Review | P.A.R.T.S. – Unisono

photo by Tine DeClerck

juli 2, 2012
David Hernandez, Gezien en goedgekeurd?/Seen and approved?, Info kunstenaars/artists, P.A.R.T.S.

The dike is a place of interaction. The hasty rush towards their goal; perhaps a loved one waiting at a café somewhere. The calm stroll peacefully and watch the people pass them by. In this predetermined context, encounters take place. On the dike. At sea. People are destined to bump into each other. They form their identity in relation to one another.
Within the context of the Dansand! festival, a whole different encounter takes place. Around fifteen dancers perform a choreography within public space, randomly positioned along the graceful Ostend coast. Some are placed on top of the buildings on the dike, some are on the dike itself; hidden between the columns and pillars of the Royal Galleries. They have been put there very consciously, it seems. As if somebody from above overlooked the landscape and made very subtle additions. These additions are, however, no mere decoration. They are the second year students of the P.A.R.T.S. academy performing Unisono (an Italian music term referring to two notes sharing the same pitch), a ‘dance installation’ by David Hernandez made specifically for the festival.

When the realm of reality becomes framed in the context of a theatrical or dance performance, exciting things tend to happen (within the festival this has been made very clear by Benjamin Vandewalle his Birdwatching 4×4). This is also the case with Hernandez’ performance. The unexpected takes place: some of the so called hasty slow down and take a moment to consider time and space through the moving bodies.

The dancers each dance in isolation to each other, but synchronized by the music in their headphones. They are the different notes attuned to each other by the harmony of their movements. The spectator is, in contrast to the performers, able to overview the whole, rendering him in a slightly more powerful vantage point than the dancers themselves. Sudden cries and shouts link the performers together and interrupt the usual sounds of the coast. These vocal utterances make them a unified entity scattered along the coastline.

Towards the end of the performance, the bodies slowly abandon their isolated positions, take off their headphones and unite on the beach. Chanting wildly whilst playing his handcrafted instruments, musician Philippe Cap stirs up the performers, now for the first time linked by the same sounds (these of Cap and his instruments but also of the rustling waves). As the sun steadily sets, the performers become more and more one identity; one community within the landscape of the vast beach. The isolation in the current society, often by means of technological mediation of interpersonal relations (friendship through a screen), seems to be filtered out in this semi-ritual meeting of bodies. The technological means connecting the performers have been exchanged for a physical connection. The spectators (some here for the performers, some surprised in their day to day routine and mesmerized by the choreography) gather round and, by doing so, join in this micro-community of performers, landscape en spectators.

Hannes Dereere



“Thirst” by David Hernandez is a beautiful duet danced by two excellent performers (Stanislav Dobak and Colas Lucot). With sound design by Philippe Capp (where the voices emerge from the shadows of the body), they each explore a dance that captures the energy of introspection. In a first section on the floor, they cover the whole space by the force of clearly desired displacements and others that seem to be accidental or involuntary. The two performers are different but interdependent! They glide on the water, fluid in their dance. There is nothing extra, on the contrary, here art is master of the body. They offer a few moments of pause where they gauge each other in this research at the intersection of spiritual quest and inner well-being. Then they restart, upright, body movements more rich on a floor that has been nourished. A few of these pauses seem long but were maybe useful in order for the public to drop their gaze for a moment and fall again with them in their territory where dance is a language of complexity. The company “DH +” is one to watch. The appointment is made.

Pacal Bély-La Tadorne

(English translation from original French text)

review 2 Thirst

July 2, 2012
David Hernandez

It is always said that the best performances elicit the most contradictory opinions. If that is true, the representation of Thirst by David Hernandez must be extremely good because here, in the newsroom, the opinions are already very divided.

After the show during the opening night of Dansand! the coeditor An Vandermeulen felt that, according to her, some strange choices were made. She missed the vastness of the sea because the performance was danced too close to the risers where the public sat. She found the performance a special experience, on that there was no discussion. Due to the strange way Hernandez used the space, however, her attention was drawn more to the sea than to the dancers. She had visited the site once before, during rehearsals, and then it happened further back, closer to the sea. This way of using the space in combination with the throat singer created a poignant and intense experience of the whole. When, during the show, it appeared that everything was pushed closer to the grandstand, there remained to her only the sea, with the soundtrack of the throat singer. There was no doubt about the technical aspects of the dancers who are in possession of high performance qualities. Another use of the space might have made that fact more evident. The tribal theme that Hernandez was playing out, also had to be done with freedom and everything was too delineated. For her, the first image was also the most haunting, when the throat singer slowly approaches the grandstand from back near the sea, accompanied by his own thumping guttural sounds.

Not unimportant in this “criticism” is the fact that this was her first encounter with the whole context, a show on the beach before that gigantic sea.

The picture she cites is indeed an impressive image that has stayed with me the most. Unlike An I found however a good choice for the dancers to be placed so close to the stand. The choreography contained so many subtle elements that placing the dancers too far back might not have been a good choice. The gentle nods yes and no, the strong facial expressions, graceful hand movements, … it would all have been lost. It is true that the sea is an undeniable presence, and surely provides strong opposition. For me, however, its presence was strengthened by the shamanic effect of the performance. Indeed Hernandez could have cope with the individual elements in a way to create a less defined imagine, but let it be considered a merit that a choreographer is able to make clear choices and these were his choices, clearly made. And there you are, for or against but that is again highly personal, a decision on which we both agree. And a question which we have to think about again, was the show good or bad? Maybe that’s not so important.

