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9/9/2020 / Online only / Text: Diana Munteanu

Without Quite Knowing

Without Quite Knowing is a meditation on change, a reflection of the times it’s been conceived – times in which previously taken for granted certainties have been shaken and can no longer be left unquestioned. The alienation, the lack of direction and frames of meaning that characterize the disruptions like those we have experienced in the past months, find their expression in this performance through disembodied movements, an uncanny technological mediation, and a relentless drive to ask questions.

In a dark room, a low positioned cold light shines over a reclusive plaster sculpted head. Stillness and silence prevail until a voice creeps inside the earphones. The voice belonging to a performer is narrating her thoughts, hesitations, disclosures from the process of making the performance. The audio channels switch in between, we hear different voices, different stories, points of view, from different times and spaces. From the dazing and dizzying audio convolution, a sudden “Why” resonates across the room from the stage. 


“Why should I be moved by anything else than the desire to ask questions?” This question will reverberate throughout the whole performance. 
Three bodies enter the stage one by one. One is silent, one is speaking, and the last one has headphones on, listening.

Each dancer is following their own inner call to move, very absorbed by what they are doing. They are aware of each other but they seem to move in isolation, without interacting. Their movements are fragmented, distorted, awkward at times. A hand reaches out, stops halfway, goes back, and loops the motion—while the rest of the body is performing an entirely different sequence from that of the limb. There’s no apparent rhythm that directs them. However, none of this looks arbitrary either.

There is indeed a strong feeling of improvisation, but also of an underlying structure that somehow always evades definition. Commands like “Switch” and “Drop” hint that these are more like exercises, or tasks being executed following an obscure internal logic. They change the course of the movement and function like nodes in the interaction between the dancers.

Halfway through, a memorable and revealing phenomenon occurs. The dancers’ movements start to accelerate in velocity and intensity towards a point of which feels like unleashing a stream of consciousness. Words and sentences in different languages blend gush out in a swirl along with expanding movements. The body seems to fully mirror the state of mind, moreover, their unity in motion is so clear and conspicuous, it feels like witnessing a genuine transformation across different states rather than watching a choreographed performance.

The relationship of mind and body resurfaces throughout the piece several times, but its most distinct manifestation comes from the very format of the performance which makes extensive use of spoken word juxtaposed with body movement. Gazing at the performers’ moves, I found myself pondering the continuity between thought and movement. Could we think of thought and speech as movements of the mind as body movements are to the body? And what about the opposite, are our body movements our body’s thoughts?

The experience of listening to the performer’s thoughts, which reflect on the making process, while watching the finished result brings a meta-dimension to the role of the audience, as if temporarily inhabiting someone else’s mental space. There’s no sense of breaking the fourth wall—this piece feels like it can’t even be contained by walls. 

The feedback loops incorporated into the piece makes it feel like all of the elements feed into each other like a breathing organism, and always changing. Fortunate to watch the performance more than once, what struck me was the open-endedness and the great degree of variation and freedom that is inherent in the choreography.

If you’re wondering in the end what the piece is all about, I still can’t tell you. No aboutness can be grasped, nor any common frames of reference will help fit it into a coherent whole, as this is precisely what the performance constantly evades. There are only questions, contradictions, disruptions, and sounds. At the bottom of it all, you meet yourself—three versions of yourself that invite you for a ride surrendering to the poetry, the abstraction, the ambiguity, and the open-endedness, which are the preconditions of any great transformation. 

Dansmakers 11 and 12 September 2020

Choreography: Irina Baldini
Assistant: Simona Piras
Performers and voice: Elisa Vassena, Artémise Ploegaerts, Marco Caudera, Charlie Prince
Voice: Andrew Demetriou, Tashi Iwaoka, Irina Baldini
Visual and sound design: Irina Baldini
Lights: Ellen Knops
Co-production: 4bid Gallery – developing temporary cultures, OT301, AFK