What really strikes you in Luis Guerra’s FOG is the dreamy effect that enraptures you from the very first moment: the mesmerising lighting and an ever-evolving music current contribute much to this hypnotic effect. While the ensemble shifts gradually towards centre stage, each of the dancers executes a phrase of mechanical accuracy and outstanding velocity, as if frames pass before our eyes in fast-forward. The second part of the performance presents a more static image, with lighting design that seems inspired by late modernist Alwin Nikolais. Time drastically expands, as there’s little if any movement in this section. You get the impression the whole stage is reversed: the three creatures are carefully examining us. The third part pushes awkwardness even further, bringing dancers front stage, half naked – grimacing, smiling wickedly at the audience, bodies curled up and purposely disfigured, while we try to figure out if this close-up brings to light any of the oneiric aspects revealed earlier in the show. And then… it’s dark!
An expanding sound floods the stage and stalls as FOG begins. Portuguese choreographer and dancer Luís Guerra frames himself and three dancers behind a transparent curtain. They are half naked and aligned to one side of the stage, moving mechanically and sometimes sensually in an ongoing canon. The hypnotic music and the foggy wall transform the dancers into holograms. The light fades out, and in. There are three figures standing frozen, dyed by blue, red and green spotlights. As if trapped in a canvas, they imperceptibly shift to different positions. Fade out, and in. The four dancers appear one by one beneath the curtain with a disturbing grin, repeating a phrase, paralleling the first scene. Blackout. The hypnotic music is still expanding. FOG’s constant dilatation teases the spectator’s inner clock, swinging from intriguing to frustrating.
A frame is cut out for the dance: behind a blurry screen four performers execute fast-forward, detailed movements. Arms and legs slicing through the air with velocity, clear lines and neat displacements from one side of the stage to the other form the patterns of this tableau. Now and then more sensual, curvy moves come up. And it goes on and on.
Fade to black. Section two: red, green and blue light spattered over three of the previous performers, now appearing behind the screen almost as holograms. So begins a series of postures barely shifting. And it goes on and on.
And then light comes up brutally, transforming the screen into a silver foil. The performers emerge from underneath, one at a time, with pantomime-like grimaces on their faces, saluting the audience as a final gesture. Like the fog it lingers, indeed, to the point that we might be all in all a little lost in the mist.
Luis Guerra’s FOG is, I think, about screens and endurance. Four very accomplished dancers appear in a cube of light behind a translucent scrim, as if inside a goggle box. Facing us, they move like matchstick figures, sideways only, limbs flicking stiffly in stop-motion animation sequences that look as scripted by computer code. They move very fast, and it takes a long time for nothing more to happen. It’s like watching a screen saver. After a long blackout, three faintly menacing phantasms appear, one red, one green, one blue – the primary colours of screen light. With imperceptible slowness, green points an accusing finger at red, then at blue. Blue points to red. Now, a long whiteout. The dancers lift the screen and come forward – slowly – with supplicating jester’s gestures. The piece balances on the cusp between trance and tedium, its means as clear as its meanings are foggy.