If you were to try and find an analogue for the form of this half-hour-long piece, you could do worse than the musical prelude-to-nothing after Chopin/Scriabin/Debussy/Shostakovich. Self-contained, it's a short-but-sustained exploration of a single idea's ramifications. Davis Freeman, company founder and self-described gerund-tastic performing artist, talks about guns and how to use them against 'bad guy' shooters while three dancers dance.
The three dancers' dancing was improvised, and while you could argue that that was the POINT, man, that its purposelessness in contrast to the purposive drive of a shooter was what it was ABOUT, obviously, it felt to me very much like beautiful dancers doing what they do naturally. This was distracting, in the same way a pianist playing a Beethoven concerto in the background would have been. It was nice, but it could have been both nice and thematic. That said, a special mention goes to the dancer who began to vogue as Davis began to talk about the Columbine school shooting. Choreography with specific associations, a specific valence, could and did contrast meaningfully with the topic of discussion.
The most arresting moments were those that dealt with the absurdity of choosing amongst absurd options. Ruairi Donovan, given a gun loaded with blanks and asked to shoot a dancer, shot “the tall one”. Dick Walsh, shooting second, chose to shoot “the other man”. I couldn't fault him, because that's what I would have done, as a way of performing that I wasn't a man who wanted to shoot women, for all that shooting a woman is negligibly more evil than shooting anyone at all. The application of everyday heuristics in an obscene context suggested something really interesting about despairing violence and its irrational rationality (or rational irrationality).
The presence of a bunch of Transition Year students from Mount Temple Comprehensive – my old school – was also central to my enjoyment of the piece. Art-literate adults, presented with the chance to shoot a blank at a dancer, might pointedly perform how reluctant they are to shoot someone because that's BAD, y'know, even if the dancer in question is 100% unharmed and has 100% consented to simulating being shot. 16-year-olds, on the other hand, unapologetically want to shoot someone. All of their hands shot up as soon as Davis asked whether anyone would like to shoot a dancer. That refreshing lack of compunction felt like an acceptance of the fiction as fiction, and what it could offer an audience for all that it was fiction.
Engaging with the piece as such was still, for me, disturbing and affecting. The sheer volume of a gun – even shooting blanks – was a provocative trace of the real contexts in which that sound occurs. Whether it was saying that dehumanising shooters is the same process that creates shooters in the first place, I leave up to you.
Dylan for DRAFF