Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Body Collision - Wim Vandekeybus' What the Body Does Not Rememer

Wim Vandekeybus’ What the Body Does not Remember
Teatro delle Muse, Ancona, 22 February 2013

 1987: WimVandekeybus creates What the Body Does Not Remember for his company Ultima Vez and presents it in at Inteatro in Poverigi, near Ancona. The work wins international acclaim and declares the Flemish choreographer one of the most interesting and exciting voices in the contemporary dance panorama.
2013: Vandekeybus comes back in the Marche Region and presents this piece again. It looks as provocative and stimulating as sixteen years ago and is welcomed by an enthusiastic audience.

Body collide in this energetic piece. They run from one side of the stage to the other, they run one against the other, they walk, jump and frantically fight in an atmosphere of instability and alienation. There are at least six different sections highlighted by movement, light or props themes. The opening section is utterly remarkable, with two rows of floodlights set on the side of the stage placed on the stage floor and two male dancers moving in between them. Their movement then falls under the control of a sound a female dancer produces with her hands beaten or even slightly positioned on a small red table backstage centre. It is hypnotic and mesmerizing. 

Another section features the whole group of nine dancers interacting with white bricks of different dimensions. They stand on them, they throw them at each other, the throw them up in the air, they build small structures with them. If on the one hand the atmosphere recalls that of a circus, on the other the dancers’ inability to establish endurable connections creates a sense of bewilderment.

Vandekeybus’s movement approach looks approximate and imprecise, aggressive and fast, but it is the result of careful study and concept. In another section the dancers walk from backstage left to front stage right wearing, playing, throwing colourful towels. It is an ironic section where the dressing and undressing of the dancers represent a witty dynamic device.

Vandekeybus is really good at making the most out of props, like bricks or even chairs, which represent the centre of another section again characterized by a good bit of irony. In one phrase a man sits on one of the two white chairs onstage and a girl comes to sit on his knees. She falls asleep and he carefully takes his top off without waking her up. It is a tender duo where an unusual Vandekeybus emerges with respect to the tough dances he displays in the rest of the piece. 

In yet another section there are three couples showing a drastically different movment quality, with the female dancers repeatedly standing with their feet and arms in second position and their male partners touching their bodies. In this case I found Vandekeybus's insistence on this body relation a bit too reifying for women, who could have for example done the same to their male partners. According to Judith Mackrell, "Vandekeybus doesn't write particularly inventively for women" and maybe this is one good example.

So what is it that the body does not remember? Is it an everyday movement like wearing a towel or sitting on a chair? Or is it the importance of communicating, of establishing contacts between people? Maybe none of these and all of them at the same time. I really enjoyed the display of body collision and the sense of precarity (still so meaningful today!) intrinsic in the dance sections of the piece. The work was astonishingly good and the dancers a real marvel.

This event was also sponsored by Amat ad the Ancona Cultural Municipality.

Here a clip of the piece.

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