There are two versions of Common Ground; a daylight version and a night-time one. At 11.30 AM on Saturday 2 October Anouk van Dijk, returned from eight years in Australia leading the Chunky Move company where she originally created this piece, introduced the concept to her audience in a chilly abandoned factory hall during the Nederlandse Dansdagen. Dancers Tara Jade Samaya and Javier Monzón García danced their somewhat lengthy daylight version on a cold floor.
A square white ballet floor is taped onto a bigger, black square. Samaya and Monzón García, looking almost like twins with their shaved heads and similar body types, start facing each other in short white dresses on either side of the white square (set and costumes were designed by Marg Horwell). The audience, seated along three sides, retains a clear view right through the dance space at each other and the vast hall beyond, with its uncovered windows high up and flaky old painted walls. When Monzón García takes his first sideways step, Samaya (who co-created the piece with her original dance partner, Richard Cilli) responds like a counterweight by stepping sideways in the opposite direction.
The interplay between the two starts almost automatically, like standard chess openings, and soon takes on a distinctly playful character. She stands very erect with her toes against the line of white, holding out her right hand for him to take. When he moves around to her right side to do so, she quickly retracts the hand and switches to the left, and then the other way around and again, and again. Pretty soon the two are running after each other, initially staying on the black rim, and then tumbling into the white with legs akimbo. They find a shared equilibrium in duets on tiptoes or sculptural poses where one holds the other afloat by pinching their body between the legs.
Striking as these scenes in the middle section are, they take their time to explore a dynamic that by now has been clearly established. When the two exchange their white dresses for black ones, my interest was quickly rekindled. The change into black opens up a myriad of possible references; to day and night, to life and death or to skin colours and questions of identity. The playfulness gives way to an altogether less friendly claim on the space and the audience’s attention.
Samaya stands quietly on the centre line, facing the front, while Monzón García performs a series of lively movements to her left. She wiggles one foot into a small slit in the tape that holds two lengths of flooring together, and then the other. It marks the start of an impressive dance with the main marker of the space that conjures up Kylían’s 27’52”. The bodies become engaged in a prolonged toiling. This time, the duration of the scene is completely justified as the intensity works towards its resolve when floor is earth, grass, and sculpture, standing in commemoration of the two danced lives.