The bar is closed at Theater Bellevue on 16 November, so we wait in the stairwell by the box office for Dansclick 23 to begin. My eyes wander, killing time. Suddenly, people’s eyes dart up, heads turn, people tap each other on the arm to draw attention to what’s going on. Two acrobats come climbing across the top balustrade two storeys up and proceed to clamber down. They use the concrete balcony edge, each other’s bodies and the arm rail in the stairwell to end up one on top of the other, inside the revolving door that leads out to the Leidsekade.
This pop-up warms us up for the first of two performances that make up this edition of Dansclick: Piet van Dycke’s On Point. The other piece is To The Edge 3 by Dalton Jansen. The circus-and-dance maker from Tilburg and the Rotterdam-based choreographer won the BNG Dansprijs and through Dansclick these winners, promising young makers, realise a full tour across the Netherlands. The theme for this edition: vulnerability, fitting with the pandemic and the emotions it brings.
In the auditorium, the audience is placed along the four sides of a square white ballet floor. On its diagonal is a chunky short catwalk made of metal and wood. Acrobats Cal Courtney and Samuel Rhyner drop down from the grid. When they chase each other onto the catwalk, Courtney ends up with his toes to its edge, leaning far forward, rigid as a board. He falls. He never moves a limb. Just before his nose hits the floor, Rhyner grabs him by the belt and saves him from breaking his face.
The piece is a light dance between daring acrobatics and humorous use of the space via hand-to-hand interaction between the shorter Courtney and the taller Rhyner. Compared to Van Dycke’s earlier work however, On Point lacks a clear emotional arc, so the vulnerability theme is tackled purely from the perspective of the performers’ bodies, which are clearly well-trained and tuned in to each other.
The light, teasing atmosphere is turned upside down after the brief intermission. In the dark, three dancers position themselves standing close together in the centre of the white floor, while a fourth performer steadily walks along the square’s edge. With their faces turned down and the lights dimmed, Dalton Jansen’s performers present themselves as vulnerable men, not yet ready to show their faces. When the fourth, Fred Santos Mendes Do Vale, begins to intone a piece of spoken word poetry (written by Elten Kiene), the other three (Jansen himself, Adam Khazhmuradov and Giovanni Pisas) take their time to set their bodies in motion.
Ultimately, the floor is left to the dancers. Khazhmuradov and Pisas swirl out from the close-knit group with searching broad steps and wide arms, exploring the space while very gradually opening their gaze. In the course of the piece, at different times they both end up close to the edge of their white square, directly in front of the spectators, meeting the audience’s gaze. Behind them, Jansen and the other dancer perform a duet, and behind these two we see the lines of spectators along the other edges of the floor, whose eyes are also on the men. These dancers are squared in, by us. We sit passively, but hold a power over the space.
No wonder, then, that there is anger and unrest in Jansen’s body. His limbs start their movements with a lush swaying motion or an elegant swirl, but each time they end up kicking, or lashing out, his torso rolling dangerously. In the trios, the other two act as caring, close brothers to him; the three of them move together, each performing their own moves but with the same intention. When the discomfort pierces Jansen’s movement, they step in to examine it, to try and ease his pain. Strikingly, at one time they place their hands on the sides of his head as if to quell the torment, and they help him lower to the floor.
To The Edge 3 unfolds as a probing piece, a captivating physical exploration of the sense of being caged; be it by the pandemic, or by other people.
On featured photo: To The Edge 3 by Dalton Jansen