Review: Compagnie Marie Chouinard in bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERG_ vARIATIONS at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 7 & 8 May 2010
Reviewed by Giuseppe Alizzi - Monday 10 May 2010

The use of different devices – crutches, rope, horizontal bars, and harnesses – which characterizes Chinouard’s work, especially the crutches, is not random, and more importantly, is not only to tell us that the body can still find beauty in movement even when the very possibility of movement is restricted. It seems to me rather, that the devices are used to let us see the hard points and the painful joints in the discipline required in dancing; to see the pain inside the ‘easy’ movements, the brokenness (a disability) intrinsic in the great ability required in dancing. The crutches are not used to support the body, but to show its points of strength and subsided-ness, and not just of the body, but also of the spirit: the crutches supporting metal bar is now attached, as if implanted, in the dancers’ forehead, now in their stomach, now in their back; and what use do they have here if not to show how dancing is more than just the discipline of body?

It all becomes clearer when at one point the focus is on the dancer’s feet: they are carefully watched by another (male) dancer following her around, and every time they touch the ground he emits sounds of pain using a microphone, as to make sure that we know about this pain, that we know that it is what happens every time a dancer performs. We then see another dancer using short crutches, as if she had no arms, so she is obliged to lie down and move around holding onto her elbows; this time she is using the microphone herself, but it’s inside her mouth: the sounds of pain she emits remain inside, and it is as if we were able to be inside the dancer and hear them. We spectators are the microphone inside the dancers’ mouth and hear the pain that the dancer is not supposed to voice, the pain whose sound is obstructed by microphone inside her mouth. And this time, because of this excessive closeness, we are put back in our place as spectators: knowing too much does not make things clearer.

There is a very relatable poetry in the lameness that the body must to go through, come out from, or let itself fall freely into, to experience all the possibilities. The performance closes beautifully showing us the devices hanging on the ropes on which the dancers had earlier held on to, as if to tell us that what is left now is the discipline, the pain, the sacrifices, which we spectator are not supposed to see.

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