Departures and Arrivals



Rita Natálio

Exceeding or diminishing the established meaning of things is part of the task in “being”, a choreography by Icelandic choreographer based in Bruxelles Bára Sigfúsdóttir in collaboration with two Iranian dancers (Masoumeh Jalalieh and SeyedAlireza Mirmohammadi). Starting with a very simple proposal (the idea of an encounter between 2 dancers in an empty space), the work displays the possibility to produce meaning in choreography by using a language of controlled distance and minimal change in space. 

One cannot say which movement is produced and for what reason, except there is desire to meet in space and share this meeting with the audience. If SeyedAlireza is quite frantic in his attitude, and movement is produced and deleted according to a fluctuation of desire, Masoumeh is much more quiet, she is a tuning ghostly machine that detects movement and the gaze of spectators. When SeyedAlireza shakes his upper torso, his expending his torso: desire of self-combustion. When Masoumeh shakes her upper torso, it is as if she is not moving herself but answering to the shivering of air. In the end, it is all about being a human fuel, with no beginning and no end.

One can say that ”being" is a work of co-presence. Individually, each dance is affected by another, each rhythm resonates in the other. Observation is made with distance. There is no double or couple, but “a doer and a witness”, “a dancer and an accomplice”. Rhythms are produced in the attempt to create a (some) relation. As Italian philosopher Franco Berardo Bifo has written in “Poetry and Finance”: “changing the order of expectations is one of the main social transformations that a movement can produce: this change implies a cultural transformation but also a change in sensitivity, in the opening of the organism to the world and to the others”. This act of “opening the organism to the other” could be the exact translation for the face to face encounter that happens at a certain point of the piece, followed by a work with light and shadow of Masoumeh and SayedAlireza silhouettes. We contemplate two bodies that observe and contemplate each other in the effort of “being”. Perhaps, “being” is made of these attempts, and less an urgency to complete some idea about being, and perhaps not-being is also part of being, a urge to withdrawn from clear social historical positions. 

During the process of work, cultural diference between the Iranian imaginary and the Western reality was at first an issue and an interesting topic for research, but it gradually became less and less relevant to the cause of “being” there, in space, said Bára us in a meeting in Ghent. We kept with the sentence of Bifo in mind: "changing the order of expectations produces a change in sensitivity". It means that, even if the constraints of working at the core of contemporary European dance certainly create ambiguities in the way work can be received and felt, it is not easy to identify where strangeness and misunderstanding occurs. One has to deviate them. Or, as dancer Masoumeh Jalalieh told us, “what we were facing during the project was not our cultural differences, but the cultural similarities. Indeed, studying the conditions as important process inputs was a vital part of the process. Personally speaking, cultural differences became an interesting topic for me when I started collaborating with an educated dancer from Europe as we don't have academic dance studies in our country”. 

She also said to us that “being" project was more than a dance piece, since the project was more about sharing fragilities, than sharing abilities. But how can fragility be part of a choreographic language? “I explore how the body is mobilized in different cultures”, says Bára in an interview by Lene Van Langenhove for “De Morgen Selectief” (October 2017). But, even if the task is cultural or at least anthropological, "being" is always in the verge of not doing, of deviating and going against an expectation of an ability. The proposal of Bára is thus a human dialogue between bodies as sensible matters, and less as organisers of language (choreography).