Disorienting Dance Piece from Jefta van Dinther

02/10/2015

  Kiers, As It Empties Out, Jefta van Dinther, Sadler’s Wells/Platform Theatre at Central Saint Martins, London, 01.10.2015 (J.O’D)

As It Empties Out 9big_EvaWurdinger

As It Empties Out Photo: Eva Wurdinger

Dancers: Linda Adami, Thiago Granato, Naiara Mendioroz Azkarate, Eeva Muilu, Roger Sala Reyner, Jefta van Dinther
Choreography: Jefta van Dinther
Lighting design: Minna Tikkainen
Sound design: David Kiers
Set design: SIMKA
Technical coordinator and technician: Susana Alonso
Artistic advice: Robert Steijn
Costume advice: Jorge Dutor
All music: David Kiers except the track ‘Doorway’ by Planningtorock

 

Several features of Jefta van Dinther’s As It Empties Out (2014) resemble those seen in the choreographer’s earlier Plateau Effect when it was performed by Cullberg Ballet at Sadler’s Wells last year. The dark curtain that hangs very close to the front of the stage. The song that starts the piece. The suspended ropes or cables on which the dancers strain and pull.

While reusing these elements, As It Empties Out also refines them. The curtain is in place for longer; the dancers appear and disappear, at floor level, under it. The song, sung by one of them, starts with comprehensible language (the words ‘Give yourself’) but very soon mutates into an incoherent keening. In Plateau Effect, the ropes were used to raise or lower the large piece of fabric that formed the curtain. Here, what the dancers are struggling to raise or lower, or maintain in its position, is never seen. A black screen obscures the upper part of the stage. The attention is on the angled bodies and upturned faces below it. Lights shimmer briefly on the floor, as if to suggest the closer proximity of the unseen object. When they fade, the dancers slump.

It is in a later section, though, that the piece really seems to be doing something new. With the auditorium of the Platform Theatre in darkness that feels almost unsafe (it is so very dark), a red-lit figure becomes visible on the stage. Because of the darkness, it is impossible to say how close or far away this figure is, impossible to place yourself in a relationship to it in space. Seen only from the waist up, it twists constantly on the spot. Now its arms are above its head, now at its side. Other, similarly twisting figures appear one by one beside it. Loud noises, as of pumping, rattling, gushing, add to a sense of disorientation that frightens and exhilarates at the same time. You do not watch this section of the piece. You are enveloped by it.

Disorientation, through the use of space, light and sound, is what As It Empties Out aims at, and what it achieves. This extends to its presentation of the human body. The dancer who sings, the first dancer to appear, is revealed looking at the audience from over his shoulder as he stands bending towards the curtain. If his T-shirt and shorts look strangely dated, his extremely high, platform-soled shoes uncanny, it is his eyes that disturb most of all. They are completely covered by black lenses.

Through the clever use lighting, a fake-fur coat and her seated position on the floor at the front of the stage, the woman who performs alone in the final section of the piece looks more like a pale worm, at first, than a human being. As her face and arms become distinguishable under a spot light, the recorded sound of someone speaking can be heard. A gravelly voice, with an American accent, it could be male or female. Sometimes the woman on the stage lip-syncs to the recording. Sometimes she does not.

The voice, which seems to be that of a retired actor, speaks in repeated phrases and half-finished sentences about developing a character. While this goes on, it gradually becomes obvious that the woman on the stage has been imperceptibly moving to the back of it. So, in the world of As It Empties Out there is nothing to hold on to, spatially, visually or aurally, nothing to get a grasp on. It seems fitting, under these circumstances, that the last thing the voice says is that clichéd phrase about the difficulty of really knowing ‘what makes someone tick’.

John O’Dwyer

 

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! City Music Foundation July 2019 Summer Residency at The Wallace Collection __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River 2019 Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • NEW! MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces Winners of Emerging Dancer 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month