Picture this: you are at a rave, and have been for a while. Your body obeys the beat regardless of thirst or sleep. All around you are other bodies doing the same, and the sea of bodies moving is just the loveliest thing ever. The air is dripping with sweat and hot with breath and you don’t know where your body ends and the heaving sea begins. Now picture this scene without music. Picture all the people falling away. It is just you and a furious Rumpelstiltskin who keeps on going even when you decide it is time to go home. Welcome to Boca de Ferro.
A study of excess, of rage, of surrender, is what the 50-minute solo Boca de Ferro, which was presented at Julidans last Tuesday and Wednesday, represents. Choreographers Marcela Levi and Lucia Russo have created a piece that strips a contemporary archetype of its context and challenges its audience to undergo behaviours it wouldn’t accept outside the theatrical framework. The dancer is Icario dos Passos Gaya. He is possessed with a beat we do not hear, channelling an energy we do not share, unleashed from some other universe and transplanted with one sudden jump from behind the curtain into the black and empty studio upstairs in the Melkweg.
Dos Passos Gaya creates a persona that evokes wonder, initially, at the urge with which his body comes twirling and stomping along the circle of spectators. He seems more frantic than happy. He sprays sweat and spit and snot, and he is naked except for a cardigan he wears upside down like a pair of fleecy trousers around his rotating hips. Combined with his wild black hair it gives him an air of the devil. This is like a voodoo ritual. And he comes so close. Wonder turns to queasy confusion.
My mirror neurons want to tell my body that I’m hearing the beat, they try to solve the puzzle set by Dos Passos Gaya’s feet and the occasional grunts and hums he emits. But I can’t start dancing with everyone around me watching. The dancer knows this is happening inside other people’s bodies, too, and writhes his back against another woman’s, drops to the floor and rolls against a girl who has sat down on the floor. It comes too close. But how would it feel if we were at a rave? Suddenly there’s music. And then it’s gone.
Everything about this piece is unexpected. The timing of the intermittent music. The lyrics shouted by the dancer. The colour of his sweat. The level of uneasiness as the dancer whirls into our personal space spraying bodily fluids in every direction. And in its unexpectedness, the piece tries to bring the dancing persona and the people in the audience to the same level. We, too, must surrender to what is happening. It’s not that the only dancer in the room is inviting us to do the same – he is locked in his own powerful experience. He must help the wave rise until it engulfs us all.
The Bacchanal serves a purpose. Somehow, it washes the brain or the body clean. Repetitive physical activities like dancing to a pounding beat seem to level out the peaks and dips in our moods. It acts as a reset to ready us for whatever difficult thing comes next. And something difficult always comes next. When it is over and we step out into the quiet, cobbled side street where the late sun hits the window panes the confusion is gone. The revulsion has ebbed away. The image of the sole dancer carrying and controlling all that energy with his battered body remains.