Autóctonos II, dance

At Zoo, Southside. Edinburgh Fringe, 22 and 24-27 Aug 218 1800 hrs

A grouping of shifting, swivelling dancers. Sharp quarter turns, heels slightly lifted, neck torso arms and face rigid and unchanging. Automaton meets shop dummies in Autóctonos II, and save the odd cryptic word from one of them every now and then (it is assumed the dancers can influence the order and formation by randomly giving a verbal sign) and the faintly varied, prepared piano, so it continues. For 10 minutes, 20 and counting, Ayelin Parolin’s choreography and Lea Petra’s composition and playing goes on.

For sure, this repetitive, unchanging movement is extensive within the contemporary dance community at all levels of experience just now, if the Edinburgh Fringe and International Festival are anything to go by, and if it represents their reality then it doesn’t say much for the lives they are leading or seeing around them.

Bleak, uninteresting, monotonous. If it is meant to be this way – it succeeds. It may be representative of reality, but is it the stuff of effective performance? It is as if they would have done this without the audience. There are, as the programme puts it, “hairline fractures” of change: eventually a range of arm movements (physical ticks, a cut, a thrust, a punch) which are then used for the whole of the second half; slight changes of direction; occasional separation of one from the crowd; a hint of variety of plane; a sort of searching or looking. There is a complete absence of beauty.

autoctonos ii

If this is the truth, no wonder no-one marches or opposes any abusive government or partner! An enquiry into this topic is laudable, but it is truly mind-numbing and pedestrian to view. For some reason even the score, played so attentively, is the same; probably because it is monotone and uses an intensely small range of notes.

The lives of workers and those with no resources, of the down-trodden or of political prisoners when shown on the TV or written about, suggest that human beings find a smile or a notion of love even amongst the terror or fear. There is nothing of that here.

The performances are focused, the actions precise, but there is zero for an audience to hook onto, and although this may be representative of their view, it only serves to alienate and estrange the watcher, avoiding any sort of outcome. Is it enough to show a state of mind but evade explanation or comment?

Atomic 3001

At Dance Base, Grassmarket, Edinburgh. Tickets and information. 22 – 26 Aug 2018 16.45hrs

Atomic 3001 is a product of the triumvirate which is Leslie Mannés (choreography, performance), Sitoid (original live music) and Vincent Lemaître (light design), all based in Brussels. It was created in 2016 and has been touring Europe since then. Having worked with Ayelin Parolin, who is herself performing here at the Fringe, and no doubt having watched the more renowned L-E-V and Wayne McGregor, it is not surprising that she is in the same minmalist, deconstructed dance camp.

Mannes explains exactly what her work is about in the programme. It is a “futuristic ritual in which she is subjected to a perpetual, unyielding pulse…(a) primitive drive for survival.”  It is interesting that she places herself in the third person because during the first 10 minutes of so of the piece the lighting means that she has no face, and, later on, her hair is often hiding it. In terms of being separated from herself, that is part of the aim, to be brought to “exhaustion, trance and incandescence.” The alienation this implies is also cited in the blurb.

She is, we are told, manipulated by the music, which is insistent, electronic and loud. Also that she is burned by the red lights. The scarlet jumper and jeans, the extreme headbanging didn’t help keep her cool either. She will have attained incandescence after a short while, if by that she means the heat emanating from her! Not only is her face hidden, but for a long time she has no abdomen – no centre, and no feet – no contact with the ground.

Atomic 3001

Ritual dance and raves are, commonly, group experiences; the close juxtaposition of other bodies and shared fervour, both in tribal dance and techno, are what causes the frenzy. This, however, is in front of an audience who sit, stony faced and unmoving, while watching the dancer reach for and recreate some sort of out-of-body state on her own. It is like sitting in front of someone being tortured, worse, torturing herself. The self-harm of hitting, thrusting and shaking her head like that, the wear and tear on those joints from so many repetitions, is shocking.

Having said that, she appears strong, a veritable scarlet Amazon. Like a whirling dervish without the spiritual context, like a shaman without the divination or healing; and more like the contemporary sweat lodge visitor who is there for a personal de-tox, it is otherwise unclear why Mannés is putting herself through this except that she obviously likes doing it – she beams at the end. Applause was necessary to recognise her commitment.