Glimpses and thoughts upon a European Dance Mercat

72 hours in Barcelona, 23 performances to watch and only 140 words with which to lay out your thoughts about each one on virtual paper; and this after a long day, when Barcelona starts to gorge its artery with late night drinkers.

Diving, with no time to breath, into the vast mist of dance made up of emotion, abstraction, absurdity, sweat, rough physicality, glitter, lighting, muscular, often naked bodies.

Diving, to grasp, for a moment, the thrill of being shaken, swung, dismayed and taken aback. A thrill probably no other art form gives in quite the same way: the one of being enthralled, almost physically, by movement, whatever it may be.

Indeed, bodies in motion did take all sorts of different directions that weekend, offering us a glimpse of the diversity of paths European creation currently follows. Bodies were exposed in their multiple capacities of expression, and the format of a condensed festival was surprisingly fertile. Amidst the abundance of work presented over a limited time, the viewer was able to compare, to create artificial dialogues between performances and to analyse processes of creation: a thing you never experience when watching just one piece in isolation.

Were the written composition pieces, however well-executed, outdated compared to the subversiveness of bodies violently bumping and bursting into one another, showing, through apparent disorganisation, the roughness and truth of expression? Is it too easy to capture an audience by sticking to a concept, a task – repetitiveness for example, and pushing that concept to an extreme? Has monstrosity or the disguised, disfigured body surpassed nakedness in terms of risk? How powerful is the catharsis of real exhaustion? Is expressionism too showy? How can a single body create an imaginative world? Is delicacy more engaging when occurring in a physically extreme context?

The diversity of works from different horizons made me wonder about the influence geographical context, be it political, economical or cultural, holds upon creativity. Was the offending Hodworks somehow related to the political context of Hungary? The monstrous cabaret character embodied by Greek artist Euripides Laskaridis a comment about a certain political decadence? Thinking from my own French perspective, where arts are generously supported, I came to wonder if public funding is still able to nourish a vibrant, creative art scene. In any case, Spring Forward showed me that, not only is European creativity alive and vivid, but that the notion of ‘European’, which often sounds like an abstract concept, is significant in the multiple identities that define it.

Amidst this bulimia of movement, performers, venues and words to define things; amidst the mystery of languages, succeeding or failing to capture the essence of an idea, what remains from the ephemeral experience of the dance we saw unfolding over 3 long days? An image, a scent, a vibe?

I remember a Merce Cunningham quote saying “Dance gives you nothing back (…) but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive”. Whatever feeling, judgment, or emotion, dance at Spring Forward gave, for better or for worse, it was a fleeting moment of being.

Anna Chirescu