Enervating performance about the need to connect

Opening a performance with death is devastating. Especially when it is so powerfully portrayed as in I SOLO MENT, the new choreography by Ann Van den Broek, who recently won the Swan for Best Dance Production for Co(te)lette.

A grieving woman washes the body of a deceased man. She is laying him out. But there’s more. No matter how smoothly and softly she washes him, every gesture she makes is always 4 inches removed from the (fully-clothed) body. The corpse cooperates – he even holds his balls to one side so she can reach every patch of skin – but real contact is impossible. The very last chance for intimacy has passed. A song about loss by Nick Cave plays in the background.

To start a performance with death is asking for trouble. Try topping that gripping scene. But Van den Broek manages to build the tension to a climax: an even colder ending. The dead man comes alive in memories; he dribbles and plays the air drums and he is just bustling with energy and creativity within the four paneled lights of a photography studio. But for the woman he remains an impenetrable fortress. She moves proudly around him; dances along with him occasionally; admires his creations, but never gets what she’s hoping for. Even when she positions her naked body in all his desired positions – he keeps his arms spread – she never looks him in the eye.

Those who know that this is an autobiographical aspect of the choreographer and her brother (a photographer), who died of cancer and was possibly autistic, will read more into this expressive dance duet by two solitary souls. But even without this background information, there is plenty to interpret. At times it is too easy read, like when the dance and the lyrics mirror each other. There’s no need to serenade this unrequited desire. But dancer Cecilia Moisio gives a topnotch performance (as she did in Co(te)lette) by desiring hungrily, by hoping and giving, but never losing. And Dario Tortorelli does a very good job portraying someone who is unable to communicate his creativity.

Annette Embrechts, de Volkskrant, November 11, 2008

« Back