Triangles on the dancefloor: Eleanor Bauer’s ‘Midday and Eternity (the time piece)’
It was a brave question, at the post performance talk, hesitantly phrased by a member of the audience. By then Eleanor Bauer had been talking for a while about her new performance, Midday and Eternity (the time piece), the last part of a trilogy. Why, did he want to know, was there such a big gap between everything the Brussels-based American choreographer had based her performance on (the philosophical thoughts, the choreographic exercises) and what we had actually seen on stage, at Kaaitheater (Brussels)? It was exactly the question that had been bugging me too.
As the audience walks in, the three dancers are already sitting on stage. White clothes, a white stage. They’re each holding a triangle, and once in a while they strike it. On the left, you see a small drum kit. Later on, the dancers will each be taking a part of it, to play on it. By then, you have the girls seen reading from a text, as a Möbius strip; without beginning, without end. Not reading, actually, it’s more some sort of mantra chanting. Three voices, which means you are unable to understand what they are actually saying (you can try to figure that out, later, as everybody has been given the text at the entrance.)
They have been dancing too, as they will continue to do throughout the piece: slowly, with much thought put into their moves; each of the girls concentrated on her own path and movements. Three choreographic ‘voices’, superimposed, but not intertwined, often moving around on stage as three circling planets. (They are each wearing an earpiece, providing them with a tone to sing to, or time codes: when to start and when to stop a new segment of the performance.) The music you hear, by Chris Peck, is sober, arrhythmic. The sounds a drummer could make on that drum kit on stage. Not frantic, but sparse. And at some point clouds of colored smoke slowly drift over the stage.
The last segment of the piece is a beautiful one. The soundtrack becomes tingling triangle music, the dancers start striking their triangles too, continuously, and they start walking around. The sound becomes one big drifting cloud. And then the dancers each walk in a different direction, two of them leaving the stage via the audience, the third one via the back of the stage, and that ‘soundcloud’ is stretched even more.
As a piece, Midday and Eternity is a monotone, rather sterile, hermetic and slow one. As you’re watching it, you’re wondering what it is the American choreographer wants to transmit – although you see obvious keywords such as spirituality and new age. But trance is never an option, for instance, as the piece is slow and too bland.
All the while you wonder how it is possible. Because Bauer is an experienced dancer and she has a voracious mind. Plus: she worked for a long time on Midday and Eternity. (In the early stages, she thought of performing the piece in a see-through tent, but that turned out to be way too expensive.)
‘Midday and Eternity is about how mundane minutiae connect to the big picture and meanings, exercising how an individual understands the universal through action, intuition, and presence in the world within the mind-body-spirit complex’, you read afterwards in the leaflet, and you wonder: huh? Hence, the brave question, during that post performance talk.
‘I knew hów to do it, but I didn’t see it’, Bauer said at some point during that talk, referring to the rehearsal period. It reminded me of a thought that had popped up in my mind, while watching Midday and Eternity. Bauer has made a decision to separate her ‘entertainment’ influenced work and her purely ‘dance’ based work. It looks as if, by making that decision, she has switched off a part of her personality, part of the wild imagination that makes her a remarkable performer.
‘What is the most interesting detour you’ve made before you ended up where you are now‘, is a question I sometimes ask during my interviews. Maybe I’m wrong, but I wonder if this trilogy might be such an interesting detour, for Bauer. I hope so, because it was a pity to see, that night, with an artist presenting the last part of a trilogy: the audience consisted mainly of members of the Brussels’ dance community. You’d expect her to have built a larger audience by now.