Man, I've been a party hardy kinda girl lately, in all the most unlikely and likely crevices of Auckland doing shameless things so seeing two of my dance peers Kristian Larsen and Julia Milsom duet in 'Violent Babies' as part of an evening of performance with music improvisational collective Vitamin S at Whammy Bar was next level.
Ok, so, it's a rainy wild night and its a bar, not just a bar, but a very familiar one. It's Auckland's most Indie bar for live experimental bands and performances and these dudes rocked out on the floor to 8 people (maybe 10) muso's and one girlfriend to begin a duet labelled 'a punch drunk love duet'. I was like, I'm brave, but THIS is brave. Hats off. I know they these two are a Vitamin S special team but I ain't seen it before and it was inter- resting! There were so many layers. Ouch.
First of all there's the bar, the 7 attentive male gazes and maybe 2 females peering through the dark with intent through beams from corners of the bar and various passersby, who thought at moments that they were punters at the bar. Second, there's what I bring to this duet in my own post man/woman drama phase... there's always this. Near impossible to extricate. So what DID I see?
I saw two friends/peers, a man and a woman, dance improvise together in a near empty bar on a rainy night, competing with several other shows. They come from very different places inside their dance practice and are probably in very different spaces right now, but they somehow found a common ground. What is that? A tension? A chemistry? A need to express together in a particular way? It's all good!
They are both beautiful movers and seem most comfortable when soloing. But soloing around one another is still a duet. In fact its the duet of our times. Two people immersed in their own journey, themselves, the intricacies of their own embodiment and feelings and the performance of that to us. It is totally apt for me in that moment. And I'm getting drunk!
Milsom is strident, she is bold, risky, articulate and comfortable within her power as a mover and a woman. Her attentiveness to the improvised music is on, and her interaction with Larsen timely and sensitive. She's in your face (in a good way) and she knows how and when to retreat to dark spaces of the bar for variety. Larsen muses in his dancing. I thought at one moment during a solo when he was quite close to us, 'you know what? It is so bloody good to see a man dance in this way in this context in a such a masculine space'. His gentleness and thought processes were hiding and revealled simultaneously inside this vulnerable explorational dance. It too had power. I didn't know what the hell was going on but I was really intrigued by the gender dynamics because whatever was going on for each of them they managed to still hold a space with and for each other which had respect.
The moments of contact were loaded and vulnerable. Whether it was an intimate confrontation or a placing away onto a pillar (repeated nicely to the sound) only to slide down or a leap on top to crush, it smacked of relationship. It's hard to say what this relationship was, two people, dancers, friends, man and woman, happy to dance around each other for each other, with each other, for us. Steps in the strange narcississm vs entertainment factor of performing. Who is improv for? Who is dance for? Milsom performed more for us while Larsen was happy to perform for himself and each worked and juxtaposed. Of course this line was and is blurry. I liked all of that.
They both supported each other, they were not alone, while their was still a major sense of space which created solitude inside this duet. There was also the fact that they both knew I was there and maybe gonna write something. God but who cares what I or anyone thinks? Have a good time I say, which it looked like they did. It was working for me and judging from the applause, for the rest of the onlookers too. I'd say most people could relate as well as admire, because the duet spoke volumes about relationships. Plus I was projecting I'm sure. I love the way dance is always so appropriate and inappropriate in public spaces, how it makes people uncomfortable because it is the body talking and we are largely so fucking unembodied as a culture these days.
Sweet shit guys. Keep up the explorations. It's really cool.