Was this show really about rampant neoliberalism and climate change and interspecies intimacy like the copy said? I don't know. Double denim costumes are maybe evocative of B*witched and by extension how girl bands are both infantilised and sexualised?! Iconography of sexualised advertising and by extension the commodification of the female body was maybe subverted on a blow-up couch that makes any and all vampiness thereon absurd?! Maybe. The bonkersness of these things was loads of fun regardless.
There were also some really lovely sequences using permutation as structure; each dancer rotating through a variety of choreographic tasks, each bringing a flavour to each. Elsewhere, though, in that structure's absence the careful-chaos quality of movement veered over from detail into white noise. It ceased to be complex and started being undifferentiated.
On which, I thought the sound design was a sensitive and wonderful thing, applying veeeeeery gradual timbral changes to rhythmic cells. Inexact and consequently interesting repetition. Much of the frantic opening sequence was set to this stately siren yoke over a moving gliss bass, moving slow enough that you were conscious of the texture of each note. Its characteristic oscillation or grain. A patient but very compelling process.
In contrast with that, there's an emphasis in the copy on the collaborative choreography, which might have something to do with the show's very episodic feel. There's a saw about film editing that you don't cut on an and, you cut on a but or a therefore. This show felt andish. I'm not complaining about the lack of any 3-act structure everyone-dies-or-gets-married catharsis, but some sense of mutual commentary/sensitive contrast/linear unfolding was missing. If you shuffled all of the sections of this show into a random order, the cumulative experience would not be noticeably different. Seems like the project will be continuing though, so maybe how the music works and how the dancing works will converge in the future.
DOWRY / BABY
I caught fifteen minutes of Dowry's set en route to Baby, and I'm glad I did. Éna's opening improv on the violin was calculated to make pianists jealous, all dynamic curves and notes bending into other notes. String instruments' ability to have something turn gradually into something else lends itself really well to loop pedalry, which works similarly. I think there's something very theatrical about loop pedals, watching someone add bricks to a musical wall. In music if nowhere else, the process actually is the product. You are conscious at every step of the ingredients and the taste.
As with Snake Talk, dance copy is a strange genre. I don't know that I thought Baby was a creature made of effluent and energy, but it was sparky and fun. Zoe Reardon talked in her DRAFF > Live Collision interview about Recovery about 'epic banality'. I talked above about 'mutual commentary'; I think those are maybe two lenses on the same thing, definitely present in this piece, even if I don't know exactly what it is.
I just watched two women carry a mattress around to Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight. It was strangely riveting, as were all of the other stop-starty, frantic activity/absolute stillness sequences playing off a soundtrack of synthy gated-drummed anthems. There were naked jumping jacks and jump scares, all of which against the odds worked. It had a sense of its own gentle absurdity, which makes it easier to go with its oddities. To be patient and see what happens, safe in the knowledge that you won't or can't be made feel stupid for taking it seriously because it's already been made clear that not doing so is also an option. A little bit of humour can be disproportionately freeing. This is a good thing, seeing as the piece opened with both performers covered in patterned blankets and running at each other and nuzzling like glam ghosts at a teenage disco. For glam ghosts.
I am now also literally running to catch Rave Space. Wish me luck.
RAVE SPACE / LE BOOM
I wasn't late.
Rave Space was both much sincerer and much anthropologicaler than I expected, which is a hard balance to maintain. It was at once a very personal story about dancing to drum and bass and a broad, dot-joining look at all of the ways – music among them – that people seek out a sense of connection. Both journal and journalism, and additionally a mini-drum-and-bass night.
Will, the primary performer and DJ, had the bad luck to be saddled with the most graceless audience I've ever been part of. There were three or four people who took his open-ended there'll be bits where we want you to listen and bits where you can dance or talk or whatever to mean yeah just talk through the whole thing and make unfunny jokes into pauses like a divorced uncle at Christmas. Tellingly, though, the piece held. It was robust enough that it couldn't be spoiled by three or four wankers at the bar talking through Will talking about meditation.
After, I hopped over the road from Rave Space in Cube to catch Le Boom in the Spailpín Fánach. Le Boom have been called Le Shit by plenty of people who actually know things about the type of music they're doing, so they don't need my vote of confidence. But they have it. Their stuff is deadly, their performance energy is deadly, going to the gig of a band you don't really know in a city they've never played before and ending up dancing along with lots of other people who probably don't really know them either but also find themselves suddenly in the humour of dancing is – you guessed it – deadly. It was live in the best sense.
In theatre, our relationship with liveness can be a little bit precious. A good way to guarantee that your liveness is even less convincing is to describe it as 'radical'. Radical liveness generally means having a two sentence exchange with a performer who is too busy visibly enjoying how LIVE it all is to actually listen to what you say. It may also mean being made touch someone's tit. Probably you're supposed to feel bad about having done so, even though the show would come to a grinding halt if you didn't.
That's not a call to stop chasing liveness. That's a call to appreciate the real thing more when you find it. Rave Space was definitely that, something I feel confident saying because Le Boom's actual gig, rather than upstaging Rave Space's self-conscious artified gig, made me retroactively like it more. I am not a drum and bass fan. I did not particularly want to dance, but found myself dancing anyway. Le Boom was more my bag, and it made me grateful that Rave Space had managed to make me feel that way too, EVEN THOUGH its world is not my world. I thought that that was a testament to its power and its honesty.
Dylan for DRAFF
Quarter Block Party is running until Sunday 5th February 2017. Image: Snake Talk
Check back tomorrow (5th February) for what Dylan did on Day 2.