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2013-09-26

Echoes – fifth day of L1danceFest by Orsolya Bálint (no man is an island)

Fifteen minutes of fame may fleet fast, but the experience of the powerful fifteen-minute duet performed by Jasper Dzuki Jelen and Tami Joe Fisher is definitely going to stay with us for a long time. We were all holding our breaths during their captivating balancing act based on contact improvisation and resembling a unique circus act in its virtuosity and dramatic impact. 
The performers used one, seemingly simple idea – one of them was laying on the ground, while the other was trying to move (upon) him without touching the ground – and explored this to the limits of humanly possible. They presented not only exceptional abilities and remarkable endurance, but also an astonishingly high level of awareness of their own and each others’ bodies and actions.  
The two dancers were already present in the auditorium when the audience arrived and instinctively formed a circle around them, sitting on the ground. Instantly we found ourselves in the ambient of a tribal gathering, just the way our ancestors were sitting around the fire, celebrating, praying, telling stories or simply discussing everyday matters. 
This very natural and ancient form of assembling gave us the feeling of being connected with each other, like being part of a group. At the same time we created a supportive, safe space for the dancers in the middle, literally encircling them with our presence and attention. Even the virtuosity and the fluency of their performance evoked the atmosphere of a tribal dance to demonstrate the power and the skills of two young warriors.
We could easily identify with them, and besides of our curiosity, we were also rooting for them, hoping that they accomplish their goal. The title of the performance may also refer to this feeling of unity, all of us being a part of the community. The phrase ‘no man is an island’ was coined by the English poet and cleric John Donne in the 15th century, expressing the Christian idea (also shared by Buddhism) that all humans are part of mankind, and no man can thrive without relying on others, just like Jasper and Tami proved us in their harmonic cooperation. Or, it could also suggest that the dancer on the ground is the island, surrounded by the tide of the ocean, whilst the other one is stranded on this island and has to struggle to survive on this tiny space and try to gain the most possible out of this challenge. 
Tami was the one laying on the floor, with his eyes closed, aiding him in sharpening his senses and in focusing, and Jasper was pushing, pulling and rolling his body whilst he was atop of him. At first it seemed that Tami was rather passive, and as relaxed as if he was just ‘a dead body’, which can be pain-freely stepped or jumped on, and has to be moved with pure force. Although the audience was in constant awe and tension about how Jasper was balancing upon him and doing extremely demanding moves with him in an accelerating rhythm – even contradicting their differences in weight, height and body building –, it was equally fascinating how it slowly came to show that Tami was very much assisting him, responding to him, and gradually became more and more active in the process. 
The minimalistic music they chose to accompany the performance didn’t distract the audience from their duet, but accentuated the timing of their moves and presented a light contrast to the heavy physical tasks they were performing.
The ever growing intensity and increasing pace of their actions built up a dramatic tension leading to a climax, the most daring jump for Jasper, like a salto mortale up to the shoulders of Tami, who was already rising from the ground. In that very moment Jasper lost his balance and touched the floor, for the first time. But that haven’t had the slightest influence on the excitement and the delight of the audience. They already won our utmost admiration, and on the other hand, this tiny bliss of imperfection only made them more likeable, more like one of us.
(Orsolya Bálint)
  
Jasper, Márta, Tami - photo: www.rolandszabo.cz

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