To tease or not to tease?
Investigating dramaturgical strategies or the art of building up expectations
If you were to think of dance as visual entertainment, then Spring Forward 2018 would have been the equivalent of an intense Netflix binge-watching session. 21 pieces over 3 days. No chill. Just concentrated consumerism of choreographic propositions. In the midst of such condensed experience, some of the selected works still managed to keep us captivated, by sharing just enough information to clarify the intention of the piece while still preserving a sense of suspense. More specifically, some of the choreographers decided to clearly state what their wishes and strategies were, with varied degrees of success in living up to the expectations they set.
Ingrid Berger Myhre definitely was the most masterful tease. In her solo 'blanks' she managed to always announce exactly what was about to happen – "She will reappear in approximately 6 minutes", "here she comes", "any moment now" – and yet still surprise us with how she kept her promise. Swaying between past and future, reality and fantasy, Myhre tricked us into inventing the piece we each desired to witness. By leaving enough space and time for us to imagine what was coming next, whatever she then proposed came across as unexpected. The result was simple and generous, and seemed to reach a delicate balance between guidance and freedom.
'Likes' by Núria Guiu Sagarra, was another example of auspicious suspense building. In the first half of the work, she gave us a meticulous insight into her working process, from her background as an anthropology student to a detailed account of her YouTube investigations. She then concluded "now you might be wondering like I did, how the **** do I put this on stage?" Her honesty was refreshing, and since she had already given us all the clues, we were absolutely able to appreciate the otherwise obscure mash-up of kitsch commercial dancing and austere yoga postures which followed.
In 'Grrr I'm dancing – Universe of a dancing bear', Mathis Kleinschnittger's approach to revealing his creative thought process was perhaps setting the bar too high: "I wanted to create the saddest dance of all times", "I wanted to create the mother of all bear dances for you", "I wanted to create the funniest dance from the house of hilarity". The actual performance paled in comparison to these high standards, and by pointing to the gap between ambition and realisation Kleinschnittger perhaps unwittingly gave space to disappointment.
But intentions need not be explicit to be clear. Christos Papadopoulos did not state his choreographic intentions verbally, but nevertheless set up high expectations from the start. Within the first few seconds of 'Opus', we understood the crystal-clear rules: the dancers will follow the music with their bodies. Here, it was the total absence of surprise that became riveting: not once did the four performers drop the task, and the seamless way they stuck to the score was both absolutelypredictable and truly breathtaking. Papadopoulos’s company Leon and the Wolves did not come justto tease: they also most definitely delivered.