All of us, at both a personal and a cultural level, struggle with notions of stability. Indeed, our ongoing desire to achieve a modicum of certainty in an inherently fluid universe places us continually at odds with the core facts of our existence; namely, that it is ephemeral and fragile. The delusion of “solid states” is our collective, central fiction.
In his finely honed, staccato work solid.states, Belgian choreographer Arco Renz not only blends Javanese tradition and European dance grammar but presents a digital – as opposed to analogue – vision. This is dance as a series of discreet positions revealed in a sequence rather than an organic flow, unfolding like frames per second, with all the attendant disconnection and other worldly feel of screen flicker.
With calligraphic precision dancers, Eko Supriyanto and Melanie Lane respond to the constantly changing world, their gestures “animated”, a stop/start, move/pose progression that veers from Asian classicism to ballet grace and from martial arts stance to mime frieze.
The effect is hypnotic and cold. This work seems to deliberately disengage our emotions. Its discontinuity reminds us in every moment that we are watching a fiction. An act. In this, we are perhaps asked to ponder the digital modernity we currently find ourselves in. Here is an attention-seeking world of movement and spectacle – vibrant, colourful, even beautiful – and yet profoundly unreal. In solid.states, it all seems to be happening to someone else — at a remove.
In the end, the desperate search for solidity yields only isolated fragments – a pixelated relief from the oceanic nothingness beneath and beyond. For all the visceral clarity of dance and the immediacy of live bodies pulsing and sweating just metres away, Renz manages to maintain an eerie and effective distance, an abstraction that calls to mind the painterly constructions of European art and the shamanic aloofness of Javanese ceremonial dance.
Part Eraserhead, part Metropolis, part Philip Glass, this jump cut, trance-like journey from fundamental uncertainty and back again is both unnerving and academic. It is as though the fact that we are prevented from truly caring, from genuinely connecting, not only gives us a get out clause but maroons us in permanent impermanence.
By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Jean-Luc Tanghe in solid.states. Photo by Arco Renz.