Karel Van Laere & Vanja Rukavina, BOKKO - the ultimate fusion. Photo © Laurent Philippe

BOKKO – the ultimate fusion

Karel Van Laere & Vanja Rukavina

The festival’s closing piece is based on the popular imagery of Asian youth culture on the internet. BOKKO – the ultimate fusion blends together amateur dancing with video craftsmanship. The piece’s visuals are very obvious, an exact replica of how the Western world virtually eyes Asia as a whole. There’s no “punctum” in the portrait BOKKO produces of the Other. The webcam video of a woman’s joyous, kitten-like squeaking is too loyal to caricature. None of the representational codes are broken; the piece commits to them and places two Northern males at the centre. BOKKO is almost like a reverse flash mob where non-dancing intervenes at a dance festival or a YouTube sensation executed in a curated context. The focus of the performance is the virtual, not the bodily, realm. It also draws OUR focus into the futurity of dance, commonly associated with the art form’s ability to reach younger audiences. In this regard BOKKO sets an illustrative example of a fresh start – dance’s rejuvenation without regressing to naivety. But could it do so without sacrificing the otherness?

Niko Hallikainen

Reminding me of some visual experimental theatre from the roaring analogical-technological voguish Nineties, or the Asiatic Eighties, BOKKO – the ultimate fusion is a video-clip inspired, post-modern graphic novel and theatrical dancehall piece by the Netherlands-based, post-adolescent boyband-like dancers Karel van Laere and Vanja Rukavina. During the pre-show a playful music conjures a peculiar rhythm and transports the audience to some Asiatic busy street where we could imagine 21st-century anime-emo-kids getting thrilled by a cartoon dimension where hero-boys and girls display big manga eyes and catch bi-dimensional video-genic moves. Unluckily (or not) the duo had to stop for a technical problem, which built up both empathy and expectation among the public. Finally the piece restarted, no matter how late. The performative device completely exposed, the dance turns out to be a sort of revenge-like punch landed on the audience and it all works: the narrated video, the Korean flavour, the copycat girls and the efficaciously coordinate moves. Whatever these young men would say and do, their show must go on.

Gaia Clotilde Chernetich

Vanja Rukavina and Karel van Laere constitute a tongue-in-cheek two-person dance boy band who’ve got their promotional copy down pat (‘Fast, furious and fun…Sharp routines and sharp suits’). As the finale of Spring Forward, they also had the audience on side thanks to a technical blow-out that stopped the show in its tracks. (Rukavina, a real smoothie, handled the glitch with aplomb.) What we finally saw in its entirety was a clever toying with Asian cultural commercialisation, in which a throwback South Korean dance craze is revived, adorned with pop celebrity and set within a Manga frame. These cool-cute guys (joined at the climax by three Asian women) know what they’re doing. Their slick if limited moves, either silhouetted or fronting a video screen, possess a catchy disco/techno flair. And the self-branding is an enjoyable gimmick, with soda commercials an amusing connective tissue. I wonder if they’re glad to be victims of what they’re trying to encapsulate.

Donald Hutera