Empty Moves (parts I, II, & III) shows the fundamental and enduring qualities of our existence.

Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne

Photo by Jean-Claude Carbonne

The Dance Centre, Vancouver – September 25, 2014

Choreography – Angelin Preljocaj

Four dancers dressed in bold colours drew intricate compositions with their bodies.  The piece’s complexity is disguised by unembellished moves that are executed with effortless fluidity.  Prone positions curled into fetal positions that unraveled by a sweep of another dancer’s leg, while limbs at right-angles interlocked like puzzles; they tested our expectations and offered understated surprises.  Any momentary snapshot looked like a Kandinsky abstract composition, whose simple lines and shapes were a deep study into specific emotional states.  But, unlike static paintings, Empty Moves (parts I, II, & III)  adds the dimension of time and through seamless transitions, a series of poses is transformed into dance.

Angelin Preljocaj’s choreography sets out a steady rhythm that at times, leads the dancers to curiosity, like tickling their partner’s nipples, or to the absurd, like diving into the ground and mimicking swimmers, but then promptly returns to its blueprint.  The dancers’ solidarity to this rhythm is reinforced against the soundtrack of John Cage’s performance of Empty Words and his boisterous audience heckling him, recorded live in Milan in 1977.  In that performance, Cage produces atonal sounds through a reading of the Journals of author Henry David Thoreau.  Cage’s audience threw insults at him and even climbed onto the stage to shout into his microphone to make him stop, but he continued unaffected until the end of the performance.  As the soundtrack’s audience jeered Cage, a few people from our own audience walked out of the theater – quietly, and much more politely than the Milan audience – and spontaneously, life imitated art in a moment that drew comparisons between the dancers and Cage.  Like Cage, the dancers persevered unaffected by any distraction, which showed a resolve that would have diminished if Preljocaj’s choreography asked them to react.  The choreography doesn’t even pause for the dancers to get water.  Twice in the 105 minute performance, dancers folded and unfolded through their moves while traveling to stage left where they took turns sipping from a bottle of water while continuing to dance.

Empty Moves (parts I, II, & III) strips the body of narrative and pretentions.  It’s a rare perspective of ourselves that allows us to take pleasure in moments as ephemeral as a heartbeat and as enduring as our own beating hearts.