Without a background in dance I’m relying on primary instincts in reviewing this work. I’m interested in engaging with the basics of “What do I see? How do I see it?” so have resisted reading anything marketing or discussion of the show.
The piece begins in slow motion; a glacial melting of bodies in beige and grey from the mismatched chairs they’re sitting on. They roll in a staggered line, their pace and form precise, bodies roly-polying across the stage. In this moment I don’t see them as people, but as elements in a metaphor. It’s something about inevitability; insistent movement, the experience you have to experience moving from one side of life to the other. This circling, spinning continues and I like the simplicity in the idea I’m watching evolve. They stand and turn slowly in contact with the grey walls of the set. There’s a clarity of purpose in exploring the evolution of one basic movement. Why do you spin? How do you spin? I like watching different shaped bodies make choices about how and when. And as it opens out into a wider ensemble image the five dancers move from that uniform metaphor and begin to trace lines of something that feels larger, more cosmic. They embody (maybe) a constellation. Each has their own orbit. It’s a full stage of solos. And here I see the large and the small in duet, they might be planets, moving with the same deliberate path. But in moments where they meet one another they become people, trying to connect. I think how funny it is to read this so easily. Maybe it’s a reflection of my own existential philosophy or maybe I just want it to be.
I’m satisfied when the metaphors begin to disintegrate and choreographer Maria Nilsson Waller offers little morsels of narrative. In a scene that reminds me of Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou the beige and grey begins to oscillate in a chaotic frequency. The furniture is moved ceremoniously into formation. Dancers move freely, engaging with props and costume. They are human at last! The large potted houseplant, exercise balls and neutral carpets feel like the backdrop to a 60s psychiatrist's office. The scene presents a couple, in love maybe? Out of love maybe? Their duet digs a little deeper into the idea of relationships in constant flux, living and spinning as individuals but matching each other in moments of tenderness. I get bored of the idea of romantic love in this group. It doesn’t feel like a love story between two people. I want to see them all together, failing, flailing, falling. And I start to wonder whether there will be an evolution in tone to explore the comedy of these rituals? Something of Beckett in the absurdly repetitive nature of human existence? I begin to want something new in the aesthetic. I want a shift in the sound design or a relief of colour in the wash of neutrals. I see the form flowing together, an arc of different images and energy but all within the one note. This might well be the intention. A full circle? At its best merry.go.round peels back a layer to reveal less traditional ideas of motion and connection; the repetition and comfort of a man and an object playing out the same moment again and again, a young woman and a chair and a man, two supporting her as equal dance partners, a final ensemble tumbling and holding into an odd family portrait.
Maeve for DRAFF
merry.go.round runs at the Samuel Beckett Theatre as part of the Dublin Dance Festival until 24th May. Image: Pato Cassonini
Posted: 24th May 2017