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Music echoes in the heads of Emanuel Gat Dance's dancers and hangs over the stage like a secret

Dancers of Emanuel Gat Dance dance without music. Photo: Stephanie Berger

When music sounds, almost everyone tends to move with it. Music leads to dance. That link is crystal clear. But in modern dance, that obviousness is broken. Watching 'Silent Ballet' by Emanuel Gat Dance, this becomes poignantly clear. Without a single sound being sent into the room, the eight dancers swarm across the stage. They walk, chasing each other and describing expressive lines with their arms.

'The sound of silence and dance form a dynamic melody,' says the programme leaflet. Indeed, one could consider the swelling and receding sound of footsteps on the dance floor as a musical composition. A much more interesting thought that the performance conjures up is: it seems as if music sounds in the heads of the dancers. The unity of energy and the shared rhythmic impulses are so convincingly present that the thought arises: could they perhaps have earpieces in, allowing each one to soundtrack the music? But those earpieces are not there.
The unity and building together of the silent dance really comes purely from the dancers and their bodies. This hangs over the stage like a secret: music that cannot be heard in the auditorium, but whose effect comes clearly to the audience, in the form of visual gestures and a shared intuition that all the dancers follow. They engage in games whose rules of play they seem to read moment by moment from each other's bodies. From walking scenes, duets and group dances crystallise. Striking arm gestures pop up again and again, evoking beautiful images scattered throughout. In pairs or threesomes, the dancers form tableaux vivants, from which they slowly move. It is beautiful and exciting to watch.

The second choreography of the evening, 'Winter Variations', shows the same subtle rapport between the dancers, although now there are only two of them and the music, from Schubert to the Beatles and from Riad Al Sunbati to Mahler, is now abundant. Even when Emanuel Gat and Roy Assaf dance with their backs to each other or far from each other, you can see that they sense each other's movements. Like the circling orchestral figures in Mahler's 'Der Einsame im Herbst', the arms gracefully entwine and the dancers create harmony between their often erratic movements.
It is a pity, though, that in this choreography the tension is released at various moments. The movements become less apt, there is some walking and, it seems, searching for a meaningful sequel. As a result, the choreography feels like it goes on too long and the curiosity gets less and less stimulated.

Maarten Baanders

Emanuel Gat Dance: 'Silent Ballet' and 'Winter Variations'. Seen: Stadschouwburg Utrecht, 21 April.

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Maarten Baanders

Free-lance arts journalist Leidsch Dagblad. Until June 2012 employee Marketing and PR at the LAKtheater in Leiden.View Author posts

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