Performing Arts: Dance
October 15, 2021
Many may be operating as though the pandemic is over, but choreographers are continuing to get great mileage out of themes of isolation. Dancing spouses Mats Ek and Ana Laguna contributed their own variation on the theme with a semi-reciprocal dance film project, swapping roles of dancer and videographer of two new Ek solos that amplify the movements of domesticity.

Medans (“Whilst”) finds Ek seated on a wooden chair in an empty kitchen. Using Liszt, Ek relies on deliberate, though atmospheric musical phrasing to guide his transformation of quotidian gesture into formalized physical patterning. His hand wipes up and down his lap until Ek’s limbs, like vines, tangle about the lattice of the chair. His 76-year-old body is enviably articulate, fluid, and in control of every moment, even as his character descends into a schizophrenic aimlessness.

Pedestrian non-sequiturs such as holding the chair as jail bars, briefly flashing his belly button, or trying out his coat inside-out and right-side-in speak to idiosyncratic quarantine coping mechanisms. Largely naturalistic filming, editing magic swoops in when Ek falls backward in his chair, only to be rewound into a second chance.

Laguna depicts a more concretely relatable scenario, however blown up to cartoonish proportions in Mitt Brev (“My Letter”). To Bach’s first Cello Suite, Laguna goes through what we more often experience these days via email. She fears opening a letter, her avoidance channeled into subtly manipulating the paper into the physicality of a yapping chihuahua. She Shakespearianly wields a steak knife to carve open the envelope, only to drop it, tip down, into the floorboards.

A similar sort of editing allows Laguna to stab and eat the blank page inside, only to regurgitate it, unmarred and filled in with a message that wasn’t so bad after all. Ek ends staring blankly out his window; Laguna, relieved and able to laugh at herself.

As an explicitly pandemic piece, the project is hard to get behind. We can’t all empathize with a pair of renowned dance artists who had a peaceful and productive refuge during lockdown, but we can certainly applaud their ingenuity.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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