In First Memory, seven dancers deconstruct everyday moves to a minimum until they appear oddly unfamiliar, like repeating the same word many times. The functionality of these gestures is dissolved by their repetitive, capoeira-like sequences of swift turns and kick steps. In this collaboration between choreographer Noé Soulier, visual artist Thea Djordjadze and musician Karl Naegelen, the scenery is as simple as the moving is familiar.
Three vertical panels divide the stage, ushering the performers between wall and sculpture. Mounted on turning plates, they allow the dancers to abruptly appear and disappear in new configurations. Attuned to each other, they oscillate between combat and friendship or an exercise in give-and-take. A lot of back and forth of instigations and persuasions – sometimes disrupted by a curious witness who learns by imitation – bring out small instances of marvel about our moving bodies.
The performers are technically skilled, with many jumps, punches, rolls and stabs that sometimes coincide beautifully with each other, the music or the dancers’ breathing. With little room for buildup, however, I wonder where this intersection of dance, visual arts and music is leading?
When touching occurs for the first time in an endearing duet, something human surfaces. But the duo’s embrace is rudely disrupted by the remaining dancers bringing out what seem like aluminium plates. Is progression toward gestures that convey unmistakable emotion to be avoided at all costs? The human-size plates in various forms and shapes – some figurative, others not – offer intriguing possibilities in their own right, with the dancers folding themselves in and out of the thin material, leaving behind sculptures marked by their bodily absence. But such a clever visual finding feels like a dramaturgical compromise, underscoring an internal lack of connection and coherence. Although at times a unique alliance, this exploration eventually appears uncertain of what it wants.