Thought provoking dance performance art rises to a new level when our own kinetic sensibilities are engaged. This is definitely what happened to the audience attending, which meant participating in the recent Dutch Vloeistof Dance Company production of We are Waiting at the Border.
Opening the second day of the well-curated Natya Ballet Dance Festival, the audience gathered outside the Sangeet Natak Academi Meghdoot theatre was first directed to “Follow the lady with the pink sign” and then stand and sit before a rope line facing an expanse of lawn. Immediately a group dynamic was created within the need to adjust into moving to accommodate others. Mylar mirror panels moved into and through the space strategically concluding with sprawling legs evocatively appearing below, reflected above on panels that then backed out, around and behind the audience. Borders raised and broken down. Boundaries and border are front and centre in our own lives as well as for countless refugees from Syria, Yemen, Bhurma and South America among others. We are Waiting at the Border asks the question ‘How fictitious is a border actually?
A bewildered and partially willing audience was then tightly packed into a square, soon demarcated with taped borders and challenged with a huge glass plate held by dancers first pressing it on them and then falling back, crushed by the transparent glass themselves, one of them self identified as a Dutch citizen from one of its former colonies. Moving to a final public square, we first saw the dancers walk, stop, tilt back and then release in movements down, sideward and around as they covered the field. Exploring new ways to break boundaries, break down thinking patterns and focus on the unexpected aspects of “borders”, we saw visions of reflective panels on top of a supine dancer than three joined panels moving directly towards the audience border and suddenly boxing in a dancer. I loved a classic modern exercise evolved into provound communication as a dancer flails with partners touching the space perimeters though not the body itself, effectively limiting and compressing the failing into nothingness. The compression continuous even after the compressed has left. Finally the four dancers move into the sections of the standing audience to dance intimately in the small circles forming around them.
I was struck by the resonance with performances of Paradise Now by Julian Beck’s The Living Theatre in the 1960’s where performance moved through the audience saying ‘I can’t travel without a passport’ in many emotional overtones and finally leading the audience out into the street as if lighting a spark of public action and demonstration. This Dutch production elegantly brought this humanistic aspiration of lives allowed to breath across artificial boundaries into our present context.”