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Moving Futures in Amsterdam: young talent shows playful dance about identity

The Amsterdam version of the Moving Futures festival 2017 has begun. For four days, young dance makers show all sides of their creativity. I experienced a cosmic journey with (SHIFT), was cheered by Third Culture Kid by Joseph Simons and saw the excitement slumped a little by a piano at the end of Your Mother at my Door by Timothy and the Things.

(SHIFT), a mental warm-up

Before the programme begins, there will be a mental warm-up. Choreographer and performer Inari Salmivaara, photographer Maxime Bersweiler and composer Viljam Nybacka will show the dance installation (SHIFT). With a headset on, you can be taken on a dreamy journey through the cosmos, but also into the soul of an individual, in the small hall of theatre Bellevue. You will see someone who is alone in endless space and time and experience what is coming at her.

Photo: Maxime-Bersweiler

Secretive sea

A large photograph shows the sea. There is something about that picture, but what exactly I cannot say. In any case, that expanse of water is mysterious and endless. The music in the headset waves off and on. There is a beat in it like a heartbeat. The dancer's movements begin languid and calm. Studiously, she looks at the grey floor. Gradually, she widens her focus. She explores both the world around her and the depths within herself. Sometimes she looks measuring, appraisingly into space. Moments later, she surrenders to invisible waves.

Philosophically wandering

A voice in the haedset tells of the many light years that separate us from the stars we see A grand feeling comes over me. A series of calming reflections follow. Sentence by sentence, they are worth pondering. Sober, philosophical observations. Not always surprising, but that's not the point. They form and flow, an atmosphere, a wandering through infinitely unknown territory. With questions, you find your way. Every thought is part of a universe of thoughts.

The installation brings me into a meditative calm. All space is thrown open. And so does my attention. This puts me exactly in the mood to look forward to what the festival offers next.

Light years

Before I leave the room, I can't resist taking off the headset. It is unexpectedly another special experience to go with it. The dancer moves in silence. I know there is music to go with it. It continues to work in her body. She embodies the music, even though music and dancer are light years apart in my senses.

photo Thomas Lenden

Opening act

Then comes the official kick-off of the festival. On the steps of Bellevue, students from the dance department of the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Amsterdam perform an energetic movement act. In doing so, they show what Moving Futures is all about. The talent development of young dancers and choreographers is strongly supported by the five production houses that organise this festival. Attention to this is badly needed. In a short speech, Suzy Blok, director of Dansmakers Amsterdam, expresses her concern about the rapidly shrinking budget for this sector of the arts.

Id: Third Culture Kid

The theme of this first festival night is identity. In his solo performance Third Culture Kid, Joseph Simons playfully turns this theme inside out. What he shows is the story of his life. Simons has French roots. But in addition, he is also German and Dutch. And he also wants to go to Japan. He also has multiple roots as a dancer. It is fabulous the way he smoothly blends classical dance and break dance. Light, superior and with humour, he moves across the dance floor. He even manages to stand on his head and do classical steps in the air.

Photo: Rob Hogeslag

Breakneck dance and funny word games

Halting is what he does and yet he mixes this seemingly effortlessly with entertaining stories about his life. How his first name is pronounced in different countries. What reactions he gets as a newcomer to a country. All this complemented by a touch of Descartes and games with words across all language barriers. Japanese characters with the sounds 'Ba Lei' (= 'Place of Beauty') resemble the English pronounced 'Ballet'. This is how he creates combinations that become a source of inspiration. I even see similarities between a Japanese character and the dancing Simons.

photo Thomas Lenden

Playing with your identity

It is a performance to make merry. Simons makes a play of his gathered identity. His various roots make him resourceful, creative and refreshingly curious. Wonderful is the scene in which sentences are projected on the floor. They are words you say as you make your way through unfamiliar territory. In quick succession, they light up and stagger. This makes them look like choreography with quick steps. This is how solo dancer Simons enters Japanese soil.

Gradually, I begin to regret that I was born and raised in the Netherlands and still live and work here. I have only one nationality. Giving my life as much colour as Simons does is not for me. Or is it? Why limit myself to the concept of nationality? Again, I find myself in so many different environments. When I think about it, I see that I look for my own place everywhere each time. You can play with it, with all those pieces of yourself. Everyone can make a rich mosaic of their life. Give colour to life. Joseph Simon made that clear.

Manipulation and liberation: Your Mother at my Door

Equally catchy is Your Mother at my Door by Timothy and the Things. Dancer Emese Cohurka and dancer László Fülöp also shape the theme of identity. With them, it is a colourful play of mutual influence, manipulation, liberation and the search for closeness. Music, all kinds of variations on Dvořák's symphony 'The New World', is a means of manipulating the other. A sound acts like an electric shock in the body. Obedient they are to every note that sounds. Yet they do so in their own completely distinctive way. Their dance is bright, vital and humorous. With him, the movements become brighter, more impatient, to the point of furious outbursts. In her dance, she shows the outside influences in the smallest corners of her body.

Sparkling

The atmosphere is light-hearted and that is what makes this fight, this quest to follow one's own will, so sparkling and exciting. How do the man and the woman interact? It's a hackneyed question that comes to mind: do they get each other? But rarely is that question as surprisingly worked out as it is here. They arouse so much sympathy with their efforts that you sympathise with their every move.

When they start a spoken dialogue at the piano towards the end about how things are between them, the tension sinks in for me. Don't the movements by themselves have ample eloquence to tell the story? For me at least, they do.

Good to know

The Moving Futures festival continues:
3 February, Bellevue theatre
4 and 5 February, Dansmakers Amsterdam
Then in other cities, see overview 

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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