Dialogue Wen Wei Dance; The Dance Centre; 2017, May 25th
Whether ‘Dialogue’ by Wen Wei Dance was exactly a dance theatre or was not, is irrelevant. What matters is that it was quite unique case of a truly meaningful creation in difficult, extremely personalized domain of movement theatre, that actually touched and moved: the audience.
The performance’s title, as well as artist statement in the program’s brochure specified, that in his work choreographer focused on this so distinctively human drive to bond with others through constant exchange of information on present, expected or past state of emotions. In sheep, with all due respect to those fascinating creatures, is probably not that significant, what a particular sheep has experienced in life, not to mention expectations: it will be most likely instinct, and sheep rush, that determine its future behavior. Humans are deeply dependent on their experience and how they behave is so much influenced by what they had gone through; Wen Wei Wang’s choreography was just about this, I suppose.
The show consisted of a series of impressions on communication and understanding – or lack of it. Everyone in audience experienced it individually, I guess; for me three scenes resonated particularly strongly: 1. A cartoon-ish impression on weapons and violence; 2. A tango-like scene about need for commitment and dependence; 3. A ‘black hole’ segment (a tag explanation to follow).
Let’s begin with the middle, simplest to categorize and label: a pair of performers, witnessed by rest of non-participating cast, staged emotionally tense and intense relationship of dependence between two individuals: an uncommitted, indifferent and passive character, although obviously in a dominant position of power, and a weak one: active, committed and initiating, clearly in pursuit of dependence and bonding with the dominant. Sounds like nothing new but in Wen Wei performers’ interpretation it looked astonishingly: a weak/female character crossing limits of devotion to attract attention of a strong/male figure, barely capable of noticing partner – or perhaps the weak one was actual intruder and predator? That segment’s choreography, which was not a tango, seemed strongly influenced by tango style and idiom. Also, it gained unexpected context by setting against cheese L. Cohens’ hit music from before decades – an overwhelming, thrilling effect, not easily forgotten.
The other memorable scene from Wen Wei’s ‘Dialogue’ was a funny on surface but in fact alarming reflection on idealization of force and violence – when the very fact of weapon position, amplified by cartoonish liturgy of displaying it, becomes a vehicle for power. This divides the men into the powerful: armed and using arms, just for sake of that; and the powerless: victimized by weaponry games of the strong. In Wen Wei’s interpretation it looked like an episode of TV cartoon show, but unfortunately was so close to what actually happens in too many parts of the world.
Next segment of the night was a rare example of choreographer and performers’ joint creativity, a team movement perfection, as well as ultimate commitment in execution of artistic goal. Over time needed to deliver the piece, performers united their stage presences into one dynamic, mesmerizing to watch, entanglement of convulsed drives and impulses, throwing itself around the stage; six bodies moving like one, with too many heads, limbs and needs inside, to achieve any direction – different from a constant inner struggle. A black hole perhaps is better term to describe this: simultaneous gravity and repulsion of particles inside, mutual support and destruction, symbiosis and predatory. It was a great image of human entanglement in life, own and of others; an effort to reach beyond and above. Witnessing it was a rare, deep and meaningful experience, evoking questions.
As this for example: how ‘Dialogue’ would look like if choreographer did not limit cast to males only? Would presence of female performers change show’s appeal? How and why? This remains unknown; hopefully Wen Wei Dance future works will bring some answers.