ITA presented the Dutch première of Planet (wanderer) by choreographer Damien Jalet and visual artist Kohei Nawa. Seen on 7 October in the Rabozaal, the promising show raises the question why it is limited to a mere visual spectacle several times.
A few sparks glow in the dark at the start of Planet (wanderer). It is the first entry into the opacity on stage that will lead you further once your eyes start to adjust to the limited vision. The intermittent sparks become a stream of black matter falling from the sky, touching base at the back of a creature that slowly takes the shape of a human being. This protagonist appears to be alone in a vast space, the entire floor covered with black matter, slightly scintillating. This black matter might resemble dark earth or mud; its blackness could also refer to coagulated lava.
Slowly another fixed formation visualizes, this one bigger. Difficult to decipher at first, once alive and into the light, the pile of sculptured bodies containing shoulders, backs and buttocks with bulging muscles, slowly dissolves to form a group of people.
During the course of Planet (wanderer) the dancers slowly work their way across the landscape. With their feet fixed in small craters filled with a bubbling white substance, they impressively sway forwards and backwards, until they are parallel to the horizon like birds skimming over the waterline.
The way the dancers move is fascinating and beautiful beyond doubt; with circular, undulating movements, trying to gain freedom within their rather limited, personal surroundings and later struggling to move on. But the following scenes are also stretched out to the limit, which makes the whole thing quite predictable unless you are fully immersed into this world.
Next to the scenography and the dancers, there is a third influential player on the scene. The electronic soundscape composed by Tim Hecker is omnipresent. Unfortunately, it offers the dancers no escape or lifeline here. Instead of relating to the movement, the layers of electronic sound create a smothering aural thickness.
Planet (wanderer) is clearly the product of a collaboration in which the various autonomous art forms fail to entirely come together. Both scenography and sound absorb the possibilities for the performers. The effects are strong, but do wear out fast as they seem the main point within the dramaturgical structure. And while the dancers work hard to keep this world alive, you’d wish there was more in it for them. What remains in the end is the image of a group of beautiful and disciplined bodies, ploughing on.
And this is problematic. These days the title of the piece, particularly the word ‘planet’ in it, can hardly be disconnected from a sense of awareness of and responsibility for ‘our planet’. With this in mind, it feels a bit empty to ponder on the poetry of the bond between the earth and its inhabitants while the planet is under attack by our own doing.