Theaterhaus, Stuttgart (as part of Colours International Dance Festival)
June 29, 2019
One of the things that make dance festivals so exciting is that they often throw up nice surprises; works by choreographers that you are not that familiar with that astonish and delight, or hit home in unexpected ways. At this year’s Colours festival in Stuttgart, We Are Nowhere Else But Here by Netherlands-based Stephen Shropshire did all those things and more.
It’s about the challenges of co-existence and the very private and sometimes painful efforts that are made to do so. It’s deeply felt and very personal, at times raw as their emotional and physical struggles are laid bare. The dance speaks volumes and will resonate terribly, I guarantee.
Right from the off, the tension is there. The theatre is naked: black walls, a white floor and a single unchanging light. On that floor and apart, sit Aimee Lagrange and Jussi Nousiainen, both in black. She’s deep in thought. He’s more fidgety and looks up and around.
As piano music by Beethoven and Schubert drifts through a door at the back of the stage, the couple come together. For 25 minutes they never let go of each other’s hands as they twist and turn.
The choreography is technically challenging. It’s a masterclass in the art of the contemporary duet. Sometimes they caress, sometimes they struggle. One senses they want to stay together but it’s a fight. They push and pull. It slowly gets stronger. Their laboured breathing fills the theatre, near drowning out the music. They grapple. She grabs his T-shirt. And then they part, staring at each other.
The mood changes as he approaches her. She lifts him, cradling him as he hangs on like a baby. A reflection that she is the rock in the relationship, perhaps. But he sags like a dead weight. As she staggers forward, his sweaty body inevitably slips from her grip. He takes of his T-shirt to mark the spot. They repeat, and he does the same with his trousers. And they repeat again. Her effort is Herculean; and for real. You wonder how much she can bare. How long can she go on? It’s a mirror of the relationship as a whole, many relationships; a struggle to keep it going but they return and return and try again and again. And still that music plays, its beauty providing a striking counter-balance to what we see.
Later, they talk about what to do next. It’s an attempt at conciliation but one senses balance is far away. Again, he is the burden, standing on her back as she crawls forward, then on her shoulders. She screams.
Then we are back where we came in. Have we just seen how we got here?
Finally, she dances alone, but it’s far from free. There’s a tension. Emotions are mixed up. Meanwhile, he leans against the doorframe, turning to watch occasionally. There is clearly an attraction but it feels like they’ve had an argument. They may not be talking, but still he wants a way back.
Finally, the music stops and there is the sound of rain. Is this the end, or do they go on? We are left to wonder.