A circle of stools on the usual stage space. Set. Yet it wasn’t for the performers – unless spectators are considered performers … of the art of attending.
When entering The Place Theatre that night, each audience member could choose their stool, their spot, their unique viewpoint for the show. Yael Flexer herself took a seat quietly, a few stools away to my right.
Lights went down. The piece could start. But all the way through, the lighting kept teasing my curiosity. It was all about the power of lights. What is seen and what isn’t. The visible and the invisible. What movement reveals. What a costume or props can hide.
I looked to my right, and the spotlight shone on two empty seats. The choreographer had just disappeared. She was gone, on the other side of the light. Now there she was, turning around our circle, revealing and hiding her dancers at her whim.
At her whim? No. Her journey had definitely been planned, and that is all her choreographic craft: an all-round conception of space, light, shade and their interplay. An immersive experience, for sure, with perfomers in and out of sight, right in front of me, but also behind my back sometimes, carving the space on the other side of the stools.
Everywhere, a wonderful flow of movement, punctuated by clever moments of stillness. Just enough time for questions to arise. What happened? To notice signs of past events. Somebody on the floor. Lifeless. What happened?
As it unfolded, the piece made me navigate between the realms of humour and darkness, jealousy and admiration. I was captivated by company members Nick Keegan and Julie-Ann Minaai, whose classes I had taken during the week. Knowing their movement phrases, and recognizing younger performers who stepped in later, made me feel even closer to the action. They took me on a 360° journey, and then vanished. The empty stage space was all that was left to witness.
Are all performances thus bound to be disappearing acts? If they are, fortunately, those that touch you might not escape your memories. Nearly two months have passed, but my impressions of the show are still vivid enough to tell it was a season’s highlight.
‘Disappearing Acts’ by Flexer and Sandiland. The Place Theatre, London, 28/10/2016
Choreography: Yael Flexer and the dancers
Dancers: Luke Birch, Nick Keegan, Aya Kobayashi, Lyndsey McConville, Julie Ann Minaai
Text: Wendy Houstoun
Direction: Pete Phillips
Sound Scores: Karni Postel, James Keane, and Nic Sandiland
Stage Lighting Design: Natalie Rowland
Digital Lighting Design & Set: Nic Sandiland