Me, My non-Self and I
There’s a woman in black and a man in white, and the fifty shades of grey lie in the powerplay between them – and on the grainy film that bookends the action: closeups of a running man framing pumping thighs, pulsing neck and beating chest. She (Rima Pipoyan) is an emphatic, witchy presence, arms and legs knifing the air. He (Gor Sargsyan) is no less cutting – all kicks and swipes and screwturns – but, caged within a square of floor tape, he does not own his space.
She strips off the tape, opening up both the boundaries and the dominance of their dynamic. She runs a finger over the contours of his body, but also lets herself be taped up. They move side by side in synch, or they split asunder, her elbows spiking like mandibles while he leaps and lunges.
For all the technical assurance and high-impact imagery in the dance, its drama feels – especially when freighted with a voiceover of Alan Watts’ Zen musings on self and the world – a bit overwrought.
On screen, a man’s running legs; on stage, an upside-down man framed in a white square, a woman with a roll of white Scotch tape, a voiceover talking about body and soul. All these elements raise our curiosity: is the woman the soul and the man the body? Does the woman chase the man and castle him?
Their respective solos continue to mystify the situation. Then the woman walks toward the man and the soul unlocks the body. Armenian landscape music suspends the fearsome ambiance placing a moment of romance with a gentle duet. Here arrives the man’s revenge: he voodoos the woman before trapping her with the same white Scotch tape. Does the body win over the soul? Does the woman regret?
Rima Pipoyan’s Me, My non-Self and I is an ambitious psycho-philosophical game balancing dramaturgical fiction and abstract thinking.
An inverted male silhouette is trapped inside a tape-outlined square. No walls are required for this prison, indeed. Outside, a female dancer takes over the scene with martial arms and zig-zag legs. They co-exist in this duality. Attention alternates between the crawling captive and the dazzling soloist.
A black-and-white running man appears on a screen, moving to the rhythm of a voice that says: ‘You have an image of man that it is global. Soul is not inside the body, the body is inside the soul.’
Polarity ruptures when the tape is ripped. There is a possibility of closeness – and a duet arises as soon as they face each other. Gentle carries and lifts mark the path that somehow recalls Simone Weil’s image of a journey toward the sacred source of being.
Inevitably it all comes back to where it began: an impossibility to move, to reveal the self; a blackout ends the piece before the woman figure can remove the tape that retains the body.
Me, My non-Self and I is a piece in black and white, but its effect is less simple. A box is taped around Gor Sargysan, slumped upstage. It’s darkly-clothed Rima Pipoyan downstage of him who yields the white tape. Behind them, a monochrome video projection casts flickering close-ups, the curves and crevices of male physique. She, smoky and evanescent, carves shapes with the composed discipline of tai chi, slinking between lunged salutations and lofty extensions. He awakens to a philosophising voiceover, resentfully trace his parameters, and with airplaning limbs, slashes the negative space between them. She peels away his cage to initiate a symmetrised duet and they scan each other’s forms without breaching politeness. Do we see our bodies through our own eyes? I ponder, as they share something that before and after this moment, is disputed.
Erratic, multi-directional running precedes the final power shuffle, in which he wraps the woman in tape, leaving her to squirm in the spotlight. The temptation of revenge proved irresistible. But do not be deceived, our parting image is not to be taken at face value. As we’ve learnt, the balance of power is fickle.
On the big screen, close-ups of a man’s skin in an interplay between light and shadow. As the image zooms out, the man is seen to be running as if trying to escape.
On the stage, the light divides the space into two. On the left side, an imposing woman dressed in black governs her universe. On the right, a man with his legs suspended in the air is isolated inside a square made of tape. He turns, jumps and kicks inside the room, exploring its invisible walls. When they connect through their chests, they open their arms as if flying together – as if oppressor and captive have reconciled in harmony. But it is just a momentary illusion, a trick to deceive her: he captures her and he finally runs away.
Me, My non-Self and I is a duet by Armenian choreographer Rima Pipoyan that depicts archetypal binaries of power and control. It is narrative in flavour and rushed in its threading of media, text and movement. Nevertheless, it is intriguing in its Eastern and Western influences which shape Pipoyan’s understanding of the dualities not only between the two genders but also between body and soul.