Contemporary dance

Flemish dance to make your eyes bleed, your heart weep



FIERCE primaries: Courtney May Robertson (in yellow), with Dan Mussett and Stephen Michel in ‘Rule of Three’. Photograph by (c) Philedeprez

WHEN YOU ENTER the sacred confines of a new work which you’ve yet to experience and the front of house staff issue you with ear plugs along with your tickets, be afraid, be very afraid. Flemish choreographer Jan Martens brings a dance work Rule of Three to South African contemporary dance stages and with some absolutely unbelievable choreography. But the work is coloured by very violent and repetitive strobes and full frontal nudity in a way that hurts the magic. But maybe that’s the point of it?

It’s a strange thing. Often you find that a work is filled with technical and audience catching gimmicks to ‘tippex away’ the glitches and errors in the work. Often you find that the more fancy and expensive a work is to make and present, the less it would stand the test of a critical eye were it stripped naked of all these tricks of the trade. But this is not what you have here.

And while you peer into the deep brain of the work, trying your best to evade the lightning bolts of light and actually see what the performers are doing, you feel thwarted. Madly thwarted. The one-man band on stage, who goes by the name NAH, is deeply intrinsic to the work which functions like an anthology of stories. But the balance of repetition and flashing lights leaves the synapses in your brain reacting for days after you’ve seen this work, even if you’re not prone to migraines or seizures.

Having said that, the trio of dancers is led by a woman dancer, by the name of Courtney May Robertson. She’s physically a lot smaller than the two men with whom she performs and her stage presence is enticing and unnerving at the same time. With her delicate face and robust stamina she seems so child-like that you’re not sure what you are looking at. In a sense, this performer evokes the performance of David Bennant in the 1980 Volker Schlӧndorff film The Tin Drum, based on the eponymous Günter Grass novel. There’s a sexuality to the character which is uncanny and eerie, because it seems like a child. But it’s a situation from which you cannot draw your eyes.

And then, there’s the choreography. It is absolutely incisive with a precision that is easy on the eye, but simultaneously utterly boggles the mind. The dancing alone is enough to mesmerise you completely, with its directness, its repetition, its mechanical muscles and insane juxtapositions. Does it make you want to dance, as the choreographer promises in the programme notes? Not so much. Rather, it affects the way your soul works.

  • Rule of Three is choreographed, directed and written by Jan Martens. It features design by NAH (live music created and performed), Valérie Hellebaut (costumes), Jan Fedinger (lighting), Greet Van Poeck (dramaturge), GRIP (production), and was performed by Stephen Michel or Baptiste Cazaux, Dan Mussett and Courtney May Robertson at the John Kani Theatre, Market Theatre complex in Newtown, Johannesburg, for one performance only, on March 16. It performs at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) in Oudtshoorn on March 21 and 22, in the Laerskool Wesbank.
  • The Flemish dance season in South Africa continues with Requiem Pour L on May 28-29 and (B) on May 31-June 1, at the Market Theatre.  Call 011-832-1641.

Leave a Reply