A man and a woman dance passionately in the hall of Paradiso. Such an experimental dance performance is unusual for the Amsterdam pop palace. Yet the festival I Like To Watch Too right here. Many people feel a barrier towards this kind of performance, but here there is just the right 'in and out' atmosphere to make avant-garde art something you can just look at and that always triggers something in you.
Not sitting neatly still in theatre seats for hours, but walking around freely, talking, having a drink and meanwhile being able to walk into spaces where the world looks very different from normal life. There is a kind of casualness that makes you open to the imagination with which these performances are made. The festival turns into a dance party until about the time it starts getting light outside again. So you can be absorbed in the atmosphere of movement that fills the building for hours.
Surrounding the opening act in the hall are not only everyday spectators, but also two human bodies with a box on their necks instead of a head. They seem to have stepped out of a Magritte painting. Characteristically, people do not hesitate to briefly open the doors of the cabinets to see what is inside.
The festival is taken care of in every detail. Everywhere there are attendants who stand out for their attire. Artistic, perfectly executed creations, whose black-and-white motifs correspond to the design of poster and programme leaflet.
In recent years, dance has become less and less limited to movements on a stage. It is no longer an isolated genre, but an art form that has established fruitful connections with other creative expressions. Suzy Blok, artistic director of I Like To Watch Too, has succeeded well in demonstrating how much innovative power these developments have. Objects made by visual artists, unusual costumes, dance films, use of computer and internet, it all features on the programme. But still special combinations within dance itself.
A strong example of the latter is AP15 by Sébastien Ramirez and Hyun-Jung Wang (http://youtu.be/MUV8vaupWhc). They use their different dance backgrounds to create a beautiful, highly performed combination of hip-hop, breakdance and an elegant, stylish control that betrays classical schooling. A rich communication takes place between the two dancers, from skittish caring to daringly jumping into each other and holding each other down with their hands on their heads. Fascinating and clever, what these two do, with a flashy timing that works fresh and surprising every second.
At Experiment On Chatting Bodies (http://youtu.be/KjML-i86RAk), Fabien Prioville makes direct contact with people elsewhere on the globe via chatroulette.com. Prioville explores communication both directly through the body and globally using the internet. This live element in the show does have a danger attached to it. It is far from certain to create an exciting interaction. Thus, the performance is absolutely captivating for the idea behind it, but look this time at I Like To Watch Too due to lack of excitement a bit lukewarm against it. It is certainly not out of the question that the formula does work at other times, when the internet click is there. Physically, Fabien Prioville and Pascal Merighi do perform convincing communication, from flashing signalling gestures to plodding support for each other, but the chat images projected on a big screen do little to add to the tension, no matter how ferocious the man on the backdrop is with his guitar no matter how absurd the strangulation scene or how fun the ensemble dance with a woman and children in a living room.
Usonia is a comically styled space act created by Clara Amaral and performed by Jeroen Bakker and Burkhard Körner (http://youtu.be/wT8V0hFICRY). They are connected to a command centre on Earth and make all kinds of lumbering, almost robotic movements. Usonia is based on the film Fargo (1996) by the Coen Brothers and aims to provide a parody of how much the American way of life has gotten under our skin. It looks funny, the roles are consistently sustained and regularly elicit laughs from the audience, but Usonia remains a bit stuck in mannerisms.
Making a big impression is Italian dancer Federica Dauri with Mathematics of Enclosure (http://youtu.be/OgTMyFYebeM). She dances next to and inside an art object by Egon Schrama called 'The Cage'. It consists of upright iron bars, which, like absurdly hard reeds, begin to chatter and tinkle as soon as Dauri bumps into them. It is a concentrated, deeply lived-in performance, introspective but at the same time aware every second of the metal bars that define her world. Sometimes she has something of an animal crawling around its cage. At other times, she places her hand against it tenderly and thoughtfully. When she collides with the bars and the clink thunders into the room, it has a beautifully stormy effect. This continues ominously as Dauri stands beside the cage at the end. She is riveted to the floor. Only her muscles seek freedom of movement. Every muscle of her body makes her vulnerable presence in the space palpable.
.whatdowefinallyshare. by Fernando Belfiore, Andrius Mulokas and Valentina Parlato (http://youtu.be/iewA1Us3hg0) disappoints a little after their spectacular performance under the same title in the Punch!-festival last year. Of course, it is intriguing when the performers stand still, sprinkled by flashing lights, raising the question in you: what is the difference between a non-moving human being and a picture of a human being? They hop exuberantly but not at all cheerfully across the stage, jumping heavily in place, endlessly They talk hard to understand with caricatured bits that extremely stretch their lips. But what these performers are actually capable of, they do not show this time, namely: going to limits and ruthlessly dragging you into them.
At Beyond the Body By Imme van der Haak (http://youtu.be/5UfiDLj4rNU) features three dancers dressed in translucent robes on which life-size human figures are printed. It has great dramatic power. Something is wrong between the movements and the outer layers of the bodies. The dance is restrainedly expressive, just enough not to make the alienating effect too violent. The outer layer is twisted, skewed and lifted. Floating, but at the same time with their feet on the ground, the figures stand before the audience. There is no obvious moment in this performance, no matter how much the three characters seem to be searching for it. It is beautiful to watch and at the same time it makes you think as the three figures radiate the question: "Who am I?
Also strong is One Step Before the Fall From Spitfire Company (http://youtu.be/T4Zmnmx0Qb8). The dance by Makéta Vakovská takes place in a boxing ring. Under intense electronic sounds and live accompaniment of vocals and guitar by Lenka Dusilová, she throws herself with all her strength into relentless shaking movements and boxing utters. It seems like a desperate fight against the air, against an opponent that cannot be seen and may not even exist. She reaches ecstatic heights, but in the pause between rounds, her strength gives way to defencelessness. The boxing ring seems to be a boundary that, while whipping her into a burst of power, at the same time does not suit her and keeps her imprisoned. Very impressive. Another performance that not only makes you look hypnotised, but also makes you think.
It is just a sample of the extensive programme. By midnight, Gil Arazzi is smoothly dancing on the floor in the main hall, to I Like To Watch Too After Midnight to open. The audience is now dancing too. Not many will be able to do that as impressively as Gil Arazzi. It is wonderful the way he makes his large shadows projected on the backdrop come and disappear again.