Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Ondrová and Šavel strip the topic of gender down to the bare bones of physicality, in a thought-provoking reflection that explores popular discussions on gender formation. The two dancers morph from one gender to another, presenting the audience with a fantasy world undefined by reproductive organs.
The venue (Dance Base) clearly likes its pieces hot off the Harlequin dance studios, inviting some of the freshest choreographies in the field. This performance is no exception; these ALT@RT associates (an organisation that prides itself in explorative collaboration) have achieved a level of dance theatre that tackles a well-discussed issue in an undoubtedly interesting way. Gender isn’t black and white, as these two highly skilled dancers melt from one to the other, seamlessly before our eyes. Through striking imagery and hints at contemporary culture awareness, the piece presents a series of intelligent views, in a highly accessible way.
We are greeted by Ondrová and Šavel’s voices before the doors open, the duo situated downstage talking nonstop as we enter. The use of mixed languages is established here, and remains a delight for the rest of the piece – expressing the influences of the production as well as cleverly tackling the duality of the context. In both languages, we hear a barrage of doubts, insecurities, tensions, and adrenalin, as if pulled directly from the psyches of a performer about to go on stage. The audience, ranging from professional dancers, to first time dance-theatre goers, were instantly diffused by this surprising warmth and humour.
The performers filled the stage with strong physical choices, which at times seemed too raw to be choreographed. The large white space left no room for hiding, as they furled and unfurled across the stage. Structurally, the piece could use work. It was uncertain how and why one piece abruptly changed into another, individual portions highly enjoyable but juxtaposed jarringly, with uncertain effect. The performers were often left standing on stage between pieces, adding further to their vulnerability after the clear physical exertions – a delight for the first few transitions but soon becoming tired.
Musical accompaniment periodically boomed overhead, which seemed to detract from the audience’s engagement more often than adding to it. It did add a further layer of themes and context, using classic scores mixed with very much contemporary beats in order to create a timeless affect, but the positioning of said scores around parts was off-putting. Much more enjoyable was the live percussion, sound, and song used by the artists themselves, inserting live soundscaping and vocalised gibberish, both nonsensical and recognisable at the same time.
The coordination and harmony of this impressive duo still is something to be seen, clearly benefitting from utter conviction of their androgynous roles, combined with the wonderful purity of the movement. The narrative shifts sometimes awkwardly between hilarious and haunting, but remains at all times honest. A solid blend of everyday movement, complimented by accessible and impressive contemporary dance that achieves its goals of questioning the ostensible nature of gender.