IMAGE: Jerry Remkes
OhmyGod, ohmygod don’tpickme. Touch me. TOUCHMEEEE. That’s a lot of sweat. Jesus, my socks probably smell. She almost hit me.
During Dutch choreographer Anouk van Dijk’s STAU, presented by White Bird this weekend at the oddball Oaks Park Dance Pavilion, spying on the crowd’s reaction to the quartet of dancers swooping, gyrating and crawling a foot in front of their faces is half the fun of the performance.
Viewers sit in rows of seats arranged in a small square, facing inward—shoes off. The dancers are inside the square, moving through space, using the audience as handholds and guardrails, and for pratfalls.
The close quarters are a smart idea. Much of modern choreography is built around improv and exploration—in other words, dorking around with movement. On stage, the intimate gestures and thought process can get lost. At its worst, it can look like a bunch of people weaving around and staring into space. But watching a dancer execute the same moves up close is exhilarating.
As the hourlong piece starts, a pair of dancers stand face to face, slowly undulating. Their fingers graze each other’s arms. Their lips pass within a hairsbreadth of one another’s faces. Soon, you’re lost in the details—the golden down on a dancer’s back, the veins pulsing in another’s arm. The strength it takes to extend a leg and hold it out 4 feet above the ground. And when the dancers’ bodies shudder and contract, you can feel your stomach clench in response. The soundtrack, a soft buzz of clicks and whistles, allows the dancers’ own breath to become the melody.
Later, van Dijk literally steals the chairs right out from under her audience. The change is freeing—the act of standing up and milling around transforms the audience into a gaggle of participants.
To give away the particulars of the work would spoil the twists and turns of the show. Let’s just say it involves running and jumping and the smart, inventive use of spotlights. And Disney songs.
It’s not for everybody—some will be turned off by the lack of a barrier between audience and performer, as well as all that touching. But if you’re open to it, the connection STAU creates is intense and satisfying. Just wear clean socks. .
GO: anoukvandijk dc performs STAU at the Oaks Park Dance Pavilion, 7805 SE Oaks Park Way. 8 pm Wednesday, 7 and 9:30 pm Thursday-Friday, March 18-20. $16-$26. Call 1-800-982-2787 for tickets or visit whitebird.org. Get $10 off tickets when you visit whitebird.org/uncagedtickets and enter the discount code WWEEK.