The sound tells you everything in Jivko Jeliazkov’s F63.9. Spacey blips and buzzes mean that dancers Simona Todorova and Yasen Popov twitch and jerk like robots. Plaintive piano cues tentative gestures of longing. Mechanical grinds accompany piston-pump limbs. Loud, propulsive rhythms drive assault and battery. Slow, sparse music is for solitary isolation, and crashing booms signal dark portents and ominous intentions.
Why? Todorova and Popov seem to be playing out the phases of a love story, as experienced by androids on steroids (both dancers are gym-toned, in tight-white acrobat outfits). Stylistically it’s intriguing, with alien contortions and sci-fi ambulations. The pacing is way off though: it’s an over-extended series of set-pieces, each with the same straightforward musico-choreographic approach. Worse, the alien love story simply retells a deadeningly familiar human one. Man is aggressive. Woman fights back. Woman leaves. Man feels sorry for himself. Woman comes back, feeling sorry for him too. What?
From the very beginning of Jivko Jeliazkov’s F63.9, dancers Simona Todorova and Yasen Popov are trapped in a dystopian version of togetherness, built on antagonism. Dressed in white, they struggle with each other. Conflict, control and violence seem to be what binds the dancers, but after a point it becomes unclear what keeps them going – certainly not pleasure, or affect. Their movement is artificial, yet spasmodic, as if they were infected by a virus. Indeed, the WHO lists love as a disorder by the name F. 63.9, and that is exactly what the title is implying. It would actually make for an interesting topic if it were more critical and less simplistic. The choreography is tiresome and monotonous trapped in unnecessary dualisms that romanticise abuse and reaffirm dominant gender roles.
Jivko Jeliazkov’s F63.9 is a tormented duet about toxic affairs of the heart. Yasen Popov sits on stage, brooding, in a white unitard and a ski hat. Simona Todorova, also in white, joins him soon after in this torturesome dance. There follows an unintentional parody of conflicted relationships: each movement incarnates struggle, and the couple drowns in a dark spiral of half-hearted seizures. Banging into imaginary walls and smashing into one another’s flesh, the pair orchestrate the gymnastics of their own misery. Painfully sticking to the misogynist script, the barbaric man manipulates the martyr woman into a savagely monotonous dance macabre. While her deserting the stage seems to have little impact on the plot, there is a whole lot of emphasis on him taking off his beanie. Dramaturgically unresolved, the story finishes with a last stare between the two wrecked protagonists. Hats off: romance is officially dead.