Dance on stage has many simultaneous layers. Besides, it is ephemeral: watching dance is chasing something that it is already not there. Writing about dance is sketching remembered gestures and movements, moments withheld, few words if any. Sometimes words can sprout out of sound and movement, other times they are hemmed between clouds of nebulous images. However, there is always a way from stage to text.
After a round of introductions at Springback Academy, one of the mentors, Sanjoy Roy, came up with a diagram of “what reviewing is about”. Pointing out the difference between the level of articulation of language and movement, he placed us, the reviewers, in the middle, within the audience, and later communicating to a reader what we have seen, experienced, thought about. Although I have been writing reviews for several years, these two and a half days at Springback felt like swimming in this diagram. I became more conscious about the writing process, about all the ways from performance to words.
I am a vocational art spectator, and I love to sit at the edge of the seat. But am I such an athletic viewer to cope with 24 shows in a weekend? Could this selection of pieces reveal any trends of where is contemporary dance heading? I’m not sure how representative these shows were of any present trends. I was looking for variety on dramaturgies, sounds and music or atmospheres, brand-new movement qualities or new perspectives on corporality. In art I seek the unexpected. Laskaradis’ Relic, Gottfarb & Deutinger’s Chivalry is dead or Hodworks’ Conditions of being a mortal, movements I & II were examples of that: the three pieces are a celebration of vulnerability, purely genuine.
Perhaps having to watch so many shows in a row pushed me to organise my chaotic mind and the rest of the sensorial recording systems a little more than usual. I assigned the job of looking to the capturing eye and the analytical eye. The first eye functions as a cameraman/sound technician, desperately struggling to take the best shot, capturing as much multisensory material as possible, and saving it into memory. The latter, the analytical one, wanders like a referee, always stepping back sceptically, evaluating the scene. If I am truly haunted by the performance, this one closes.
The sheep syndrome
Walks and queues. “Spring(Spread)Forward(and Around)” kept us moving around back and forth from Mercat de les Flors to other venues; strolling or sprinting, always flocking. Buzz. The queue for supper (Springback sheep need to be fed) became the arena where springbackers bombarded each other with critical questions and exchanged impressions. Opinion snaps. “Analytical eyes” joining for “speed-debating”.
Blank. Plunge. Writing about a remembered performance, means diving into my memory’s gallery. There are pieces acquired everywhere, from childhood until just a second ago. The cataloguing procedure is random, so I might find my remembered Chivalry is dead next to the fantastic bleak landscapes of Italo Calvino’s Our Ancestors. Diving is thrilling, but sometimes disappointing. The “capturing eye” might not have filmed the shot or sound I needed.
Back on the surface, I thread the needle to start sewing the scattered pieces and impressions on the remembered Relic or Manlike with words. Translating dance or choreography into adjectives, nouns or verbs is a taming game. Once the surface turns into a text and the gibberish sentences sound reasonably understandable, I feel released.