420People’s Love & Loss: Phrasing the Pain

420People Phrasing the Pain

420People turn in a mesmerizing performance in “Phrasing the Pain” at the Archa Theatre.

Belgian choreographer Anne Van den Broek creates Phrasing the Pain for the Czech dance company that was born at Nederlands Dans Theatre.

The spotlights target the people in the audience and the performers are hidden on the stage behind this curtain of light.

First come Nataša Novotná and Václav Kuneš. She painfully touches and hugs him, trying to bring life into the body of her partner. All her touches are unfinished, all her hugging, fondling, is actually about 10 cm distant from his body. Even when she tries to lift his hand, without touching her he cleverly mimes the action in perfect synchronization.

Suddenly Václav Kuneš leaves her, but she stays fondling the vanished body as if it was still there. The aching atmosphere is intensified by the touching bittersweet song Hold On To Yourself by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Other pairs appear onstage gradually (Alexandr Volný and Štěpán Pechar, Sylva Nečasová and Ombline Noyer) after the light suddenly seems to collapse with the snap of a dancer’s fingers, making a cracking sound and tinkling as if somewhere a lightbulb has broken.

The couples replay the same scheme, but the last dancer, Milan Odstrčil, comes without a partner. Nonetheless he repeats the same routine around a missing body.

Missed connections: body language and movement underscore the message

Missed connections: body language and movement underscore the message. Alexandr Volný, Štěpán Pechar.

Bit by bit the synchronized movement is interrupted by the brief shaking and agony of the “live” performers. The rhythm and pace is collapsing and their expressions begin to differ as their pain is releasing. They each struggle in a different way – with exhaustion, agony, despair, resistance … simply with an emotional introverted or extroverted explosion, tension or relief.

The performers walk around, putting clothes on, pre-occupied by their thoughts. They take only one shoe. Sylva Nečasová stays undressed, thoughtlessly collecting things and holding them tightly. The bodies in pain wobble around, stumble, move chaotically, or just stay shrunken on the ground, some in a kind of jerky shimmering. Their fever is intensified by a savage composition for electric guitar by Belgian composer Arne Van Dongen, who wrote the music for this performance.

In the end they all pause on the edge of the stage, facing the audience in an agonizing trance.

Nataša Novotná

Nataša Novotná

The mesmerizing power of 420People’s intensive and exhausting performance of Phrasing the Pain is obvious. At first the audience is unable to start an ecstatic ovation after this emotionally touching, painful performance; it is simply is not possible to stand up and frenetically clap hands, whistle, or shout. They must relax a bit and take a deep breath.

The relief comes after several curtain calls, with both the performers and the audience applauding each other, and also when guest choreographer Anne Van den Broek comes on stage. Forty minutes have seemed to shrink to ten. And only then it becomes clear that with pain comes catharsis, no matter how much time it takes us to realize that we can go on, even without our beloved.

But in the meantime the heartbeat of some of us has definitely reached its “red line.”

420People’s Phrasing the Pain will be repeated Feb 8 and 9 at the Archa Theatre.

— Hana Blažková, Opus Osm writer

Photo Credits: Pavel Hejný, 420People

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