Danslokaal 9

It is not often that my first impression of a work strongly corresponds with the intention the maker wants to convey. Yet that is exactly what happened with two out of three of the contributions to Danslokaal 9, seen on 10 September at Huis Conny Janssen Danst in Rotterdam.

Danslokaal is a yearly recurring talent development project that offers three up-and-coming dance makers or dance collectives a platform to make new work. Conny Janssen Danst provides the facilities – rehearsal space, technicians and dancers – and arranges the Dutch tour. Two creative partners offer reinforcements: Korzo and Dansateliers, who each nominate one artist/dance group for the program, while Conny Janssen Danst provides the third.

For Danslokaal 9 Dansateliers presents Ian Yves Ancheta with Caught in Between. Even if Ancheta had not told us beforehand in a short introductory video that his piece is about eagerness, the sentiment is clearly embodied by its two performers; especially by dancer Ovidi Álvarez Ferré, who is like an eager puppy in the wing, expectantly waiting to make his entrance.

It is a great introduction for the intern, who only started at Conny Janssen Danst this August. Ovidi Álvarez is totally chuffed to finally have an audience, proudly showing off his subpar magic tricks, as if he were a little boy performing for a charitable family audience. He expertly plays to the auditorium, vocally calling back the attention of any audience member whose eyes have wandered away from him and towards his dance partner, Liza Wallerbosch, who is putting on her roller skates over on the other side of the stage.

Caught in Between is not only about eagerness, but also about the urge to get somewhere, without ever actually getting there. This is illustrated in a duet in which Álvarez Ferré and Wallerbosch try desperately to connect, but remain forever unable to touch. It is as if they were both magnets with like poles, with the unseen magnetic force physically pushing them apart whenever they get too close. It evokes a sense of anticipation and frustration which Ancheta also slyly manages to incite in the audience itself, in a scene with Wallerbosch standing eagerly – and at the ready – at the microphone. The first world famous beats of I want to break free by Queen can be heard. Just as Wallerbosch is supposed to start singing, she doesn’t. We get the build-up, but not the release.

Conny Janssen Danst presents FUBUNATION. The UK-based dance collective won the Conny Janssen Danst Partner Award during the Rotterdam International Duet Choreography Competition (RIDCC) in 2019. FUBUNATION was supposed to choreograph work for Danslokaal 8, but due to COVID restrictions, their introduction was delayed. …In Silent Company is their first commission outside the UK.

…In Silent Company starts with five hunched silhouettes, huddled together. An ominous drone can be heard on the soundtrack (sound design: Sam Nunez). In unison they shuffle across the stage; their heads are lowered; their feet barely lift from the floor. Now and then, an individual separates from the group, but these moments are short-lived. Soon they return back into the fold. The piece showcases the eternal struggle between individual and group, between being a single entity or one of many. The bouts of individualism become more frequent, more pronounced. Feet are lifted higher; arms swing wildly. But there’s a sense of danger: strong expressions, in a group dynamic, can easily distort into extremism. Standing on your own, in the moment, breathing in can be one of the greatest acts of defiance.

Astrid Boons (Korzo) tries to explore a similar dynamic with Now You Can Swallow Her, the opener of Danslokaal 9. At the start of the piece, Maud Huizing is trying to disentangle her three fellow dancers, who are entwined in a heap on the floor. But once they are detached from each other, there is no real solace. They end up convulsing on their own, to a remorseless heartbeat (music by Miguelángel Clerc Parada).

The movements choreographed by Boons (who herself danced with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, Nederlands Danstheater and Dansgroep Krisztina de Châtel, among others), are intricate and mesmerizing, organic yet otherworldly. The four dancers move in short spasms; heads slightly cocked; legs bent. As if they were not yet really familiar with or at ease inside their own bodies. Both movement and music provide a sense of constant dread. Still, I felt more detached wonderment than engagement, as if I was looking at an alien lifecycle rather than a parable on contemporary life.

Tour Danslokaal 9

photo: Salih Kiliç