I believe that the human body is the ultimate vessel for artistic expression. Is there a more specific or handy medium to give life to all of those impulses that rattle our inner most depths? Performance art is something I dabble in myself and an art form I hold in high regard. Yet I’ve mostly practiced it, as well as witnessed it, in the context of the white cube, such a restrictive and often suffocating environment for such an exuberant form of art. The very nature of the context puts the viewers in the position where they have to dissect and thoroughly analyze every detail of the art work in question in order to guess its meaning. And if the viewers can’t reach any conclusion on their own, all they have to do is take a gander at the unfailing and ever-present artist statement and everything becomes clear.
Well I, for one, decided to take a break from prim art affairs and venture into a more raw territory, where not all things are neatly arranged. I miss art that stirs something in me and from time to time I want to trade concepts for uncurbed emotions. I couldn’t think of a better place to satisfy my need for expressive bodies and gushing energies than the National Dance Center.
I went to see the dance show “Drive-by Duet” by Mihaela Dancs and Andreea David, two artists with an extensive background in the performative arts, a show I hoped would grant me a much needed escape from the strict and boring white cube. As I took my place in the auditorium, I felt relieved to be rid of artist statements and mindless art show chit-chat.
The show kicks off with a heavy yet rhythmic rock song that immediately contaminates David and Dancs, whose moves reflect the mood of the music. Each of them is in tune with the song, but not in tune with each other. I watch them as I tap my foot to the alert rhythm of the music that flows without any particular coherence: rock, oldies, cheesy tunes and cool vibes, the only common element being that everything is dancey and it carries the performers to unsuspected heights of movement. They explore each beat by each instrument in each melody with an unthinking and liberating dance which sends them in all corners of the stage. The girls are in perfect sync with the music, but not with each other!
I followed them as they lost themselves deeper and deeper in their dance that started to acquire a ritualistic quality, wishing that the two would take part in an actual duet, but I realized that this did not occur except in certain fleeting moments, when Dancs and David appeared to have found the common denominator of their choreography. Their shakes started to coincide and seemed to be moving in the same direction, but then the illusion of a tandem was broken and they each succumbed to their own trance. You wanted to see them dancing together – they were, in fact, dancing together, their moves weren’t independent from one another – like in a real live duet, you wanted to see them touch (especially during the passionate songs), to communicate with one another, but this only happened every once in a while, accidentally, and the sensation of waiting stays with you throughout the entire show. But you don’t mind because this is not a conceptual show that is supposed to make you think, on the contrary, it is supposed to make you feel!
Song after song, the idea of inconsistency became clear. The dancers wallowed on the floor, they audaciously shook their butts and in a heated moment of the show, the two disappeared off stage for a few seconds only to return in the spotlight clumsily singing the lyrics to “A perfumed romance” by Semnal M. Yet there was still no perfect synchronicity! The artists were not in a duet but they certainly were on the same page. The dance resumed, this time more alert and energetic, growing with each strong beat until it reached the critical point – the performers were on the floor, any trace of choreography was replaced by a diabolic trance that was accompanied, of course, by a well picked heavy metal piece that pulled their members in all directions and the viewers barely kept themselves from joining this contagious ritual.
I left the CNDB hall feeling dancey and in a general good mood that overshadowed that strange feeling of dissatisfaction due to the unfulfilled duet (the show is called “Drive-by Duet”, so what am I saying?). I had taken part in a (seemingly) simplistic yet free and pure artistic experience that conjured up more emotion than any art show opening with wine and cakes that I have attended in the last month.