The 2019 Portuguese Platform for Performing Arts offered an insight into the vivid field of dance and theatre. The organiser O Espaço do Tempo, holder of an international artist residence programme, has during its 18 years of work offered inspiration for choreographers such as Jefta van Dinther and Marlene Monteiro Freitas. This year the platform, familiarly called PT19, was an intense mixture of 17 original works: from Turning Backs placing the audience in the centre of the action to Tânia Carvalho’s intimate midnight concert, to Jonas & Lander’s spectacle with a swimming pool and drones, or to meticulously elaborated research-based performances on dance and society.
Three performances lead my thoughts to the performer, to the hard-working and tireless body constantly offering itself to the audience.
In Cristina Planas Leitão’s UM [unimal] the dancer Daniela Cruz enters the stage and, following the choreographer’s instructions made audible by a microphone, takes off her clothes. She then puts on a uniform for the performance: a dark fashionable jumpsuit and black combat boots. From now on the choreographer connects with her through headphones; only they know what is said. The dancer starts an endless marching, following a beat that fills the space. By accentuating the tiny but visible transformations of the body, the marching movement slowly transforms from the hips into a sexy Beyoncé-style walking, or grows into a spatial shift that captures the small intentions of the head. The body’s multiple tiny gestures become material for individuality, they are possibilities for change, while the almost obsessive marching machine mutilates all human details, creating a violent and desperate ambience. In our current time, considered with questions of abuse or limits in relation to performers, a dancer waiting for instructions from a faceless choreographer – placed in the darkness of the theatre balcony – inevitably suggests questions of power, hierarchy, authority and artistry. If the dystopic structure was supposed to be questioned by irony or by the resistance of the living body, unfortunately it didn’t reach me.