Spinning always wins
In Tordre, Rachid Ouramdane showcases the two singular dancers, Lora Juodkaite and Annie Hanauer, in a turning and swirling double portrait, revealing impressive virtuosity while playing with friendly poetics.
Let’s cut to the chase. To the most impressive part of the performance: the extended spinning solo danced by Lora Juodkaite. In a review that I wrote half a year ago about the solo The Dead Live On in Our Dreams by Hooman Sharifi, I asked, somewhat naïvely: ‘Why do so many dance solos revolve (no pun intended) around the idea of circles, repetition and ritual’. Since then I have seen at least two other solos in which a substantial moment of circling takes place (All Around by Mette Ingvartsen and Dancer of the Year by Trajal Harrell). And here I am, again watching another dancer magically whirling on stage. It’s beautiful. It always is.
In Tordre, as opposed to what I have seen in the past, the spinning is lighter, more controlled and stylized – as if Juodkaite wants to be lifted up from the ground towards the sky. At a certain point she turns so quickly while simultaneously moving her arms into different shapes that a strong optical illusion is created. Juodkaite turns, as she will explain at the end of the performance, to go elsewhere. Conjuring a wet dream of conceptual dance, I put all these turning dancers on one stage, bringing together basic movement patterns with their endless varieties of expressions. Spinning always wins.
The dramaturgy of Tordre is quite traditional: intro, extended middle part, outro. The last part reflects the intro by repeating a fragment from the soundtrack of the musical Funny Girl. Wrapped in this reference, we watch a series of emotionally charged solos in which both dancers explore movement qualities, while responding to imaginary and self-invoked impulses. The soundscape guides the dancers between tension and dreamlike states. This creates a friction between a minimal approach and the added layers of expressionism, making the formalism of the staging more soft and accessible. Gradually the all-white curvy stage, with its modernist museum-like atmosphere, starts to interact with the dancers movements. Two rotating metal constructions turn in opposite directions around their axes creating shadows that poetically communicate with the choreography.
As the performance develops, it becomes clear that instead of a duet, we are watching a double portrait, meaning the two solos don’t exist independently, but in relation to one another. The dancers barely interact with each other and if they do meet or cross paths, it happens in a theatrical way through a hug, a caress or the calling of the other’s name. Even though I understand the intention of such a format, the two portraits create a juxtaposition that I find difficult to embrace. How do we look at abilities? What are restrictions? How to remain virtuosic within the singular limitations of our bodies? These are interesting and importing questions, but dance and choreography are tricky media as critical questions might get lost in the frottage of the display.
A live recording of the song Feelings by Nina Simone comes in. Hanauer interacts with the different rhythms and vocal intonations of Simone’s singing and speaking. I see a woman sitting in the front row closing her eyes. I follow her lead and listen to the complex layers of emotions that hide in the depth Simone’s performance. When she silently begs the audience: ‘feed me, feed me, feed me’, I again open my eyes.
The last solo is more spinning, but this time Juodkaite adds a dream-like childhood story. Her sensual voice turn the telling of her memory into an intimate experience, but when amplified through the speakers, the intimacy borders on the sentimental. The patterns of shadows, the larger metaphor of the turning of the world, the childhood perception: there is beauty here to be sure, but the friendliness of the poetry makes it all feel just a hair too polite.
Questions around perception and how we can alter it are central in Tordre. While she spins, Juodkaite says something like: ‘Everything around looks like bad painting. What if the house would fall on the side and the window would become the floor? I want to paint a smile on my face. What is normal?’
Towards the end we are back in the musical. Hanauer and Juodkaite run on stage like they did in the beginning. It’s clear that the intro was meant as an entertaining and humorous way of introducing the two dancers, their differences and their relationship. But when this showbiz theme returns, I am still not seduced by this dramaturgy of abrupt re-framing. But the audience seems pleased by the happy ending. They applaud enthusiastically. The virtuosity of the spinning and the friendly poetics of the choreography is rewarded