A quartet of shows from Barcelona’s dansa metropolitana festival

Various venues, Barcelona and area
March 9-26, 2023

Held across the Barcelona metropolitan area, dansa metropolitana is a festival all about dance. The 2023 numbers are impressive: 183 performances of 118 shows (including the four below), 29 film screenings, 50 fringe activities and 58 educational activities, at a 100 different venues. The programme covers a wide variety of movement languages and styles, although there are common shared themes. This year, there was a special connection with architecture, the Limina project allowing audiences to see dance while visiting emblematic buildings.

The festival began with Carcaça at Mercat de les Flors. Created by Portuguese choreographer Marco Da Silva Ferreira, it uses dance as a tool to research ideas of community, memory and cultural crystallisation. The cast of ten create an unpretentious flow of movement that researches collective identity in a physical and intuitive stream, related to cultural construction.

Carcaça by Marco da Silva Ferreira
Photo José Caldeira

With footwork coming from clubbing, balls, cyphers and battles, the dancers varied colourful identities meet as they approach and revisit unchanging folk dances bonded in their heritage and memory. It is a ‘political’ piece which intention is to break with the authoritarian, totalitarian and paternalistic past. However, while a good concept in theory, I found it lacked dramaturgy, choreographic clarity and intention in practice.

Also at Mercat, Madrid-based Brazilian dancer and choreographer Poliana Lima presented Las cosas se mueven per no dice nada (Things move but they do not say anything), a piece performed with deep commitment by twelve women and sounds created through their movement and physical presence.

It deals with the transformation and repetition found in nature, without literally representing them on stage. Endurance, persistence and resilience can be perceived in repetitive movement that shows struggle, fatigue and, at times, even exhaustion and affliction. When they slap parts of their bodies, it initially appears to be a practice of self harm and condemnation, but moves on to a ritualisation meant to release unwanted things, feelings, states.

Las cosas se mueven per no dice nada by Poliana Lima
Photo Álvaro Gómez-Pidal

All the time, the dancers’ dresses sparkle in the dim light making them appear as transient beings, maybe a memory of the past yet very present. Their visceral and sincere performance invites one to think of the ancestral resilience of women: a way of being in the world, and a model for the present and future to come.

Seen at the Teatre Alegria in Terrassa on the outskirts of Barcelona, Above by Gaston Core depicts a woman, Shreyashee Nag, in dialogue with the gods, her gods.

The atmosphere is intimate and vulnerable. On a dark, dimly lit stage, Nag continues her silent dialogue, changing intensity, forms and dynamics. With small, almost imperceptible twitches, she moves her head from left to right as if answering internal questions, or perhaps unveiling a tic, while she looks intensely at the audience. She whirls around the stage as if fighting to free herself from pain and demons. She crawls on the floor seemingly asking for atonement. She creates a silent communication between her limbs, lifting her fingers makes her foot move like a marionette. At times she sings, more accurately, chants. All the time, relationships are established with her self, the gods and those watching.

Shreyashee Nag in Above by Gaston Core
Photo Alice Brazzit

As Nag listens to various voices, in and out of herself, she moves like being in a sort of flow dictated by contrasting forces. Above is a dance charged with spiritual meaning, one that tries to see the sacred side of every human being but that also attempts to answer questions related to conflict and intolerance. It is a spiritual journey to honour the mysteries of life, and a celebration for the power, holiness and unfathomable nature of what is above us.

Back at Mercat de les Flors, Crowd by Gisèle Vienne features fifteen dancers who embody the ecstasy and strong emotions felt by party people raving in slow motion. Accurate in execution and interesting in concept, it brings the viewer to reflect on rave culture and its sociological, political and anthropological aspects.

The intensity and choice of music is well thought. Relationships between the participants are realistic. The degradation of the place and the ravers, showing them self destructive yet also with a desire to be uplifted is clear. It also touches on feelings of escapism and surrender, again depicted accurately and well performed.

Crowd by Gisèle Vienne
Photo Estelle Hanania

Rave is seen as a catharsis; an inclusive yet exclusive situation, a place to feel free and act freely. It is a space that opens a parallel dimension; a mental and physical place to let go, express and relish. To watch these bodies move so slowly was fascinating and rather filmic. The perception watching somehow altered, as if being doped with some psychoactive substance.

The earth that covers the stage is reminiscent of a lawn left with no grass having been repeatedly trampled on. The destruction of the soil, increasingly covered by trash deposited by the ravers parallels the dissolution and devastation of the people on it.

Crowd is a performed rave, one where an ecstatic, seemingly cheerful experience meets desolation, darkness, loneliness and an ambiguous sense of enjoyment.