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Trajal Harrell's The Romeo is the laid-back performance you need right now @Holland Festival. 

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"I didn't hear a song I didn't know." Over white wine after Trajal Harrell's The Romeo, the lady was quite grumpy. I might add that I hadn't seen a move I couldn't have made myself. And yet that did not make me cranky. On the contrary: rarely have I come out of a dance performance as happy and relaxed as after The Romeo in this Holland Festival. 

Satie, Verdi, Pink Floyd, Simply Red: for The Romeo, Trajal Harrell, the US-born but Swiss-based choreographer, draws on over-familiar repertoire. So familiar, in fact, that no choreographer who takes himself seriously would put them on the soundtrack of his performance. But Harrell does. In fact, he has his dancers perform on it already voguend moving with gestures so obvious that it becomes cliché upon cliché. And precisely because of that, it becomes overwhelmingly beautiful. 


Harrell floats far beyond definitions of art with his dancers. The joyful flow of the performance, which involves a dozen dancers of all sizes and plumage, is addictive and infectious. These people of flesh, blood and past always dress up, proudly show off their outfits, dance in a circle but with their faces to the audience: they tell huge stories but need no words to do so. 

The story is that of mankind who, it turns out, could dance before they could talk, let alone draw or write. You get that message so naturally that you regularly wonder how that is possible, so without talking. It is in the flowing movements, the classical postures, which you recognise from Greek vases and Egyptian hieroglyphics, that emerge so simply from the people that prehistoric times, antiquity and the future blend together. This is us, humans.  

It seems evident after this five-quarters of an hour of delicious flow that movement is our first, and perhaps only effective language. From when we could walk. Harrell and his dancers make this palpable by slowly limiting that movement towards the end, letting the colour shift to black and calling out silence across the stage. 

We can all dance, which is always better than running or fighting. There is a Romeo in everyone. 

The Romeo is yet to be seen. Information.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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