In tune: on dance, dramaturgy and being happy together

Aerowaves raised a bunch (a tremendous bunch) of questions about performance, dance, audience reception and everything entangled in between. Gulping down 23 shows in one go – which neither our brain, nor our eyes nor our senses are prepared for – raised the questions: what’s making it work for me? What makes one performance stand out from others?

The festival was a “mercat” indeed, a wide range of the freshest creations offered to the programmers, who were our merry companions during the roller-coaster ride of these intensive two and a half days. As a Springbacker, my mission was to have some critical perspective on the spot, and deliver it in a foreign language. The meant establishing some obviously subjective criterias. What’s resounding with me? What bores me? WHY? Here are some thoughts about what seemed to seal the deal.

Make ’em laugh. Quite simple really: everyone likes a good laugh and when it includes dance and dancers not taking themselves too seriously, you can be sure it adds something special to the piece. It appears that there’s a certain need to laugh dance off in a good way, and quite a lot of people seem to agree on that. Just think about Hodworks’ firework Conditions of being a mortal. Everyone came out exhilarated and refreshed, and by telling dance – traditions, ballet, point shoes, opera – to get lost, they concluded the first night with a highly charged and highly joyful proposition. See also the bouncing duet from Igor and Moreno, who triggered frank laughs in the theatre, for a performance that remained with me long after viewing.

Beginnings and ends. Sanjoy Roy drew a parallel between choreography and writing, where a critic and a choreographer face some similar issues: how do you raise the readers’/viewers’ interest in the first place and what taste do you leave them with afterwards? Concocting a strong beginning and just as bold a way out is essential. Tabea Martin, for instance, could compete for best beginning award, starting with a countdown of the Top 100 love songs, and building the piece cleverly up from there.

Get rhythm. Several pieces seemed exceedingly long. If editing is useful for writing, it is also a good idea to sharpen things up quite often while choreographing. Rhythm has a lot to do with dramaturgy: a well time-framed performance makes all the difference. It’s very subtle, all about balancing the energy, and it’s about surprises too. In Relic, Euripides Laskaridis goes bluntly from one action to the next, not afraid to make real cuts and create disruptions, using electrical flashes and sparks to startle. I also think about the three Jordjenta girls, who make a start with blackouts and neons popping here and there in a cold light, slicing through horrific tableaux that kept me wide awake (and we’re talking about the 9th piece of the day, played at 10 pm: well done girls).

These are in no way recipes of any sort, for it would be too simplistic to reduce a piece to these formulae and systematise anything. But I dare say that laughing, building a rhythm, knowing how to make an entrance and how to take yourself out seem like a pretty good start for quite a lot of things in life.

Marie Pons