The Love Piece is one of the more unique pieces in the 2009 ImPulsTanz festival: it is entirely experiential and completely different every time it is played and for every participant.
The creators and cast of The Love Piece provide an environment and a context and the rest is up to you.
The experience for the most part is positive, but as I wrote the quality of your experience depends mainly on you and what you bring to that evening.
Here’s what the program says about the piece. This much is public knowledge:
The Love Piece unfolds along a loose score that can described as: there as many audience members as performers. As they come in, audience members are each taken by the ahand by a performer, who for the duration of the show ‘give love’ to his/her audience. What such a love can be, is the stake of the piece. Love songs are playing the whole time.
There are just 10 performers – so very few people had the opportunity to experience The Love Piece. I was one of that fortunate 100 and will reveal the details to you about my own visit.
*** SPOILERS FOLLOW – PLEASE DO not read farther ***
*** if you expect to attend The Love piece personally ***
When you arrive you are greeted at the door by one of the ten performers. The performers each pick an audience member and lead him or her to two chairs facing one another as you see below.
Once there you sit and the love songs begin.
The one love song which I remember is Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s Moi je t’aime non plus. There is some soul and disco as well. All the songs are highly suggestive and romantic.
In my case, I was fortunate to be chosen by the pretty Nina Sakic. Why lucky? Apparently there are no gender boundaries. I could have been chosen by the handsome and flamboyant Zvonimir for instance or a jolly but portly chap Pravdan. While I later learned that Zvonimir is a delightful chap, I am set enough in my ways that a half hour listening to love songs in close contact with Zvonimir is not an experience for which I would necessarily want to give up half an hour of life and pay 12 euros.
Otherwise I could have been chosen by a Vienna dancer whom I know. I think working with someone you already know in real life is discouraged. This makes sense. The excitement is in the 30 minutes and the unknown. It would be very different to work with somebody you already know.
Nina and I got off to a good start with her staring deep in my eyes. I had had a coffee to remain in high alert for Rosas dans Rosas so my mind was racing as I sat with Nina. I wanted something to happen so I sat farther, I sat closer, I smiled, I crossed my legs, I uncrossed them in something like seven minutes.
At that point I whispered to her "Is this supposed to be a silent movie?"
"No it’s whatever you want it to be."
And we were off to the races. There was no longer a question of trying to seduce her with my eyes or wait to see if she took my hand. We could talk. We talked about love, we talked about meaning, we talked about music. Mostly we talked about the rules of The Love Piece.
Apparently there aren’t many. You can do whatever you want but it ends after half an hour.
In my misspent youth in Canada, I’d been dragged into enough strip clubs to know how quickly the songs go by and how quickly the dancers depart (actually they often have special shortened mixes in these clubs to get another two or three songs in per hour, but I digress).
Still when Nina leaned over to me in mid-sentence, briefly squeezing my hand hard, saying quietly and close to my ear "Don’t you think we might have spent our time better?", before disappearing, I was quite shocked. She was gone, the others were gone, just the audience was left.
There was no one to talk to about what just happened. Most everyone had left. Fortunately there was a tall dancer from Poland in a green dress who also wanted to talk about what she had experienced. We compared notes. She hadn’t spoken much with her partner but had played games with one another’s hands.
I had seen others show shadow puppets with their hands and rocked their heads. The reaction was all completely different. Apparently my experience had been the most cerebral and most verbal.
Which is what I had brought to the experience: the language of love, something which has fascinated me since my first introduction to it at thirteen or fourteen. I couldn’t imagine spending a half an hour just looking at an object of love. Love is meant to be made. Words were a wonderful way to distract oneself from potential excesses.
Later I had the chance to speak to the dancers about what can and what had happened.
Zvonimir assured me that he had ended up on the floor with a female audience member on at least one occasion. Others had experienced all kinds of strange caresses. Are their boundaries? Yes, if the performer is not comfortable s/he can take the partner’s hands away and establish eye contact only.
Sometimes the experience goes south: mainly when there is little contact, rather than too much. But usually it works out well. Every experience is different and unique. Nina feels she learns something about herself every time she performs The Love Piece.
Nina also insists that The Love Piece is all about platonic love and the idea of love and not about physical love. But that’s seems disingenous: to recap the music was quiet soul love songs and Serge Gainsbourg with dim lighting.
Perhap that’s Nina’s idea of platonic love. Certainly not mine.
Regardless, The Love Piece is a engaging surprise. If you haven’t read this article – and if you had the chance to see it yourself, you shouldn’t have: I did put in a spoiler notice – you should try it out for yourself and be surprised. Even if you have read this article, you don’t know who will pick you or how you will react. Try it and see what happens.
What I like about The Love Piece is its experiential nature. I think more and more entertainment will go in this direction. David Fincher’s The Game is about experiential entertainment taken to an extreme. There is little left for the wealthy to do than have experiences. And many of them are willing to pay for them. With the impoverishment of the dance world and the capitalistic excesses at the top of the income scale, we are moving more and more into the decadence of the Ancien Regime where dancers and performers were to be experienced first hand.
The Love Piece seems a first tentative step in that direction.