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Speaking of Time

Noémie Solomon

Speaking Dance
Jonathan Burrows & Matteo Fargion

Do these two dancers share the same time, or do they hold to their own time? What are the benefits of sharing time, and what are the benefits of ignoring each other’s time?
-Jonathan Burrows

Sitting next to each other, the two dancers begin as suddenly as deliberately. “Right. Left. Right. Left. Right.Left.RightLeftRightLeft…” The spoken words alternate, overlap, brush against each other; they create subtle and complex tempos, speeds and rhythms. “Right Left Right Left Right Left Right Stop.” In a constant play with each other’s time, and with that of the audience, the synchronized utterances arise in distinct yet ever shifting patterns, creating instances of singular melodies, of joyous dissonance, of cadenced silences.

Speaking Dance (2006) is the third opus marking a fruitful collaboration in which Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion astutely explore through a series of intimate duets the intersections between dance and music, composition and temporality. Their thoughtful and humorous meditations operate at the frontier between the virtual and the actual; perception and the imaginary. If the first two pieces — Both Sitting Duet (2002) and Quiet Dance (2005) — dealt mostly with the dancing gesture and systems of movement, Speaking Dance is primarily concerned with the verbal gesture. Throughout the piece, the two performers create a series of minute and complex rhythms with the use of banal words and speech acts. Proposing singular modalities of composition and of attitudes towards time, Burrows and Fargion then astutely work to modify, vary and recompose them, playing incessantly with the interaction and perception of time. The dance thus speaks to the spectator’s expectations, expanding a possible range of responses. These experimentations not only blur the musical and choreographic score, but explore temporal lapses that activate new perceptive mechanisms and leaps into the imaginary. As it take hold of speeds, ruptures and slowness, this meticulous spectacle of choreographed polyphony shapes an accumulation of meanings, a dispersion of language.

Embodying a thoughtful balance between rigor and casualness, banality and virtuosity, the performance shapes itself through a series of expressive acts. Filled with “linguistic gesticulations,” the choreography radically refigures what dance can be; its structure, essence and perhaps most importantly its mode of interaction with music. Rhythm, which emerges as the proportion of motion, re-imagines the manifold relations between dance and music. Opening possibilities for multiples ways of interacting, for an equal and fruitful dialogue, this play of rhythm across words and movements counters our assumption of the flow of time. Rhythm arises not as a formal alternating, but rather as an alternative organization of the dancing subject. What Speaking Dance thus proposes is a performative dancing body figuring itself via rhythmic gestures. Rhythm here speaks of dance as intimacy, friendship, temporality or absurdity; of dance as joyous mode of arrhythmia.

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