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Oppressive (audience) manipulation in The Red Piece

'Don't let anyone leave the room without having experienced or felt something.' That is surely and surely the mission with Flemish Ann Van den Broek's work. If the mood swings in The Red Piece don't do much to you, your retinas will burn out from the changes in lighting design. You might just think you are being manipulated as an audience. But you gladly allow it.

Three women, three men and the choreographer herself are continuously present on stage throughout the performance. There are no wings; escape is impossible. Ropes encircle the dancers' bodies, and we are urged to respect them. The Red Piece is a "fiery group choreography", starting with the untying of the tethered dancers. This is followed by a happening of dance impulses, with stomping flamenco driven by Ann Van den Broek.

The Red Piece steadily builds to a crescendo of human imperfections and messes in relationships. Point of light is that nothing is bottled up. Everything comes out with movements as if stabbed by a power surge, slaps in each other's faces and humiliations where dancers train each other like an animal. This is dance in the closed ward of an institution. But with interesting, carefully chosen quality performers.

There is no plot or immediate reason for the actions and Ann's (ex-student of Rotterdam Dance Academy) emphasis is not on dance techniques. She will rather be concerned with the sequence of movements and the context in which they fall. The dance itself impresses especially when dancers thrash and whip. As in the earlier LIstEn & See, Van den Broek evokes tension in her dancers by requiring them to express themselves in a new language, as in this case that of flamenco.

Sometimes the performance swerves. For instance, when the choreographer speaks to the audience through a microphone, but also when movements seem to be time fillers. However, the overall performance remains very worthwhile. The performance takes shape thanks to a red-hot centrepiece, with a stripped-down shocker Francesca Monti on a platform, followed by an unparalleled flamenco rollicking solo by Andreas Kuck. The latter accompanied by magically infinite sounds from Belgian band Dez Mona.

By the end, all dirt is washed away, and there is room for resignation. Passion is the starting point of the performance, but love, in particular, is absence of hostilities. You have to re-discover reality with the shrill light.

Good to know

The Red Piece is on show until December and has been selected for the Dutch Dance Days.

Dez Mona performs 18 September at Korzo theatre The Hague.

Ruben Brugman

writing ex-dancerView Author posts

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