Random Dance @ The Playhouse
5:00pm, Sun 19 Mar 2006
“Are there any programs for this production?” I asked the woman at the information booth as I entered the building. “No,” she replied, “The person responsible for them hasn’t showed up yet.”
Oh dear. Not an auspicious start; and after the warm fuzzies that I got from Not As Others, I have to admit I didn’t really expect much… but nor did I want the fuzzies to end. Thankfully, after the lights dropped, the music man fired up a pleasing electronica beat, and two performers strolled into a tiny strip of light. Their dance was all pose and fall, pose and fall – the other catching, a very co-dependent jig. Gradually, in twos and threes, the whole troupe get involved in the style.
It’s stunning – all the performers are wearing very brief shorts (and shirts, you pervs)… but the important thing is that their legs are all exposed. You can see every muscle tense and work as they pose, stretch, fall, catch, leap, prance; the muscles in the body are performing a dance within a dance. And the piece grows to a stunning crescendo with dancers mimicking each other in groups of two or three; suddenly a dancer will drop out of one group to join another… it’s a veritable feast for the eyes. Fantastic.
The problem is that, once that climax had been reached, the performance continued.
If they’d just called it quits at that point, I would’ve looked at my watch, thought “hmmm, $40 for 30 minutes… but they were 30 quality minutes.”
But they didn’t. They came back on-stage. Wearing some sort of extendable arm extension thingy that apparently was designed in conjunction with Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop. And those thingies were neat for all of 30 seconds. Yes, the dancers could look like insects; but the movement – you know, the dance – got seriously dull at this point.
Throughout, the video backdrop was pointless and distracting. And, although one can pontificate and marvel at the merging of the organic and the mechanical to create a new strain of augmented movement, one can also counter that the mechanical actually restricted that which makes dance such a wonderful spectacle – the grace of human movement. Devolution investigated the biomechanical far more comprehensively and still made for dull viewing.
And that’s the biggest failing of Nemesis; the opening 30 minutes were so very good, and the rest of the performance was so very… not. This bleak contrast is actually far more memorable than the excellent beginning of the piece, which is sad. I’d much rather remember the movement than the disappointment.