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Nicole Beutler, 1: Songs

Lise Smith

Several recent dance theatre productions have concerned themselves with the physicality of performance in other modes of presentation, particularly live music. One thinks of the surreal puppetry and “sonic haemoglobin” of Pierre Rigal’s Micro, or Gilmore Productions’ touring narrative The Blank Album. As with both of these productions, German choreographer Nicole Beutler’s1: Songs is at one and the same time a performance and a representation of a performance, playing with both the language and the physical codes used by musicians during a live gig.

The piece’s sole performer, Sanja Mitrovic, begins in backlit obscurity, voice echoing into one of the five microphones bristling on the forestage. Mitrovic is severely dressed, in a buttoned-up dark grey shirtdress. Her voice is charmingly fragile, wobbling slightly as she sings the words of legendary female figures ancient and modern: “My bosom aches for him”, “My friends, I can no more”. Comfortable perhaps behind the words of other women, at times the performer seems to accidentally reveal too much of herself; she chants “Please god make him call me back!” long after one track has ended, until she catches herself in the act and coolly calls for the next song.

Gary Shepherd’s music score is in itself entertaining, flitting between indie rock and something that sounds like the bastard progeny of Josh Wink and Joey Beltram – to which Mitrovic pulses through her torso, arms at 3’o’clock, amping to the bass. As the performance progresses, her glacial ice-maiden demeanour and severe dress both gradually unravel; until Mitrovic is skipping around the stage in combat boots, dress unbuttoned and hair flying, screaming the words of Antigone and Medea.

1: Songs is a brave and powerful presentation, and Mitrovic is never less than completely in the moment of performance. A gripping and persuasive look at the female voice through history, through the lens of contemporary concert culture.

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