BWW Review: (B) at Baxter Theatre Centre An Intriguing Insight Into the Concept of Dance
The second offering of the Flemish Dance Season at the Baxter Theatre was a contemporary performance blurring the lines of boxing and dance; but leaving no confusion to the level of skill presented on stage.
Conceptualized and choreographed by Koen Augustijnen and Rosalba Torres Guerrero/Siamese Cie, (B) combines three boxers with seven dancers in a boxing dance ring (or a dancing boxing ring) to blur the lines between what is traditionally seen as a sport, and what we think classifies as "dance". With performers dressed in sporting attire ready for a fight, they interact and glide past each expertly while creating a performance that leaves one challenged and transfixed.
(B) opens with a solo boxer in a tuxedo, and what follows is a choreographed jump rope number with all members on stage. This is the first taste of a group number, and I found that these were the strongest out of the 76 minute performance. Solo and even duet dance pieces were good and memorable in their own right, but they simply did not have the same impact as the larger choreographed pieces. Solos and duos also sometimes had rhythmic punching bag boxing happening in the background; making for a busy stage and leaving one not knowing where to look.
With that being said, particularly powerful was when duos or triads in sport-cum-dance movements went on their own tangent surrounded by other duos or triads - essentially creating an Olympic montage-esque snippet on stage. There were brilliant moments of synchronization in these and there was also a clear chemistry between certain performers.
Solo pieces do well to show off each boxer and dancer's unique talent. Each performer was given their moment in the limelight and there were definite standouts on the evening. Arturo Franc Vargas and Sophia Rodriguez were exceptionally confident and versatile performers. Like a tiny package of cheeky dynamite, Giulia Piana in her definitive red outfit also had an incredible ease to her movements.
The set is that of a boxing ring with four punching bags per side and a changing room/warm-up area sandwiching it all together. The result is the feeling that one has stepped into a training space which is both intimate and intrusive. The most striking element of the staging was that of the visual projection - a combination of black and white scenes and superimpositions that sometimes added to pieces but also could detract from their affect. The way music and sounds were used throughout the performance was unique as well as captivating, and Sam Serruys can be commended for that.
The overriding premise of (B) is "when does boxing became dancing, and vice versa?". As curious and novel as this concept is, there were sometimes moments in this show where the dance-theatrics ran away with themselves. The line between sport as an expression and dance as an art form merged nicely, but it didn't create a cohesive production. Numbers staggered in styles and approaches and the overall feeling at times was that of slightly disjointed. Looking back to (B) as a whole, however, it can be said that it did succeed in putting forward the notion of physical activity morphing into art in a unique and stylistic way.
This year's Flemish Dance Season can be commended for presenting contemporary pieces of art that not only breaks the mold of but also refuses to acknowledge the existence of "traditional". The eclectic (B) is the perfect example of this. Refreshing in every way, the pieces presented of 2019's season will not be easily forgotten.
Photo credit: Danny Willems