Choreographer and dancer Marion Darova and actress and performer Martina Apostolova researched WO MAN for almost a year, sticking with it through the pandemic and premiering just before Bulgaria’s second lockdown.
The first act, a screen projection, uses poetic images of the performers’ androgynous bodies and faces. They play with femininity and masculinity as both inherent human aspects and as social stereotypes. They adopt attributes (strikingly yellow high heels in the black and white video), use chairs to illustrate the mismatch between identity and roles, explore the idea of the double and its uncanny attraction. The video is separated in different chapters titled ‘body’, ‘desire’, ‘sex’. Two chapters – ‘identity’ and ‘gender’ – are both left blank, maybe implying that these are pure constructs that dance can help dissolve in movement?
That is what the second part sets out to do. Wearing shiny tops, grey pants, with blank faces dimly lit under a purple filter, they enter the stage in slow motion and white sneakers. Infectious bouncing, inspired by house dance, suddenly takes over their bodies. From then on they are focused on footwork, floor patterns and precise synchronisation that must have been rehearsed rigorously to become second nature. Slight variations twist and rearrange the patterns under rhythmic musical composition. They call this process meditation, and it really does produce a hypnotic effect, enhanced by a flat dramaturgy that refuses any climax. Freed from the task of reading meaning, you can allow yourself to get carried away by the dance.
As our focus shifts from faces in the video to feet in the dance, androgyny is replaced by genderlessness. These pulsating bodies are neither one nor the other, they are sometimes both, sometimes neither. Twice, Darova looks completely post-gender: in a video topshot where she’s in an embryonic pose, naked on the floor; and at the end of the dance, where the fading purple light makes her face nightmarishly red. In both cases, she’s a creature beyond gender, unsettling and fascinating.