[2013117] What the Body Does Not Remember

[2013117] What the Body Does Not Remember

Ultima Vez @ Dunstan Playhouse

8:30pm, Sat 9 Mar 2013

In what has widely been recognised as a very strong dance programme in the 2013 Festival, this was the piece (along with Sylvie) that had people talking excitedly at the launch. What the Body Does Not Remember, the debut piece by Ultima Vez (and choreographer/founder Wim Vandekeybus), is spoken of with reverent tones in contemporary dance circles… or so I am told.

But I was bloody excited to have the chance to see this alleged seminal piece; to be able to do so on my birthday was almost too good to be true…

…but it’s been a big day. It’s been a big day that began in the early hours of the morning, contained lots of heartfelt hugs, more-than-a-few celebratory beverages, not enough sleep, a Blind Date, lots of trekking around my beloved city, and plenty of joy. It’s been a long day… and this is the point where things started catching up to me.

There’s something about the inky blackness of the Playhouse that accentuates any doziness that I may be trying to ignore; as a result, as the dancers from Ultima Vez start their almost voodoo doll-esque puppetry (as a woman’s nails scraping over a desk are invisibly linked to two male dancers writhing on the floor), my eyelids are drooping. I hate that they are, and I’m secretly thankful when the performance gains more dancers, and becomes more vibrant: the bodies span the stage as they clasp each other and are swung around. These broad movements are enthralling… exciting.

Bricks start getting tossed around… and I’m a little bit lost. It becomes a bit loud… and I’m back on board. And then there’s a sequence that catches my imagination, but not in a good way: the cast, decorated with (what appeared to be) the United Colours of Benetton, criss-cross the stage, stealing each others’ jackets. There’s humour to be found there, but the piece further evolves: it becomes seedy, an undercurrent of violence begins to emanate from the stage. It’s violence directed towards the female cast, and it’s all very… well, rapey.

And that leaves me feeling unsettled, disturbed… but also unsure of myself. I start wondering whether there’s an explanation for that violence, a context, a callback from earlier in the piece when my eyelids weighed more than the universe and my mind needed a break. Because there were parts of What the Body Does Not Remember that were genuinely engaging… and then there were bits that left me with an unpleasant taste in my mouth. And there was a big Benetton ad in the middle, too, so colour me confused.

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