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'Clubbing' an unusual world of freedom and fantasy

Looking with your ears

Is this a performance to watch or to listen to? This question may come to mind with 'Clubbing' by choreographer Keren Levi and musician Tom Parkinson. Are the dance moves the main thing or the sounds produced by the club of six women?

Scene from 'Clubbing' by Keren Levi and Tom Parkinson
Photo: Anna van Kooij

A dancer/performer opens a suitcase and sets up a 'sounds kitchen'. [Tweet "A crunching celery stalk, a bowl of rice, an open-cut melon: all are suitable."]] A crunching celery stalk, a bowl of rice, an open-cut melon: all are suitable for making sounds. On the right, a woman walks across the stage; on the left, in the sounds kitchen, a pestle and a bowl of rice are used to imitate the sound of footsteps on a gravel path. Sounds and actions. Do they belong together, or don't they? Before you know it, you are playing with it, bringing sound and movement together in your mind, or not.

The cello speaks

A woman speaks through a microphone. Beside her, someone simultaneously taps her words on a typewriter. Who is speaking, the woman or the machine, you think for a moment? Or is the tapping musical accompaniment? And then there is the cello-playing woman, strumming on a single note the rhythm with which the woman utters the words. [Tweet "You realise how much music someone standing around talking produces."]You realise how much music someone standing around talking produces. You often hear the opinion that a cello is the instrument closest to the human voice. That's true here. The cello is speaking, is talking, has a voice. Can it be heard? No. To grasp something in meanings is far from this performance.

Scene from 'Clubbing' by Keren Levi and Tom Parkinson
Photo: Anna van Kooij

Sophisticated play

The women hold stick fights. A bit Japanese-looking. But martial it is not. No one has to win. It's a fight, but also a dance. And the tapping is not just tapping. It's also music.

Keren Levi often brings something playful to her choreographies. It works disarmingly and looks loose, but the movements are always ingenious. The same is true now with the sticks. Along clever lines, they touch each other again and again.

There is also dance reminiscent of Irish folklore, but without the women trying to impress with rap footwork. It is a game, good-natured and peaceful.

Scene from 'Clubbing' by Keren Levi and Tom Parkinson
Photo: Anna van Kooij

Look with your ears!

The sounds and noises are scattered across the stage. Watching all that, you sometimes get the feeling of losing the thread. At such times, you can close your eyes and the striking thing is that the sounds then form more unity in your mind than when you are looking at the stage. [Tweet "It is then real music, with sound effects that may never have sounded in music before."]It is then real music, wondrous music, with sound effects that may never have sounded in music before.

'Clubbing' is a game of contained tension

It takes quite a long time for tension to emerge. Therefore, the conviviality, the conflict-free, the club feel is not an easy starting point to ratchet up the tension. Still, a climax comes when the big drum is wielded. The dance becomes more passionate. Something suddenly seems to be in a hurry. But the tension remains contained.

How important is suspense in 'Clubbing'? If you define suspense as immersive, triggering an excited charge in you: that is not what happens in 'Clubbing'. This is about a welcome into an unusual world of freedom and fantasy.

Actively surrender

'Clubbing' is not a performance that comes to you. You have to actively engage with it, consciously watch and listen, go along with the club feeling. That sounds like a threshold, but it doesn't have to be there. The light atmosphere is pleasant. You find your way and get a pleasantly lost sensation when, at the end, you find yourself in a surreal Arctic scene with strange, shy dialogue. Where are those voices coming from?

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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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