Dancing in tumultuous times

I had to go through the temporary terminal at Brussels International airport to catch my flight to Prague. The plastic-lined, prefabricated building, the chaos and the grim expression on everyone’s faces were bleak reminders of the nauseating terrorist attacks we’d recently experienced here in Brussels. What a relief to be getting away for a while.

The intensity of the Spring Forward regime demands full-on concentration. Giving each performance the consideration its due, getting to know the ten new Springback candidates and catching up with those attending from last year leaves little brain space for rumination. With deadlines looming the next day, even a facebook addict, once back at the hotel, hardly has time for a salutary fix of trivia. I wasn’t surprised that amongst all the festival talk, the demise of Prince went almost unremarked.

And still, inevitably, it was through the churned up optics of the recent horrible events that I viewed this year’s Spring Forward programme. Of course, some of the works seemed to me to be rawly reflecting back the terrible, messy, recent world turmoil. Others, those holding tight to what might be considered the hard-and-fast conventions of dance-making in terms of structure and build-up, suddenly felt complacent or without relevance. And some, the ones that are still with me today, appeared to be banishing old codes, imposing a radical change of aesthetic or opening up a different relationship with us, the audience.

In the slow, nude solo of Yasmine Hugonnet’s, Le Récital des Postures, an indiscernible, strange structure and a soundless rhythm kept me connected to her sculpted movements. Her eerie ventriloquist double act was both funny and terrifying. I felt I was peering into the future. The brutal Collective Loss of Memory, by Linda Kapetanea and Jozef Fruček, that closed with foul, highly controversial CCTV footage of a murder, seemed to literally invoke, and with dubious virtuosity, the deathly combination of numbing stupidity and male fury. As for the rolling wave of movement of Renan Martins’ Let Me Die In My Footsteps, where the dancers joined and separated, conforming to a map written in the moment, it was its ending: a crescendo of urgent, shrieking guitar, that seemed to satisfy my need to somehow see the lid blown off the false innocence and compliance of the dance. Duets like those of Anna Réti and Ricardo Machado (Point of You) and Tereza Ondrová and Peter Šavel’s (As Long As Holding Hands), appeared be redrawing, or at least questioning, what love and relationships can be – no old-school, contrived passion or violent thrashing about here – more measured, discrete, genderless tenderness and humorous complicity – all about control of the self rather than the other.

But is was during Marco d’Agostin’s Everything is OK, that I felt the frisson of amazement, almost gratitude, when a nebulous notion, something that I can’t even name as a proper thought in my head, is being given form on stage, being articulated for me, physically and artistically. His streaming monologue, and the miraculous dance that followed where not one phrase resembled another, made me imagine I was witnessing how our bodies and brains (or rather how people under 30’s bodies and brains) are thought to be altering in the age of our digital revolution. The solo was beautiful; it took my breath away, and consoled me somehow. It felt like a triumph that this young artist, a poet, had eked clarity out of complexity and gone beyond the chaos of today. Thank you dance, thank you Aerowaves and the Springback teams for setting me back on track with a fresh perspective.

Oonagh Duckworth