There were many moments while watching Proartedanza‘s SHORT STORIES when I could have reached out and touched the sole of a dancer crouched on the floor. Or extended my leg and joined the moving sculptures making their way diagonally upstage. The Artscape Wychwood Barns theatre was small, with bench-like seats, and V and I were in the front row. The dancers were SOCLOSE we could hear them breathing, feel their body heat, see sweat dripping onto the marley. The intimacy of this setting really set the tone for a show that explored huge ideas: community, communion, what it means to share space with other bodies and to reveal yourself in authentic, meaningful ways.
The first piece, Adam Paolozza’s three menandwomen three — inspired by this e.e. cummings poem (“six are in a room’s dark around”) and Magritte’s The Lovers — opened with six dancers not just blindfolded, but with their entire heads covered in white fabric.The fabric revealed enough of their features that we could tell when their mouths were open or if their nostrils flared as they took tiny steps forward and back, making random movements people do when they think no one’s watching — adjusting shirt straps, scratching a crotch. Then they paired up, and the choreography turned playful, sexy, the repetitive gestures becoming urgent and intense. One dancer kept getting thrown onto the floor then circling back to touch his partner. Partners switched, pairings evolved, and despite (or maybe due to) the dancers not being able to fully see each other, the movements were fluid, natural, with extra attention paid to making space for each other. What struck me most was the contrast when they took off their head coverings and eyed each other with suspicion and nonchalance. Suddenly, even when they weren’t touching, they were in each other’s way, mumbling “Sorry” and “Excuse me” without meaning it, like commuters elbowing each other at the subway station, hurtling towards the next moment without being truly present. The possibilities for communion are lost.