The angel is in the details
‘Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost,’ says Dominik Więcek, quoting Pina Bausch’s famous exhortation in his own version of her iconic Café Müller. You could hear these words a thousand times and they would always resonate in a different way. On the second day of Spring Forward 2023 they reminded me of how dance could bring meaning to our everyday moves, and that it can be seen, and felt, everywhere, at all times, because creative movement reaches far beyond the limits of the stage.
It infused the small details surrounding the works I saw in Dublin, the artists who made them, the venues where they were presented and even out on the streets. I caught glimpses of dance in the yellow flags held by the Aerowaves volunteers as they guided us from one performance to another as if we all were on parade. I spotted it in the quick handiness of the lighting and design technicians taking over the stage between shows. I even felt it in a standard safety rules speech jazzed-up into a grandiloquent and funny soliloquy by a Smock Alley Theatre team member. By putting dance in the spotlight, these people also put art into their own routines.
Although he wasn’t officially performing on this occasion, I saw group E/B’s (tor)mentor – as the veteran dance writer Donald Hutera enjoys being called – dancing, to some extent. Always on the alert, waiting for the theatre doors to open, he’d rush to the front row to secure the best seats for himself and his three mentees. Lucky me to be one of them. His sparkling eyes would search for us in the audience and would meet gratitude in mine. Like an echo of his momentum, I’d start weaving through the cheery, chatty crowd to join the team. This crossing was an experience of original movement in itself, aiming for the edge of the stage – but no further.
Sure, dance of a kind revealed via fairly banal details and situations is different from it happening in actual performances, mostly because it strikes you where you don’t expect it to be. But the two concepts were also brilliantly reunited in MOS, Ioanna Paraskevopoulou and Georgios Kotsifakis’s highly-attuned foley performance. While sound is inextricably linked to movement in cinema, probably few watch a movie thinking about the soundscape as a kind of choreography – I certainly never had, till then. But this Greek duo pulled out all the stops to show that foleying was much more than a behind-the-scenes job. I would never have thought a pile of rocks, a tray of earth and a cabbage could convey dance rhythms into my own body.
Yet where I felt dance was most powerful was where it was threatened. The realisation hit while listening to Lovísa Ósk Gunnarsdóttir’s enlightening lecture about that moment in life When The Bleeding Stops (aka menopause). As a dancer, she was repeatedly asked what she would do when she retires. Where and when was the limit, and who was responsible for setting an expiration date? A career may come to an end, but a dancer never ceases to be a dancer – or to dance at all. Gunnarsdóttir’s answer was clear, and physical: she gathered onstage dozens of women, both on film and live and all in the prime of life, to move and groove together. How not to feel the desire to join them? Their performance was a blast and left me deeply moved. I couldn’t – and didn’t want to – resist shedding a tear in front of this joyful, hopeful hymn to women and the cycles and stages of their lives. The radiant smiles on their faces as they danced is a detail I’ll treasure as I grow into my own maturity.