Carmen Van Cauwenbergh

(English translation from the original Dutch text)


Variation and vision
About Hullabaloo by David Hernandez
Marnix Rummens
“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden Because Of Their simplicity and familiarity” Wittgenstein
Hullabaloo by David Hernandez is a performance in which almost nothing is displayed, performed or displayed. It does not take place in a particular area, tells no story, the performers give no indication of psychology, it hardly seems their character. What remains is a minimum, referring only to itself, you see three men and three women. Moving. On the equally simple rhythm that accompanies, live along the sidelines. And yet the undeniable feeling comes over you that more is going on. In fact, you see something important happening before your eyes, but you fail to put your finger directly on it. Until suddenly a whole world unfolds.

Seductive emptiness

Within that mystery, the general atmosphere of the piece does a lot. Despite its refined design, Hullabaloo is not a hermetic show; quite the contrary. In all elements  Hernandez interweaves clear simplicity with a generous heat: a light golden glow fills the scene, the soft minimal percussion, pleasing and the refined movements are particularly  organic. But mostly dance and music work together, conjuring, and they combine the best of what Africa and Europe have to offer. Not only the simple gadgets (hands, feet, voice tones, a cowbell and cymbal) are typical of tribal music from Africa. The rhythm is so layered that it can only be indebted to that region. Simultaneously the striking use of silence, coincidence and non-instruments (such as paper) recalls to mind the work of John Cage. In his dance language Hernandez makes a similar synthesis. The driving energy and the driving force of the flowing movements are clearly related to African ritual dance, while their graceful precision characterizes the Western dance canon. It makes Hullabaloo a complex and nuanced whole that  remains inviting and easy to come.

That layering you experience very clearly as an audience, and even becomes the motor of your watching. The sensual appeal of Hullabaloo sucks you into the show, while on stage there is not much more to see than abstract movement patterns and equally abstract music. Surprised, you go looking for references and meaning, until you suddenly realize how surprisingly easy it is. Hullabaloo stands for what you see: people and relationships. In a word: community. It is such an essential and ubiquitous data that we sometimes do not know how to notice it. But Hernandez gives, by its clear simplicity, a special expressiveness, as if the initial scarcity focuses your gaze on a different level to that of the underlying structure, the building block. From this vantage point you will see a very interesting interaction.

Organization as organism
The music throughout the show develops itself from a simple basic rhythm to a complex polyrhythms that bring you fully in tow. Through clever use, at times you get a very open and ambiguous rhythm. The dialogue of two-, three-and multiple rhythms allows the dancers each to go at different cadences, and yet, clarified in the pulse of the music, there is inevitably a common center of gravity, as the common denominator that connects the various voices. Depending on the interplay of rhythms, it is also possible for those basic cadences to shift again in a playful manner. And that enormous flexibility makes Hullabaloo so special. Rhythm is not only used to unite voices and bodies, but can also be internalized, encouraging variation to their own basic structures. It’s a dynamic that in classical Western music with its pre-defined signatures, is almost unthinkable.

When the same pattern in the dance emerges, Hullabaloo certainly  becomes something magical. Also here you can see different voices move in a game of variation. The whole performance is composed of dialogues and group movements that are already charged to each other, but rarely equal. In this way, three dancers can make an upward movement, but the precise form of elaboration differs. As with the rhythm, the polyphony of movement as a unifying element, naturally emerges. Now you can take a look forward, a posture, an intensity or a mirrored movement, and as organic as those connections are made, they slip away again. At no time is there a dominant system that dictates rules in place of negotiations, and then literally anything is possible.
A Spark for those who want to look
In Hullabaloo Hernandez speaks not through language, but by the way he reconstructs language as a medium. His choreography tells no story, it proposes a new grammar. And that’s such a beautiful paradox: in the wide  plane of its own medium, Hullabaloo begins to speak about the world. This happens because you are  looking at people, of course, dealing with a disarming beauty continually (re) organizing. And because that refined image on stage surpasses any anecdote, it is extrapolated far beyond the stage, to almost any situation in which people must live or work.

What links the spectator also explains that Hullabaloo proposes a semantic shift: thinking more in terms of variation rather than difference. Because variation preserves a duality: it arises from a deep affinity with the existing system, but at the same time promotes an unconventional relationship with it. Those who are fixated on difference, always stand before the poor choice between customization, scram, or tolerating the dissonance, which ultimately undermines the system. Working in terms of variety that transcends duality. It generates more possibilities, because difference and entanglement are no longer mutually exclusive or unilaterally and contrary.
It’s a nice thought. That a contemporary dance performance, with only aesthetic concerns, tangibly imagines what sometimes seems so difficult for politics: creating new models, tuning alignment without blocking. In that respect, the dynamics of Hullabaloo feel like a vision, like a mandala, a Buddhist pattern that delineates the outlines for an ideal cosmos. With hypnotic rhythms and sensual dance, this performance invites the presentation into conversation. In amazingly beautiful images it reveals new patterns with an unsuspected potential, allows them to be discovered and internalized like a spark for those who want to watch.

Seen on Friday, November 5, 2010
in the Beursschouwburg in Brussels
i.h.k.v. Jetherfst festival Danscentrum Jette

English translation from the original Dutch text


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