Wallflower: Ephemeral Beauty

When I walked into Performance Works on the evening of February 2, I was faced with a tall wall covered with pages from a notebook, which turned out to be the backwall of the stage, then I found myself mingling among three dancers in the thrust seating setup. These dancers minded those in the front row about the space that their moves may require, but they mostly gathered around the technician who sat behind a small table with a four-channel mixer, a lighting board, and a Macbook; and bombarded him with requests of songs. I found a seat behind the technician, just to the right of the front of the thrust stage. I don’t remember exactly when did the audience’s chatter died down; these dancers had been recalling dances since before the house opened, which had all been recorded by a lady with a big notebook in the front row (excerpts were posted at the back of the upstage wall in front of the house entrance). Wallflower by Manchester’s Quarantine, as I later understood from during the show and the post-show talkback, is an ongoing experimentation in the reimagination of personal history through dance. The four performers (they would rotate so one performer would be the bookkeeper each night) have been trying to remember every single dance they’ve ever done in their life since the rehearsal process last year; several productions and 1,700+ dances later, they are still unearthing memories that had been buried deep in their consciousness. These dances range from choreographed dance, to warmup routines, to ordinary and daily gestures. I found a seat right behind the DJ and had an obstructed view of his laptop screen, so I could see when he switched between iTunes and QLab, which gave me a small insight in what was impromptu and what was planned. But this still did not take away the fascination I had with the performance. Even with the pre-planned song numbers, the regurgitation of memory differs from night to night. Sometimes we saw the frustration of performers when their body couldn’t recreate the gestures from their memory, and sometimes vice versa. This active process of laying out specific segment of their personal history, and the pulling and flattening of wrinkles with their gestures make the performance at times rewarding, at times frustrating, and always raw and genuine. Despite the spontaneous nature of this show, the performers also act as dramaturg as they decide on which dance and song to pull out to best serve the audience’s experience. I think this is the kind of the show where I would have to attend numerous times to fully appreciate the structure. However, the ephemerons beauty of this show still stood and left the audience with their own attempt to recreate their personal show in their head.

 

 

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