All Around & grrrRoUNd

Light and dark. Harmony and dissonance. These two main contrasts could be found on Wednesday 7 July at Julidans Festival in my make-shift double bill: All Around at Studio ITA and grrrRoUNd at Theater Bellevue.

First up was All Around, a meditative ‘music concert with dance’, performed by drummer/percussionist Will Guthrie and dancer/choreographer Mette Ingvartsen. The setup is elegant in its simplicity: the audience is seated in a circle, surrounding the performance space. All that is subsequently needed are a dancer (Ingvartsen), a musician (Guthrie), his drumkit and a tube light.

The last time I saw Ingvartsen perform, it was in the visceral 21 pornographies (Julidans 2018), where she found other, more creative uses for a tube light. Here, the use is more straightforward. Ingvartsen starts out by slowly turning the light around in the darkened studio. First, only the light itself is moving, standing upright, in a circular motion, like a light in a lighthouse, while Guthrie is performing on a singing bowl. Soon, Ingvartsen starts twirling herself, whirling around like a derwish, with the light clasped in her hands, whipped into a frenzy by Guthrie’s percussions.

All Around is beautiful to look at, and from the huge contented smile on her face it is clear that Ingvartsen is enjoying herself immensely. Still, I was left wondering how the performance would have evolved had it been twice as long. Twenty minutes felt too short to completely abandon myself to the experience.

All Around by Mette Ingvartsen | photo: Eike Wallenhorst

Surrender was something I definitely had to do for grrrRoUNd by Marcela Levi and Lucía Russo. grrrRoUNd is not like most performances. Which, to be fair, is something they declare right from the start, when Ícaro Gaya starts crawling around the stage on all fours on a floor covered in black bird feathers. ‘You would like to hear something nice and easy. But we never do anything nice and easy,’ Gaya rambles in a strangled voice.

Starting point for the performance is the value of instability, something that can also be found in the dissonant tritone of classical music (such as the A and E flat at the very beginning of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns). But while dissonance nowadays mostly has dark connotations (the tritone is often used in horror movies), to Levi and Russo this instability is something to be treasured: a catalyst for change.

The next fifty minutes nothing fits together. Each performer is dancing to their own beat: Gaya is crawling, Lucas Fonseca is doing death drops in slow motion, Washington Silva is bopping in and out of the frame and Tamires Costa – who appears around the halfway point – is doing a cheerful solo that is a mix of tribal dance, 70s disco and martial arts. Songs – from Nina Simone’s Sinnerman to the aforementioned Danse Macabre – are started but never completed. One moment performer Martim Gueller is furiously playing his (muted) synthesizer while all that can be heard is musician Alexei Henriques, who is seated in the audience, playing the violin. During another scene the sounds of furious tapping – also Henriques – start only after Fonseca has finished his silent tapping routine.

Even the ending doesn’t go quite as expected, with Gueller playing on with his back to the audience, while the rest is taking a bow. Gueller even continues playing after some members of the audience started to leave. I think there Levi and Russo could have gone even further. In a piece that is all about instability, about things that never seem to get resolved, why have them take a traditional bow at all? There is also another danger: how long does it take before all this unpredictability becomes, in itself, predictable? Fifty minutes may be just long enough.

Featured photo: Renato Mangolin (grrrRoUNd)