Marta Alstadsæter and Kim-Jomi Fischer
Some performances grate and rub salt into the open wounds of our society. Others try to heal them by sticking plasters on them. Engel belongs to the second category: it’s not too demanding or painful. Instead, it does you good. When she appears like a ghost, Marta Alstadsæter is standing on the shoulders of Kim-Jomi Fischer. Light and smooth, she doesn’t put a foot on the ground until she decides it. With a sense of wonder, the duo find their image distorted in a mirror-like strip of cloth. The laws of physics don’t bother them too much. They float. They are entangled. They use each other as stairs; the arms of one prolong the legs of the other. This aerial courtship doesn’t alter our reality, it passes like a caress. Engel explores what two acrobatic bodies can do – a sweet dance, flirting with virtuosity.
“Without consciousness we are nothing.” Suspended in mid-air, acrobat Marta Altstadsæter is standing almost unacknowledged on dancer Kim-Jomi Fischer’s shoulders. She is simply there. Like consciousness, like a guardian angel (that’s what ‘Engel’ means), perhaps a soul. Maybe she is emotional baggage that he discovers he is unable to put down or get rid of. She cannot be without him. He doesn’t exist without her. When they do eventually let go it feels a bit like dying. Maybe this is how it will be, your soul spinning in space for all eternity while your body crumbles on the floor? Within a surreal soundscape, the undoubtedly extreme physical skill of the performers is entirely at the service of creating striking dreamlike images, giving room to the poetry of co-dependency.
A woman stands on a man’s shoulders, looking intently into the distance. When she leans to one side, he leans to the other, maintaining their gentle balance. Precious little happens, and yet the bond between Engel’s Marta Alstadsæter and Kim-Jomi Fischer feels both real and abstract, visual and tangible.
Contemporary circus has brought renewed poetry to traditional acts in recent years, and Engel is a welcome chamber-sized addition to the genre. Alstadsæter, who was born in Norway, and Fischer, a Dutch dancer, mine hand-to-hand acrobatics to portray a relationship that is less sentimental than symbiotic. Early on, Alstadsæter wraps herself tightly around Fischer as he moves, as if he were a parent or a metaphorical carer. This narrative of sorts is more diluted in the second half of Engel, and the tension ebbs as a result, but the pair’s effortless command of the stage bodes well for their partnership.