What’s your ‘Angle’? Salva Sanchis’ open invitation to look, listen and think

Sometimes, it all depends on you. As a spectator. On the work you are willing to do, in your mind. Does that imply that you’re dealing with a lazy performer on stage? Not necessarily so. Take Salva Sanchis, who used to be part of AT De Keersmaeker’s company Rosas (co-choreographer for Desh (2004) and Love supreme (2005)). He has certainly done his homework for Angle: a performance as an investigation into the perception of dance. How do we, as an audience, look at a piece and what might influence the way we perceive it? In Angle (premiere at Kaaitheater, Brussels) Sanchis offers you several elements: dance, live music (short piano pieces played by Yutaka Oya) and some ‘thoughts’. It’s up to you to link them. Or not. A cerebral approach that will not be to everybody’s liking, but I was charmed by it.

Angle. The word is already projected on the back wall, when you walk in. On a small blackboard at the right hand side of the stage you can read tonight’s programme: the list of contemporary piano pieces Oya will be playing (Ligeti, Berio, Cage, Harada) and the snippets of texts you will be hearing (John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Albert Einstein). For each particular piece you’ll find words describing the movements/choreography linked to it: Perceptible change, Pinball, Chair, It’s good to be outside, Nexus

Then Sanchis walks towards a small mixing desk on stage and the first thing we hear is John Cage, talking about music and sound. Right after Cage had finished talking, I already wanted to press the pause button. My mind was still busy taking in everything he had said, all the nuances of his thoughts, and what it implied for what I was going to witness. But Oya started playing, Sanchis started dancing, and I checked the blackboard for what I was or was supposed to be seeing.

To begin with, I have to say that I just love watching the way Sanchis dances: slowly, as if he himself is discovering how his choreography should be, on the spot, but nevertheless with some sort of unmistakable, internal logic. If the fingers of the left hand are going up in the air, then the toes of the right feet just have to go in a certain direction and the head just has to twist in another. That kind of logic.

But then… I must admit that throughout Angle the words on the black board didn’t really influence my perception (my brain’s fault, or his choreographies?). Sure, sometimes they were a good description of what I was seeing: Chair, when all Sanchis did was to move that single chair on stage, or Pinball, when for once, he was moving really quickly. And what about the quotes? So, to cut a long story short: I’m not sure if Sanchis really succeeds in what he set out to do. All I can say is that all the elements he (and Oya) offered were enough to keep my mind at work: the live music, the dancing, the quotes on the back wall, Cage’s, Cunningham’s and Einstein’s thoughts.

Some people will certainly find this tiresome to watch. I didn’t. And what a funny coincidence: a couple of spectators left the theatre, during the premiere, just when these words were projected on the back wall: people want to be surprised, but only by things they expect.

More info here. Short video clip here. Next performances: 10-2 (Monty, Antwerp), 21-2 (Stuk, Leuven).

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