Esercizi per un manifesto poetico
Repetitive actions are the keystone of this rather dubious debut by a five-person Italian dance collective. The performers enter the large white stage one at a time, each in sporty white garb. Once all are in place they launch into unision quick-steps side to side, accompanied by music (credited to Samuele Cestola) suggesting trains speeding through a wind tunnel. Gradually yet continually this fit, sober-faced quintet rearrange themselves, bouncing into new configurations or changing directions. Arms swing up, out to the side and back down. There are also high-kicks, cross-steps and a few other variations until the score eventually segues into a cheesy, high-powered retro track.
What you see is what you get in a glorified aerobics display that’s pretty tightly executed but neither especially complex nor mesmerising. The net effect? Mind-numbing, maybe even dispiriting. Hard to tell, but that could have been a minority view.
The empty stage at the start of Escercizi per un manifesto poetico is alarmingly tranquillising. We wait. Eventually one of five dancers enters with the concentration of an athlete preparing for the Olympics. Dressed in white tennis outfits, the others arrive in the same manner and soon all are skipping pendulously at a steady pace. Group formations pass gradually from star to diagonal to pyramid to mid-line. But is there a slight hip-twist that shouldn’t be there? Is she not a tad off the beat? Why does he glance sideways? Their uniformity of movement doesn’t actually not unite; it splits, zooming our gaze toward individual imperfections.
The dance´s structure is vulnerable to such scrutiny. It is not easy to perform – as the sweat, reddening skin and micro-facial expressions between struggle and triumph bear witness. As the DJ-set intensified my inner voice cheers for them. Their determination is contaminating. When the sideways jumps finally do vary (aerobics, ballet, freestyle disco), I wonder why it didn’t come sooner.
Esercizi per un manifesto poetico isn’t, in fact very poetic. A cynic might even call it a pop music video. But it isn’t. A seemingly simple movement repeated over a long stretch of time (with small variations) has the same effect as repeating a word until it’s meaning washes away and language drifts into alien sounds. The attention is pinpointed on five bodies, not on content. Muscles rhythmically contracting, sweat glistening under the projectors, skin slowly becoming red while barely open lips crave air. The performers become one single entity which, accompanied by Samuele Cestola’s gradually intensifying music, morphs into a force to be reckoned with.
It is with the intoxicating qualities of this harnessed energy that Esercizi crosses the line between a flashy poppy cliché and a captivating event. It is a delightfully non-intellectual experience about the pleasure of moving, and that’s enough.
Coordination! Formation! Endurance! Neatness! Bounce! These could be declamations for the poetic manifesto towards which Collettivo MINE is exercising. Five dancers in pristine white clothes (women in dresses, men in shorts) engage in a marathon of synchronised bouncing to beat-heavy electronic music. Able bodies are exuding a sense of clean, somewhat stilted chic, stern facial expressions and pony tails on heavy rotation. It makes for an intense experience of non-stop hopping, revealing ever-changing constellations with subtle shifts in the footwork and an explosion of high leg kicks towards the end.
More than anything, Esercizi per un manifesto poetico exercises our gaze on performers engaged in a physically daring feat which directly appeals to our synaesthetic empathy. How do they furnish the straitjacket of repeated movement? How do they make sure they don’t suffer? Do they enjoy themselves fronting the audience? The piece has us guessing which ideology, which societal aspirations, this soon-to-be poetic manifesto may contain. After all, we are watching exercises. Curiosity for the final draft has been awakened.