Joli Vyann Dance’s Imbalance: a compelling excursion into the modern preoccupation with social media

Patrick Centre at the Birmingham Hippodrome
April 26, 2017

Phil Preece

I must confess to being initially rather put off by the pre-publicity for Imbalance, which described it as including “circus arts.” Experience has taught me not to judge prematurely, though, and I certainly wasn’t exactly expecting clowns and performing animals. In fact, I’m delighted to report that choreographer Jonathan Lunn’s Imbalance, billed as “a dance, circus and acrobatic fusion”, is, both in conception and execution, sophisticated in the extreme.

Imbalance offers a clever, meticulously detailed glimpse into a modern domestic relationship between a woman and a man, danced here by Maelie Palomo and Jan Patzke, neither of whom are giving the other half their full attention. It’s a complex exploration of how much information technology has intruded into our daily lives creating an insidious tide of unprecedented distractions within traditional domestic scenarios. In other words, they’re hooked on their mobiles.

The action is quite simply the arc of a relationship between two people compulsively obsessed by social media, distracted and distanced from what might be called the real world of everyday life. This sharp look at how they interact, constantly competing with each others’ phones in an attempt to get even a moment’s attention examines the interpersonal tensions these addictions create. Its great charm is the dexterity and ingenuity with which the theme is explored.

In a series of increasingly risk-taking sequences, Patzke and Palomo obsessively check their laptops and mobiles, ignore each other, vie for each others’ attention, argue, fight, get gloomy and make up. The fact that both performers are physically fit to an exacting degree and at the top of their game as dancers make the increasingly extreme movements and actions look suspiciously easy.

This perhaps slightly tongue in cheek portrait is of a society fragmented by an obsession with information, damaged by its own technological success, and actually an update on a theme prevalent in art since the onset of the industrial revolution. Fittingly the final head-balancing sequence carried brinksmanship to a nerve-tautening climax in a work that constantly teetered on the edge of real physical danger.

Fresh, new, compelling and thought provoking, with a richly allusive soundtrack too. What’s not to like?