A rollercoaster of feelings: LOST TRACK by Sommer Ulrickson

Gretchen, Berlin
December 11, 2022

Gretchen, in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, now a club, served as a stables for the horses of Queen Victoria’s military representatives during the 19th century. Its iconic vaulted hall was the venue for LOST TRACK, a multidisciplinary dance work by Sommer Ulrickson, a show whose elements all play with the striking architecture of the place: from the bar to the columns, from the ceiling to the floor.

Ulrickson opens and closes the show. Dressed in all-red, she’s the hostess. Somehow, she choreographs as the show happens. She leads and changes the movement and consequently the narrative if she feels they are going in unwanted directions..

Four dancers (Phoenix Chase-Meares, Saeed Hani-Moeller, Camille Jackson and Yamila Khodr) occupy the space as if the audience wasn’t there, while videos by Ralf Pleger that show AI sculptures by Alexander Polzin are projected onto the bar counter and ceiling above.

The performers sometimes appear as puppets, at others like night owls at a club. Relational dynamics abound. Jealousy, flirting, fun, excitement, make-outs, clashes, displeasure and mixed feelings are showcased in a performative rollercoaster.

Sommer Ulrickson’s LOST TRACK at Gretchen, Berlin
Still from film of performance

For most of the show, Chase-Meares is attached by rope to a column, moving in and out from it, rolling around it, as if a prisoner striving to express himself despite the limitations. The strenuous movements are captivating and beautifully performed. The exhaustion on the performer’s fatigued body is very visible when they relent and allow themself to lean, let the rope take the strain, after the tension and long bouts of pushing and pulling made out of struggle and rage.

Hani-Moeller often dances with and has duets with the two female dancers, meanwhile. At some point he interacts also with Chase-Meares, their interaction brief although firm.

Jackson and Khodr frequently interact with the others, often involving sexual behaviour and movement, but only fleetingly before they move somewhere else in the space as if easily bored. One of the two manages to fit into a spacious bag, moving and being moved by the other for a while. The same performer also often scatters around, begging the others to stop what they are doing. She looks anxious, restless, perturbed, yet, as she circles around the columns, her worries seem not particularly felt by her or the others.

The soundscape is pivotal to the performance, urban pop in music and movement meeting techno. Electronic glitch and beats add to the super acoustic experience created by DJ Werd and DJ Krts. While the movement of the dancers is often in sync with the music, they do not follow counts. It really does look like observing a bizarre club scene, not uncommon in Berlin. Enigmatic but catchy are the abrupt interruptions to the music, which makes all of the dancers collapse on the floor as though hiding from a sudden catastrophe as the lights also go off.

Throughout, although the performers show coalition and camaraderie, there is a note of solitude and loneliness in the way they dance and in their glassy expressions. They appear and act as they would be in their 20s, ready to get wasted, to indulge and let go. They seem to act not thinking about the consequences but simply to enjoy the moment. Euphoria meets agitation though when they express fretfulness and impatience with one another.

The work’s title does describe the performers well. They do look lost, trying to come together yet having fights, changing intention, looking for approval, getting disappointed, and making efforts to extravagantly show off with all their might. It all appeared as a blend of egocentrism and escapism, something most of us have experienced at some point, and some still do, consciously or not.

All in all, LOST TRACK is a peculiar show but one that keeps you fully engaged for its one-hour. The four dancers are full of zest and vigour as Ulrickson conducts the evening, popping in and out, creating around and for it. as she guides it to its conclusion.