Basque and Sardinian Folk Traditions Inspire Jumping Dances

United KingdomUnited Kingdom   Various Composers, Idiot-Syncrasy: Made at The Place, The Place, London, 30.10.2014 (J.O’D)

Choreographed and Performed by: Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas
Artistic Associate: Simon Ellis
Sound design: Alberto Ruiz Soler
Voice Coach:    Melanie Pappenheim
Set & Costume Design: Kasper Hansen
Costume Supervisor: Sophie Bellin Hansen
Lighting Design: Seth Rook Williams
Music (sung live): Extracts from Procurade ʼe moderare (Francesco Ignazio Mannu); When I’m Sixty-Four (The Beatles); Quanto t’ho amato (Roberto Begnini); Al Alba (Luis Eduardo Aute); Zure Begiek (Mikel Laboa)

 An expanse of white floor, softly-lit; three white backcloths (overlapping but with space in between); two dark-haired young men in windcheaters, jeans and trainers, singing a cappella with modulated voices in what sounds like a dialect of Spanish. That is the beginning to Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas’s mesmeric Idiot-Syncrasy, a ‘jumping dance’ for which they have drawn on the folk traditions of Sardinia and the Basque country and which was performed The Place as part of the Spring Loaded festival in May. The song refers to ‘the fight against arrogance’. The jumping begins as the singing ends. Soft jumps at first, the feet of one of the men do not quite leave the floor. Remaining on the spot, they remove their jackets, jeans trainers and socks. One folds his clothes neatly before placing them on the floor. The other throws his down carelessly. In a silence punctuated by giggles from an audience that is amused but also unsure what to expect, the first man picks up the clothes then jumps across the stage to dispose of them behind a backcloth.

Wearing shorts and loose but high-necked T-shirts, the men jump in unison and in silence, arms at their sides, bodies facing the audience. One disappears to return with what looks like a bottle of whisky. Without spilling a drop, he pours some of its contents into two plastic glasses for himself and his partner. The other dancer then brings out more glasses. He distributes them, with the bottle, among the audience. He encourages the audience to drink. Emboldened perhaps by the alcohol (if it is alcohol), or by an action shared with the spectators, the men jump higher. Their arms move away from their bodies. They extend their range across the stage. When they jump side by side on one foot and on the diagonal they have the skimming grace of ice-skaters. At other times they have the force of ‘warrior dancers’. As they raise one leg and hold one arm up in front of them, they resemble animated statues of Hermes. One begins to jump and twist in the air with a ballet dancer’s elevation and ballon.

They each go behind the backcloths several times to return in different coloured T-shirts, sometimes several layers of them. These, and the variations in lighting, provide subtle alterations of mood. Why are two of the shirts printed with images of the face of each dancer? Why is a single eye printed on the back of two more? The dance does not tell. At a certain point an electronic humming begins to be heard. It grows to a climax. The men, who have so far had no physical contact, jump towards each other, clasp arms briefly then spin apart. This action marks a change. Soon after it the shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie of the two dancers is suddenly replaced by something that takes their dance into quite different territory, something that makes the deepest of hushes descend on the already spellbound audience.

John O’Dwyer

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