Contemporary Performance!

In adult beginner ballet class, it’s not like you ever get to see your teacher actually dance for more than a minute or so. Therefore, when M. told us about the show her dance company was staging, we were all hyped to go. So last Friday, my mom, the SO and I headed off to the charming town of Baden to see the show that was titled simply Dance & Artistry.

We were not disappointed. The company in question turned out to be a recently founded group of professional and young professional dancers. Part of their mission statement is «to promote artistic development through cooperation of experienced dancers with young talents», which sounds like an admirable goal to me.

Every number was clearly themed, with the themes in the first act being somewhat different from those in the second one. The difference is difficult to put into words, so I’ll call it «older» and «younger». The first act was mostly performed by younger dancers and depicted slightly simpler themes, such as exclusion and jealousy, whereas the second act was mostly danced by the pros and touched on a variety of deeper subjects, from mind washing to hope.

Most of the numbers were contemporary, with ballet, aerial silks and lyre thrown in for variety. An awesome contact juggler and a musical performer accompanied some of the numbers, making it all even more interesting. Having never seen a contemporary dance performance (or any dance perfomance that wasn’t ballet), I was awed, amazed and impressed – and noticed several interesting things I was previously oblivious to.

For once, I didn’t quite realise just how expressive dance was. Now that I think about it, it is obvious. The human body is naturally expressive – we use it to communicate every day. Music, too, conveys emotion. Combine the two and only an idiot would think the result carries no meaning. (One such idiot was apparently sitting behind me, but that is a matter for a different post. #RantIncoming)

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to tell M. apart from the other dancers, but staring at someone for an hour a week makes it incredibly easy to recognise them no matter the angle, costume or make-up. She was beautiful, just as athletic, graceful and straightforward on stage and off. It was Birdie who caused me a great deal of cognitive dissonance.

Birdie, who taught the ballet summer course, is also part of the company. I only had class with her a couple of times, but I remember her as very cheerful and sweet – hence the nickname. Knowing that, it was a (pleasantly) unsettling experience to watch her dance. Birdie is very slim, with narrow shoulders and hips and a long frame, fairly tall and almost certainly hypermobile. In modern / contemporary she is basically liquid and her elongated, slender shape combines with the powerful, expressive movements into something not so much bird-like as snake-like. Combined with her intense gaze, I was quite taken with the performance.

As much as I would like to describe each and every beautiful dance, there is only one particular number I really have to mention, because it touched us all the most: Trust, choreographed by the amazing guest artist Neel Jansen and performed by himself and the company dancers. It dealt with the struggle and pain of opening yourself up to another. The power and expression in his (and his would-be companions’) dancing was incredible and no words can do it justice.

I didn’t take any pictures or, Cthulhu forbid, videos, because I would rather eat my phone than wave it around in a theatre. But the company made a neat little making-of/trailer video, which you can watch here:

And what do we learn from this? I need to go to more dance performances!

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