I have to say that I have always been a fan of theatre that treats itself as an experience rather than just a performance. Earlier tonight I saw the performance WAR by Amanda Piña and Daniel Zimmerman at the Stadsschouwburg in Utrecht, during the festival SPRING Utrecht. A performance that grasped my attention from the moment I walked into the theatre.
WAR is a performance that is described, by SPRING Utrecht as edgy dance. Normally edgy dance doesn’t speak to me but something about this performance did. A lot of it has to do with how the performance is described: “WAR is a dancing manifesto against the advancing homogenisation of art and the world dedicated to all the oppressed and lost perspectives” (WAR program book).
First of all, anything that calls itself a manifesto sparks my interest. A manifesto usually promotes a new idea or perspective. The small fact that the performance title is WAR and that it calls itself a manifesto, and just might promote a new perspective on the idea of WAR, is a bold move.
Second of all, it places itself against the homogenisation of art, something I have been interested in for some time now.
As I said the performance started as an experience. The theatre doors open and you walk into the big auditorium space. While walking into the space you are overwhelmed by a very loud noise. The noise continues for a while, keeping the audience alert but also a little uncomfortable. At the same time a bright light is fixed on us (the audience), making it feel like we’re being watched.
The performance starts with images of guns, already connotating war and violence. The rest of the performance is divided into 11 pieces. These 11 different pieces are all based on traditional dances from the Rape-Nui constitutes (on the Easter Island).
“In an environment influenced by tourism, these traditional dance forms are both identity forming and survival strategies” – WAR (program book)
They use this Rapa-Nui repertoire to transfer the motif of war to a global level. Each of the 11 pieces has a short back story, that is told via a voice over. These back stories range from traditional warning dances for the wars to come, to a non dance about a father that has experiences a real war, to criticism on the use of drones by the U.S. Army.
The dancers treat the traditional dances with a lot of respect, which is beautiful to watch. Although a little abstract, I enjoyed the performance. The only thing that bothered me a little was the explanation before every piece. In some cases it added a little magic but in other cases it took the magic away.