Bringing performers from different disciplines together on stage can be a mixed bag. But in Bolistas by Guilherme Miotto / Corpo Máquina Society, which premiered on 3 October during the Nederlandse Dansdagen at Theater het Vrijthof in Maastricht, everything just fits.
The performers start off huddled together near the back of the stage, dressed in gym shorts and with a yellow soccer ball in hand. They are packed so closely together that it takes a while to realize that behind the three male performers (Nasser El Jackson, Simon Bus and Boris de Klerk), there is also actually a fourth, female, one: Stasy Terehhova.
All are looking apprehensive at something in the middle distance – something unseen by the audience. Slowly and cautiously they move forward, ever mindful that everyone sticks together. Anyone who falls behind is gently pushed to the front, towards the unknown, in an intriguing mixture of endearing solidarity and collective cowardice.
Once they reach the front of the stage they start posing as if for a group picture. These awkward group selfies seem to be a recurring phenomenon in current dance performances (they were also present, for instance, in What a time to be alive by MAN || CO and In Two Minds by Kalpanarts). As far as ludicrous line-ups go, Bolistas – aimed at a youthful audience (8+) – definitely wins top prize, especially in the way the four keep trying to include as many balls as possible in the picture.
After these group pictures it is time for some solo work, which brings to the fore the performers’ individual talents: quirky breakdancing moves by Bus – who gets a chance to showcase a more sensual side after his harrowed lead performance in Dunja Jocic’s De Panter (which was awarded a Swan for Best Dance Production last Friday); smooth contortions and rhythmic gymnastics by Terehhova, deft footwork by freestyle soccer champion El Jackson and comical antics by musician De Klerk, who amply demonstrates that there are many more ways to strum a guitar besides using a plectrum. The first way is the simplest, yet most ingenious: by taping a drumstick to the strings, each move he makes results in a plaintive sound. Each performer incorporates one or more soccer balls into his or her routine, but each does it in a slightly different way.
The four performers nicely complement each other, and there is a playful vibe throughout, as if I am actually watching a friendly jam session. Even when they are just sitting or standing at the side, watching one of the others showcasing his or her skills, there is a palpable invisible bond between the four. I think the way Bolistas begins, proves to be vital here. By introducing the four performers not as musicians, dancers or soccer players, but quite simply as a group of people, the audience is also primed to look at what binds the four together, not at what separates them. All four have different talents, yes, but they are also a team.