As Long As Holding Hands
Tereza Ondrová & Peter Šavel
We are watching a tableau, a sequence of arranged scenes of (com)passion: applause. The performers come stage front and introduce themselves in a witty intermezzo. They suggest that the audience hold hands! I’m excited and curious to see how it feels, however, the performers do not insist and eventually let the idea go: disappointment.
Usual variations on the theme of love begin: zooming in, delay. Nice interplay of hands and feet: a magical and fragile duet of limbs.
Nevertheless, after some time, it feels like watching repetitive contact improvisation and they’re losing my attention. And then there’s the kiss! Imagine you’re at a discotheque and a couple next to you won’t stop kissing. Maybe, sitting in the first row, I got closer to the intimate zone of the couple than I really wanted. Or maybe, seeing love being reduced to physical tension, I felt the emotional complexity of a relationship was not represented.
Two beings nestle and nudge, clothed only in underwear and resounding opera. Androgynous, tender and sensually languorous, they’re oblivious to our arrival. Once we’re settled in our seats, our focus fixed, the polymorphous pair – parent-child? siblings? old friends, new, fervent lovers? – switches modes.
Striding matter-of-factly to the front, they don smart white tops and dress-pants and talk to us directly: they tell us they’re dancers, that they each have a life partner and, by-the-way, love is their topic.
They circle the stage in silence, brushing close but rarely touching: following, mirroring, sensing the other’s intentions, accompanying, never impeding. One partner supporting the independent actions of the other represents perhaps the perfect relationship, the ideal dance, but it’s when the two plunge and lock in a kiss, when we hear their rhythmic breathing, see them struggle to peel apart, sense their confusion and readiness for conflict, that the work becomes complete and strangely compelling.
Love comes with a lot of struggle in Tereza Ondrová and Peter Šavel’s piece. To touch or not to touch, that is the question. The duo’s bodies connect in many ways – first different body parts are almost glued together (face to thigh, head to shoulder, arms to back), later they separate, avoiding direct contact, even when dancing closely. After that, they try to carry each other’s weight, choosing the most impossible lifts and poses. But there’s always a sense of battle, underlined by their constant heavy breathing. The suspense peaks in a long kissing scene, first strangely motionless, then getting more and more intense, starting from the pulsation of their upper bodies. But the animal sounds and moves in the final scene destroy the magic of the moment. It’s a puzzle of relationships whose pieces don’t really fit together in the end.