because the personal is cultural
“I fear embodying the absence ethnic war has left around me.”
A legitimate fear if there is one. While only Zohar Melinek can speak of the emotional toil that the performance of Collective Individual takes on him, we can say that, though he is not a trained dancer, his performance is visibly felt and therefore honest; qualities that more than compensate for any lack of technical training.
He benefits from the help of his partner from their collective Thirst/Clarity, dancer Mary St-Amand Williamson. She too seems to be more concerned with sincerity of purpose and emotion than with physical virtuosity. All the better for the subject at hand, the recent revolutions in the Arab world.
The strength of the choreography is not in the symbolism of its gestures, but in the constraints they impose on the body and which differentiate it from so many others. The floor work stands heads and shoulder above the rest, like when they slowly move with their feet and head weighing them down against the floor, but their ass high in the air, triangular shapes that make their movement difficult.
On the other hand, it is at its weakest when the symbolism is obvious (and therefore I must admit on the cheap side), like when Williamson is seemingly locked between four walls made of light. The physical constraints cease to be embodied and temporarily turn the performance into little more than bad miming.
While a minimal amount of synchronicity is necessary for any social movement to effect change, here the choreography would be richer if the performers had less recourse to it. The movement is simple (delightfully so) and the eye would have benefited from constantly shifting between this simplicity and the density of juxtaposition.
Video images of the uprising only make two brief appearances, but each time the live performers get swallowed by the mass of protesters. One can only imagine how powerful Collective Individual would be if it could represent live the energy of a sea of people and the wave they inevitably embody.
The show ends with its most compelling sequence, Melinek and Williamson noisily moving while being lit by nothing but the projector projecting nothing. It confirmed my sneaking suspicion: the whole show could have taken place in that darkness.
The world premiere of Collective Individual was, like any good revolution, imperfect, but promising.
April 5 & 6 at 8pm
Tickets: 22$ / Students: 15$
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.
s.verstricht [at] gmail [dot] com