The Dschungel venue for the performance of LaLa#3: CocoMotel is an intimate space. Only about sixteen places wide, the benches for the audience go up only six or seven rows.
The stage is the floor. For LaLa#3:CocoMotel, Laure Dever and Laura Vanborm brought one of the most ambitious builds I’ve seen in this space: a three metre and seven metre wide high green structure with movie screen on both left and right and a centre window.
As we wait for the show to start we can just see urgent pacing behind the white screen on the left side. A little later a young woman clad in an red bodysuit with black leather roller skates on appears on the roof. The invisible pacing continues.
The girl in the skates eventually swings down and begins a dance on the floor in front of the building. Up shoots the left screen to reveal another young woman (Laura Vanboom) in orange and red. She casts a petulant glance out of her den and pulls the screen quickly down again.
Sound has been used wonderfully to create atmosphere so far. All of the movements from the roof and the screen have been innovatively marked. The lighting is precise and atmospheric, yet bright enough we can see all the details of expression of our heroines.
Rollergirl recovers from the malevolent look and begins a quiet dance on her skates. Laure Dever’s subtle movement and the effect of the skates on Dever’s movement is delightfully original.
At this point the sound switches to a lyrical melody quite nice in itself but far too like the soundtrack from Amélie for my tastes. Basking too much in immediate cultural references will be an ongoing tendency in this show.
The nostalgic music suits well the first projection which is of our two heroines dressed in flapper garb rollerskating through what is supposed to look like a grand hotel.
The screens come up and Dever and Vanborm begin working with the walls of their structure. Each lean into and pivot against the wall. Upside down and sideways and fully airborne with arms on one side and legs on the other side, every contortion is tried. The language of floorwork made vertical. Floorwork while exciting for the dancers – and much loved by most modern dancers – can be very dull for the spectator. Shifting the plane of perspective is a vast improvement.
A game of hide and seek develops in the ingenious structure. Four different walls in wedge shape within which a dancer can disappear face the audience. Behind the walls a narrow corridor allows the dancers to move from one end to the other. Dever and Vanborm are very concerned with space, playing with it constantly – more than with movement.
Their choreography is very architectural. In the game of hide and seek, a James Bond/Austin Powers type theme plays. The costumes – Devers in red with orange accents and Vanborm in orange with red accents – recall the costumes of the henchman of the Bond evil geniuses or superheroes. Or even the X-men.
Are the superhero references an original reworking of important cultural memes? Or just a tired retread of movie trailers? Or dadaist eye candy?
The superhero theme continues in the next video which shows the two performers fighting one another in a flying battle in the sky. Given the limitations of their video budget, blue screen and trapeze wasn’t in the cards. Their solution to show the in-air battle of superheroes was very neat. The camera was brought high over a roadway paved in anonymous grey asphalt.
The flight of the superheroes was shown in stop motion – they moved from one pose to another every few seconds. The two superheroes wear capes which shift as if they were airborne. At the same time the footage was accelerated so the small movements of their hands animated the video. That the picture stayed colour avoided making the silent movie flutter too tired.
More questions of space and perception – without any answers we move on.
Before the end of the evening we face electronic go-go dancing, more acrobatics and chases up and down and on top of the structure. Finally the two foes unite to visually assault the audience strutting right up to the first row – martial music – think Star Wars and Ben Hur – blares.
In terms of performance Laure Dever is ahead of her partner Vanborm. Dever’s movement is precise, effortless and emotionally charged. Her presence on the stage is always captivating. Dever has that rare and precious knack for projecting her psychological state through every movement. Physically Vanborm is tiny. Her movement is not as nuanced, more caricature – even clownlike – than character.
The pair deserve praise for creating a space within which to work and using it in so many innovative ways. It is a pleasure to see video (with proper screens to watch it on!) fully integrated into the dance storyline – rather than used as a multimedia gimmick. Additional praise for keeping the video succinct. The balance between video and performance was very good.
The public for the Saturday evening performance was not large – about sixty people. Somehow the Szene Bunte Wähne Tanzfestival isn’t managing to draw huge crowds for the evening shows, even for good material. Perhaps the marketing focus is more on the afternoon performances for children and teenagers.
In LaLa#3: CocoMotel, Dever and Vanborm seem to have started with the means of expression and gotten stuck there. Visual movement candy. For their next piece, perhaps they will start with by deciding what they want to say and then seeking a means of expression.
Still LaLa#3: CocoMotel is as good or better than many of the shows on the main program at Tanzquartier. Perhaps on Dever and Vanborm’s next trip to Vienna they will be in Hall G and get the larger audience that they deserve for their intriguing work.
Victoria is a Flemish dance company based in Gent which exists to promote young artists. This is the second project Dever and Vanborm have done in co-production with Victoria (LaLa#2: Caroline & Rosie was the first) since graduating from Fontyns Dansacademie in Tilburg in 2004. Actress and director Lies Pauwels helped the two young artists with staging and performance in LaLa#3: CocoMotel.