There's a steady, near-relentless beat throughout The Dog Days Are Over. Remarkably, it's coming from the collective pitter patter of eight extraordinary dancers jumping in synchro for an astonishing 70 minutes. Armed with little more than a pair of trainers and a focussed mind, not one toe is put out of line in their performance of Jan Martens' gruelling test of endurance that sees them weave in and out of each other with minimal communication. It's an ingenious and surprisingly intricate work that isn't confined specifically to dancers, but posits a wider comment about the human body's capacity for power and strength and what can be achieved through sheer determination. Fascinating and compelling, this is simplification at its finest.
The dog days are over
performed by Jan Martens
Thank you Jan Martens for a welcome escape from dull grey and black dancewear in Dog Days - eight bright young things wearing very bright, very skimpy things wait impatiently as we enter. These are thoroughbreds anticipating a punishing marathon. In a 70 minute show they cease jumping for 15 short seconds. This is an empathy marathon too as the audience are encouraged to feel pleasure at the simplicity of jumping for joy, curiosity about endurance and concern for the strain on clearly superfit but not superhuman bodies. The profundity in this epic work lies in its sense of belonging. When the agony of repeated impact is unbearable we (they) turn to each other for strength and agony is transformed into ecstasy.
Jumping is one of the most basic dance movements the world over. Here low jumps for eight dancers serves as the choreographic theme and the variations prove to be endless. The exactitude, the drill and the thrill fascinates and the fascination grows as the minutes tick by. Are they moving left now? Who cried out the sudden command? How on earth did they memorise the multitudinous but minimal changes? And when do they breathe?
70 minutes is a long time but the pattern the jumping group creates on the floor becomes a living machinery revealing many things about our human condition, on bodies and bodywork, on dancers, on relationships, on the individual and the crowd. Radical in its own way it made me surrender; the eight dancers jump over unwritten rules of dance as an art form and make you consider boundaries and limits within the performing arts.