The basic problem with Restraint, a solo with live music conceived and choreographed by Colombian-born, Berlin-based Lina Gómez for and with the dancer Julek Kreutzer, is its unrelenting monotony. Both the Kreutzer and percussionist Michelangelo Contini enter from the stalls, clad in loose white t-shirts and non-descript trousers. He sits, back to audience, and begins beating out a steady, heavy rhythm on a three-piece drum kit set roughly centrestage. She responds by adopting a splay-legged stance and jiggling and jerking her upper body. Kreutzer’s moves possess a shifting variety: fast crawls back and forth on all-fours, quick strides or pivots with chin to hunched shoulder. But her dynamic power, minus much gradation, is there to be observed rather than felt. The lighting, meanwhile, brightens or dims arbitrarily. Restraint may not last long, but it’s more draining than pulse-quickening.
Tapping a repetitive rhythm, a drummer sits with his back to the audience, gently building a soundscape that will become the driving force of the performance. On the other side of the stage, a dancer’s chest vibrates and judders in a seemingly involuntary reaction to the music. Before long, the pulse has spread across her body, projecting her into the space. At times Julek Kreutzner seems to be at the mercy of Michelangelo Contini’s relentless drum beat, at others, she displays a relaxed resilience. Pushing through the music, crawling determinedly across the stage floor, she never loses her air of quiet composure, despite her limbs often being intertwined in awkward positions. The audience flits between seeing her as subservient to the soundscape and hearing the music in relation to her movement, creating a prolonged dialogue between mediums that is clear, but lacking in development.
The set up is clear: dancer and drummer enter from the audience. Drummer sits at drums, dancer chooses a point in space. The game begins.
After this premise, however, all that follows is a blur of choices only taken halfway. If Restraint is a conversation, it’s not an interesting one. The drums offer an almost unchanging baseline while the dance is neither precise nor clearly related to the beat. The light changes feel random and don’t contribute to the conceptual chat either. If, instead, Lina Gomez’s work is a quest to embody an existential tremour, it falls short again: no button is pushed far enough for the physical vibrations to become engaging. The drummer facing the wall doesn’t help.
Instead of becoming an earthquake, the elements at play here appear shaky and startled – as if being overpowered by one.
The mallets hit the drumhead. The beat is constant. Julek Kreutzer throws herself into a movement that shakes and jerks her body as Michelangelo Contini keeps on drumming. The rhythm forms the connecting tissue between them.
Lina Gómez’s choreography lies solely upon illustrating the rhythm. Kreutzer’s expression is turned inwards as she moves from spasticity to short bursts of more free-flowing motion. At moments her convulsions transfer to the floor, creating the temporary illusion of an earthquake.
Restraint looks unavoidably like a movement research session in a dance studio. It suffers from the lack of dramaturgy. The choreography is based on one pulsating movement task and the development of a theme is absent. For Kreutzer it’s physical, but structurally it’s static.
The finish is as sudden as the beginning. The abrupt end of the drumming leaves silence ringing in the ears.
Drummer Michelangelo Contini sits with his back towards the audience while dancer Julek Kreutzer takes up a sumo stance and shakes her body to the percussion. While Restraint admirably keeps up a palpable energy throughout, the idea exhausts itself within minutes. It feels like a research task that could have been explored in a studio. Continuous repetitive twitching in various positions and shapes doesn’t require the presence of an audience. Sometimes she pretzels herself into advanced yoga poses. Occasionally she crawls. Random light changes happen without reason. The faint vibe of martial arts in the movement is not without skill but ultimately Lina Gómez’ work becomes an exercise in stamina, both for the dancer – red in the face – and for us. It looks exhausting and remains mystifying.