrowing relentlessness.
Starving Dingoes grew from analysis of the microscopic havoc wreaked inside our bodies, but it also, through a wider lens, conjures the world outside: do we sacrifice the weakest link for the continued progression of the whole? Finally, the exhausted dancers settle in this Martian desert, like the remnants of society choking on its own chaotic creations, in which humans, more than ever, are interdependent.
Surfacing from animalistic hysterics to take their bow, the five performers are unrecognisable.