We frequently refer to birds and animals as ‘dancing’ during mating displays, times when they show off their best features to the opposite sex. But humans are animals too, and for them also, dancing is one of the most direct and effective ways to present oneself to someone else. Earlier this year, Veronica Posth caught up with Joshua Monten’s Romeo Romeo Romeo, now touring throughout Europe, in which he considers the ritual in us. She muses on the work and the subject…
Dance is a mating ritual. Strength, health, skills, personality and charisma are all revealed by the way we move. Even today, in the age of online dating, dance and personal interactions continue to play a central role because our bodies speak. In Joshua Monten’s Romeo Romeo Romeo, three man and a woman embodying a man, play with their bodies and performative being, leading to reflections about the philosopher Judith Butler’s affirmation that “Gender is performative.”
Romeo Romeo Romeo has the structure of a courtship dance where the core is related to a contemporary, eclectic, liberal mating ritual. In what is a dance-theatre composition, the four performers do their best to catch the attention and approval of the onlookers. They want to seduce; to enter in an intimate yet close relation with their chosen ones. Staring at the audience, they play with their bodies, their charisma, their sensuality.
From the beginning, the four performers try, and are successful in getting in touch with the audience who are sat around a circular, temporary, luminous stage, allowing them to be openly involved in the compelling flirty game.
At times sensuous, at times funny, but always seeking approval, the dancers move energetically for almost an hour showing themselves as in a parade, attracting attention and interest. They show an attractive authenticity interwoven with hints of extreme displays of self-esteem that generate amusing outcomes. There is plenty of hyperbole as they move to attract, sparkle, engage and be humorous.
Monten’s Romeo Romeo Romeo is composed by texts that are connected to the performers’ personal relationships, to hopes which led to their career choices, motivations they have in performing before a live audience, and tactics that they employ at any given moment. Moreover, they ask the audience personal queries that question boundaries. What and just how much can be said in a flirty approach.
There are other outspoken contents that are quite effective in the vortex of movement: dance as no one would see you; dance for yourself; dance until you disappear. The sense of those phrases is key in order to enjoy ourselves. The results are attractive and fascinating. On the stage, as on the dance floor, the performances induce a striking authenticity that strikes at the very essence of dance.
The overplay used is, of course, an exaggeration of a mating ritual, but it is not really distant from what happens in many places in the real world. Every culture has its own courtship rituals, within which every single person has his or her personal approaches to flirting, expectations and desires.
Romeo Romeo Romeo triggers reflections about these differences and the way mating rituals work, in particular reflecting on Butler’ s assertion. Thinking the ‘gender as performative’ it motivates thoughts about the nature and nurture of gender, but above all about the necessity to express and what is individually felt and personally needed.
When it comes to dance as performative act, as cathartic healing and as expression of insights through the body, it is clear that variety is infinite. Multiple ways to embody and to perform are part of how everybody speaks. We interact in our personal way. Towards the end, one of the dancers says, “It’s not about showing off, it’s about being self-confident.” The statement sounds initially humorous but has a strong impact and repercussion on the way we see and perceive speaking/dancing bodies.
Romeo Romeo Romeo is an endless spiral of communication, complicity and soft embarrassment between the cast and spectators. The interaction with the audience and the vulnerability of dancing without hesitation means that every performance will be different.
Fostering ideas about the power and truth of our bodies, the difficulty and diffidence entangled with desire, and the wishes involved in every courtship and mating approach, Monten shows us the effectiveness of dance as something cheerful, an efficacious icebreaker, liberating and therapeutic. It can also stimulate a sense of beauty as self-esteem. All just some of the aspects that Romeo Romeo Romeo brings to the stage. The result is superlative. It also makes you think.
Veronica Posth saw Romeo, Romeo, Romeo on January 18, 2019, at Dock 11 in Berlin. It continues to tour and can be seen this summer at various festivals in Europe; and in Adelaide, Australia. Visit www.joshuamonten.com for dates.