Entering the intimate studio theatre for the opening of Igor and Moreno’s Andante feels like walking into a therapy room. A bright cleansing white light emanates from the open theatre door, and we take seat in a room filled with white staging, scented oil vapours and meditative music. The only thing to focus on for what feels like the first 10 minutes of the show is a large white pillow, gently undulating at the back of the stage. The stage floor and backdrop is also white, and down the two sides of the stage are rows of strange scattered white objects, something like a peg or a squid in shape. It has an instant effect of slowing time, you’re made aware of your senses, irritating members of the audience who can’t stop talking over the prequel and the ever-so-gradual growing of the meditative sound into something louder, shrill and neurotic.
The sound reaches a peak and suddenly cuts off, along with the lighting. Slowly, in the black-out, dancers emerge either side and begin to walk forwards onto the rows of scattered objects. They explode when trodden on in a burst of electrical light and sound, which sets your adrenaline tingling with surprise.
After this episode, the lights come up and the four dancers walk forward, in front of and into the audience and play a game of eye contact for a long and uncomfortable time. All four of them shifting spaces and ensuring that they have locked eyes with each member of the small audience for an invasive amount of time. Such a wealth of personality is exposed in the moment between audience and dancer – some dancers eyes are playful and daring; some reserved and guarded; some introverted and stoic and your own bravery, coyness, reservations are brought into play.
The dancers take steps backwards and begin to voice an ‘ah’, long notes each pitched individually and held for different lengths. Falling into harmony or leading a solo note. The sound is melancholic at first and therapeutic. This alone was performed by choreographers Igor and Moreno with such entrancing quality and expression. Giving words to simple, repeated sound.
There is a gradual evolution from stepping, into hopping, skipping, running, “dancing”… the dancers stepping in and out of synchronicity, and for most of this the ah-ing continues. Choreographed stepping becomes more complex, rigorous and the dancers still play with eye-contact between each other as they follow intricate movement and spatial patterns. With nothing to watch but the feet of the four dancers, it was easy to notice where certain transitional moments fell scrappy. In a piece as minimal as this one, the variations in the way they perform certain movements on repeat are highlighted. I felt that a cleaner execution would have been more satisfying.
Another blunt transition takes place when the large sheet at the back of the stage is lifted, immersing the room in a thick smoke. The stage lighting flickers between full-brightness and darkness, which has a blinding effect like thick fog. To this backdrop, the dancers run back and forth of stage on diagonals. Emerging through the thick smoke as dazed, solitary figures. It is a sensing exercise – stripped of their vision and relying on their sound and movement sensors to avoid collisions. It is a poetic image to see the figures withdrawing into smoke, but I felt it was a little drawn out.
Finally the audience is left with the same serene empty stage as the beginning and a track imperceptibly fading out. It becomes up to you how much longer you want to stay – after this piece about slowing down and sensing, you do question how pressing your next time commitment is.
Reviewed on 18 October at The Lowry.