In theatre ”the contemporary” is often used as a metaphor, a sign like all others in the web of signs. A play is set in our time or a mobile phone is used in a Shakespeare play. In dance contemporary is a genre. This is to say that it is not classical dance. There might not even be dance. I’ve named this post-dance, since the contemporary in dance can be a tad old fashioned, to say the least. If we really should talk about the contemporary, the what that makes as piece resonate with our times. The now. This is nor a genre at stake, or even a hint of something modern. It is more essential than that.
When Mica Sigourney closes the drapes in the beginning of his solo performance BOATS (with capital letters) it is a sign. When we step in to the very small stage in Kärrtorp. It’s a black room with black curtains in the back wall, but they are not closed so you can actually see the everyday outside. People are waiting for the subway. When Sigourney comes in through the same door as we entered, he is a rather big man with heavy make up on, really not feminine, more dragish, (if that’s a term), he brings in white and see-through balloons and places them in the center stage. He turns to the curtain and closes them. In one drag (pun intended) he shuts the everyday out. What we now will experience has nothing to do with the “the outside” this has all to do with the inside: The sad, lonely, heartbroken inside of this one man. We are witnessing a birthday installation. Sigourney arranges the room with even more balloons, he leaves several times as if to say he needs to prepare the stage. The arrangement is the first act and it ends with explosions of confetti, but no happy faces. Not accompanied with any joy. The room is now set. All props are white as is Sigourney clothes that point somewhere between a male athlete and a disco icon. In the space he dances forcefully till he completely looses his breath. We hear Philip Glass; He listens to something else in headphones. There is very little communication going on, its imagery. We see the s/he transform into a shy kid. He puts a white hat on. Points his toes just a little towards each other. He looks us in the eyes one by one. He asks someone from the audience, with a small baby on her back, to read into a microphone. The baby is carried on the mothers back. The baby looks at Mica, the kid, and the mother reads a text that screams of anxiety.
To me this piece essentially contemporary in many ways. The way it is letting us in the audience thinks for ourselves. The way it puts no demand on us, neither tells us what to do or who to be. It is. Like it or not. The dramaturgy that seem to truly believe in the live situation and the power of being there. The way it has as much drag show as post-dance. By closing the curtain to the everyday it opens the imaginary. Where we, anyways, live most of the time.
That same evening in Turteatern I also saw “On Air” by Nadja Hjorton the frame here is a festival of four pieces. This is the third time I see “On Air” and in the third location. “On Air” also leaves the audience alone but in an even more manifest way. Most of the evening the four performers (Nadja Hjorton, Halla Ólafsdóttir, Zoë Poluch, Jessyka Watson-Galbraith) stay in a tent filled with air that looks like a bubble. Inside that bubble the four female dancers make a radio show. It is broadcasted and people also outside the theater can listen to it. The framing is the opposite of BOATS were we close out the everyday; here we invite it in with a grand gesture. The first part of the performance is an improvised radio talk show, and this is just so hilarious. (If you read this also take your time to listen to the pod from that night 22/5.) It includes death, fucking horses, running men bleeding from their nipples and grand old cars and again men, who likes to fix them. I laughed so much. The two following parts of the show are also fun, but the same more or less each time. The four performers exit the bubble and interact in wrestling, and in various ways trying communally crawl over the floor. It is clear that it is very hard for four bodies to move as one. It takes tremendous power. They re-enter the tent and take of all their clothes and perform a radio play where scared gardeners are trying to figure out ways to protect their plants from attackers. “On air” ends with all four, funny, strong, independent and naked women singing a revolutionary song from inside the tent looking straight at us for the very first time.
“On air” has many indicators of being contemporary. It is a podcast and a show. In-between the talking they play pop songs (Mapei, Beatrice Eli, Beyoncé et al.) They are also apart of the outside world by projecting a situation that is not exclusively here. This is all opposite of BOATS but what makes “On air” superb is not its obvious critique of the patriarchal system, the multitude of women being represented, but also the presence of bubble. I read it as a critique of the middleclass feminist in its own secure bubble while the world outside is ignored. Hjorton makes “bad” dances, bad “theater”, but consciously since the “good” is not a given format, and is built on questionable grounds. Hjorton uses feminist strategy’s to propose other “good”, all while I’m laughing my head of to the pure brilliance of these performers in their own right, in their own system. Nothing can be more contemporary. And needed.