In the synopsis to the new production, the creative team refers to Johannes Kepler’s essay OnSix-Cornered Snowflake which the astronomer wrote as a New Year’s gift to his benefactor and subtitled it “a catchy reading about nothing”. Like a snowflake, dance is ephemeral. In a second it appears and vanishes. The artists seem to be battling this fact and the conventional expectations. The piece is thus full of interesting paradoxes. The evanescent traces of dancers’ moves are uncompromisingly and permanently imprinted into the cardboard covering the whole stage and the backdrop. Nothing Sad also deals with touch and fear of touch. At one moment, the dancers are holding hands tightly and are moving as one mass, and suddenly they arm themselves (against each other) with knee, elbow, leg and shoulder protectors. You expect a fight, but they repel like magnets and with every, even barely noticeable, touch they scream: “Ouch!”. The dancers do everything to prevent each other from passing untouched through the mass of their own bodies. When someone does so anyway, the others praise him with gestures and bows of admiration.Nothing Sad is described as a dance game. A game based on diverse and fast-changing movement vocabulary, drawing bits of inspiration from various dance styles, including street dance. The dancers perfectly control their bodies in all the intricate moves. They vary the energy they invest into their actions. The movement often emerges and vanishes without an obvious cause - as if the performers were driven by some invisible, sudden, impulse. Its character is most recognizable in combination with recorded spoken-word passages when the dancers try to boost their own combativeness, confidence and to tease each other. Otherwise they appear to be detached, expressionless and enclosed into their own worlds. Maybe that is why the energy seems to be circulating just around them rather than reaching the audience. The spectators are not drawn into until the very end of the show, when the performers are “piercing” them with their gaze, swaying like in a nightclub.
Having in mind the motif of snowflakes, it is possible to say that the piece resembles - for the abundance of ideas - a snowstorm. However, its qualities are not balanced. It seems that the strongest moments are those of the dancers cooperating intensely, with or without physical contact. The main ace up their sleeve is disclosed right in the opening scene and it comes in the form of long counter-balancing of three dancers. They look serene, concentrated and slowed-down as they are holding their forearms and rocking with their feet anchored in the shared central point. When one them comes down, the other two come up. This leitmotif is anticipated even before the performance by high-angle shots of the same formation of dancers, but of much smaller scale, projected on the floor by the entrance of the theatre. But then comes a twist and the interpreters throw themselves into incoherent pile of sketches that blend in their flatness and that could be twice as short, making the same effect. The final part is utterly unclear – the performers leave the stage as if they have had enough…
Nothing Sad wants to speak about ephemerality. It seems, though, that the production itself is ephemeral. Everything but the opening scene can be easily forgotten and one must wonder if this is really what the authors intended. The piece resembles a work in progress that needs some necessary cuts and precisions to meet VerTeDance standards that audiences are used to. Let’s hope this will happen.
Written from the performance taking place on 11 October 2017, Studio Alta. Nothing Sad Direction: Petra Tejnorová Concept, dance, choreography: Tereza Ondrová, Nathan Jardin, Matthew Rogers Dramaturgy: Maja Hriešik Music: Stanislav Abrahám Scenography: Adriana Černá Lighting design: Katarína Ďuricová Video-technical support: Dominik Žižka
Premiere: 11 October 2017, Studio Alta
Translation: Tereza Cigánková