An explosive and colourful encounter happened at the Melkweg on 15 July. Marco D’Agostin, an Italian dance maker who is part of Julidans NEXT, presented his latest work, Best Regards.
At the back of the stage, a portiere curtain made of LED light strips shows the words ‘DEAR N’. D’Agostin enters through this curtain, with a mic in his hands. Simply and directly, he begins by addressing the audience. He talks about his relationship with Amsterdam, how he has already spent time here and danced in this theatre.
He talks to us first because he doesn’t feel like dancing yet. This is how D’Agostin begins his letter to Nigel Charnock, one of the founders of the emblematic DV8, a London-based physical theatre company. The choreographer was profoundly marked by Charnock. “He could make anybody dance. He could make dance seem normal,” he says. He mentions how in one of Charnock’s solo works, he read to the audience a break-up letter he’d once received from an ex-lover. He would send this letter to the theatres prior to his performance there.
D’Agostino reflects on the value of letters and how they have changed through time. Letters contain three temporalities: the present when received, the past of when it was written, and the projected future while writing. Letters are an act of trust to the addressee because there is trust that the person will take the time to read and answer. The artist evokes a myriad of beautiful examples of different artists and writers who wrote letters. Unanswered ones, long exchanges, friendships, love stories.
Wendy Houstoun, friend and colleague of Nigel Charnock, wrote a farewell letter four days after his passing. D’Agostin starts reciting this letter, increasing the tempo as the LED curtain behind him shows the words. The performer switches rapidly between states, at times impersonating what could be a TV entertainer welcoming us to the presentation of his new single “Dear N”, and then going back to reciting Houstoun’s letter. Each time, the energy shifts and even the language. He speaks in his mother tongue, Italian, but also in perfect French and Spanish. A frantic monologue accompanied by movements and objects coming from behind the lit curtain. A plastic cane, a glittery welcome mat, a champagne bottle-shaped confetti canon, a bubble gun, pompons and even a laser sword. This accumulation of festive objects is strangely coherent with the verbiage, creating a poetic tragi-comic atmosphere.
Finishing his solo, D’Agostino sings devotedly to a slightly cheezy electronic piano track with a beat. As the grand finale, a letter is being given to him, sent to the Melkweg by a friend. He reads it for the first time as he narrates it to us. The choreographer transitions into singing, as the lyrics appear on the curtain behind. Slowly, as the lights dim down, he places a microphone facing us. The words are still appearing in the background as he exits the stage space. I hear some humming, and even some soft singing in the audience.
This melancholic karaoke closes the homage to Charnock, a generous and well-crafted performance that leaves me pensive.