They have paused mid-action, in a state of arrest or repose. As the audience streams in, the performers have already begun, frozen mid-frame in some carefully-crafted street scene. It is mesmerising merely to see the live actors hold on for a long time with one intent, notice their bodies sway very slightly back and forth. Studying this scene like a painting. The detail of their action stands in stark contrast to the way these actors have been spread homogenously in the space.
As the lights change and music plays, our minds have been primed to pay attention to the little details. There is a sense that what they each do has little impact on the greater whole – their lives and interactions are anonymous and meaningless. Sometimes two performers raise their arms in synchronicity, sometimes they meet and leer at each other. My eye is drawn to the weightiest visual point – a man bent over double, carrying a large, heavy burden. I notice that he is the darkest-skinned performer, and has the role of a labourer. I also notice the fairest-skin performer, her dress the flimsiest, her lips the reddest.
This street scene unfurls with the quietly repetitive sound score, ending beautifully right where it started. Some swirling patterns have been seen, some codified and new actions have been performed, everything seems inconsequential. The performers leave. They come out again, walking on three pathways. They appear on our right and disappear to the left, like a conveyor belt of humans on their way to something important. Their gait and expression sometimes interesting to watch. The pulse becomes repetitive and dull. One performer comes bouncing out like a zombie frog, breaking the monotony.
Inane, but a welcome distraction. More dance phrases, actions, storylines unfurl. A couple falls in love, huddle under an umbrella, fall out of love. A man chases a terrified fair woman. The labourer drags someone across on a mat. Two performers mime a cow and driver. Another man chases the same woman. Rhythmic patterns and dance sequences appear. Two men now chase the woman and drag her off as she struggles. Nobody else on their separate conveyor belts cares.
The formalist intention of the dance – paying most attention to time and space, emphasising structures, matches the oppressiveness of our current human condition. Life-changing events and traumas are swept along by the unforgiving march of time, an unwillingness to break fixed paths. There is a disagreeable sense of fatalism as if the human has little control over what happens next.
The pace builds. The performers run, from our right to left, now only forming one path, the same one. They run forwards.They run backwards. They run back and change midway to run forwards. They run and jump, as if off a cliff, off stage. Only the men shout. They accelerate, gathering momentum. It is exhilarating, and it feels like the room is zipping past. Suddenly it stops. Energy is still coursing through space, or through my veins – what I see has become less important than what I feel.
Suddenly the performers reappear, with their props from before. A woman carrying a basket of flowers on her head is frantic, the petals dripping all over the place. Everyone else is mad with anxiety, rushing about, sometimes colliding. It feels odd, slightly comic. Just as I question where is this going? The fair woman tears across space with a scream. Everyone stops and stares. They turn away, back to where they were at the beginning, resuming stillness. The callousness is just awful.