Not all movement is dance, but – in the universe of the Dutch Brazilian choreographer Guilherme Miotto – it definitely can be. In his two solos BALL and POLE Miotto investigates the fluid space where sport becomes art. Both pieces were shown at the opening of Live Arts Festival in Breda. Next year, both will start touring as a double bill.
In his solo BALL, Miotto has handed over the reins to the charismatic street soccer player Nasser El Jackson. Seeing him handling the ball seems at times like pure wizardry, but Miotto really excels when he gives you something unexpected. Instead of a showcase for a soccer master doing neat tricks, BALL is about an intriguing relationship between a man, his ball and the space surrounding them, where it’s not always apparent who is in control.
POLE – a coproduction with Podium Bloos which premiered at the Live Arts Festival – starts at a slight disadvantage. The pole itself is, after all, a fixed point in space. Miotto has made the smart move to incorporate this into the narrative. The solo performer, multiple Dutch pole dancing champion (and Everybody Dance Now finalist) Yvonne Smink just can’t seem to escape its pull. She starts at the top of the pole, gazing out into the audience, anxiously clinging to it, like a seahorse stuck on a piece of coral. Even when she leaves the base, walking around uncertainly without its support, she can never stray too far. The pole keeps calling her back. She’s always connected to it, even if it’s only to its shadow.
There’s no question who is more dependent on whom. The pole is a safe haven, a place of support, something to hide in, and to hide behind, but also something that holds her back.
POLE still feels a bit like a work in progress, especially as the piece unfolds and Smink seems to be trying on different personae. From an alien who has just descended on earth – helped by Joel Ryan’s otherworldly soundscape – with a pained, pasted-on Joker-like grin, to a sexual human being holding her pole like it’s her lover. From an athlete and champion pole dancer to a siren, seductively beckoning the audience to come closer.
It’s definitely different from BALL where El Jackson seemed to be one consistent version of himself. But maybe that is exactly the point. Maybe Smink is merely showing us the different faces – and bodies – we women have to wear, with the pole standing in for the patriarchy.
Seen: August 30, Podium Bloos, Live Arts Festival Breda