Beautiful Article on For Movement’s Sake by Pieter T’Jonck
‘For movement’s sake’: it’s not exactly a sexy name for a dance performance. As if the performers couldn’t care less what the viewer gets to see. But nothing could be further from the truth: after a long absence from the stage, David Hernandez here presents a work that is exhilarating in its meticulously crafted baroque beauty.
It has an unexpected opening: in the pitch darkness, the droning organ tones of the baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude become anchored in your ear with melodies that end on an open note. As the lights come up, there’s a second surprise. The decor by Saskia Louwaard and Katrijn Baeten resembles a fata morgana of impenetrable mystery. At the back of the stage hangs a photograph of a neoclassical interior, across the full breadth of the stage. The photograph projects light, like a colossal lightbox. A short distance in front of it, a fragment from the same photograph, a heavily framed door, hovers in the air. Another such image hovers just in front of the audience, this time of a stained-glass window. When two figures on the photograph in the background come to life, it seems like an illusion. Are they holograms?
But perhaps you don’t notice that because meanwhile, your attention has been gripped by a single dancer in the foreground, Colas Lucot. He crumples into a foetal position. Suddenly a shiver runs through his body. He contracts, stiffens, rears up, falls backwards and dances off, leg wildly flailing. It’s a remarkable sequence. He appears overcome by the most intense emotion. However, on closer observation, you see that his convulsions are not driven by emotional outbursts. They are executed too slowly, too deliberately. The emotion is a trompe-l’oeil, dazzling the eye – just like the decor. It is in fact the precisely calculated suggestion of deep emotion, through minutely dosed physical power. Simultaneously cold and hot.
This feeling is only reinforced when Renate Graziadei and David Hernandez themselves step out onto the stage from behind the backdrop photograph. Both of them are older, more mature dancers than Lucot. They clearly carry the knowledge of a lifetime in their limbs. They know what gestures do, and how to use them to maximum effect, without giving the impression of contrivance. In them particularly you see the marvellous quality that is also so typical of baroque music. It can move you to tears, and yet you know, hear and feel that this emotion is being expertly orchestrated. Power channelled in just the right doses. No wonder their dance seems such a perfect match for the music of Buxtehude.
Hernandez approaches the performance with such reserve that he even occasionally plays the music of Buxtehude at reduced power, in the somewhat watered-down sound of an old record player (although this is probably just an effect, I suspect). It’s precisely this lamentable sound quality that heightens your senses as viewer. As the imagination fills in what, in reality, is merely a fragile soundtrack and simple movements, they are transformed into a riveting story.
It’s in this way that ‘For movement’s sake’ carries you along from the opening sonata, through a slow lamentatio and a faster jubilatio. And between each one there is again that moment of pitch blackness with the rumble of the organ. The dancers perform the last part in their underwear. Virtually naked. But not quite. After all, you don’t have to spell everything out to create an emotional impact. Quite the opposite. Something they knew full well in the 18th century, to be sure.
Pieter T’Jonck Monty, 14-15 February, C-Mine Genk 2 April.