Danceimpressions

The secrets of communication


(Review of Charles Linehanís "The Secret" at The Place Theatre, February 27th, 1999. Composition essay from my first year at London Contemporary Dance School.)

Every dance, each performance, gives the audience a massive array of signs to interpret. To cope with all these signs, the watcher needs to sort them, select some to support his/hers interpretation of the piece, and ignore others.

This may suggest that we see only what we want to see. However, in some dances, you may feel that the signs virtually sort themselves, that each sign points to the next one. For me, this was the case with "The Secret", and I will try to map the pathway of my interpretation throughout the dance.

The name is the first thing one notices about a dance, and "The Secret" suggests that somebody knows something we do not know.

The score contained sounds of animals and birds, surely secretive to a human, especially city residents. They brought the notion of a communication we could not interpret, as little as we could make sense of the intelligence radio transmits that were the score of "Number Stations", another choreography presented in the same program. But although these scores shared this idea of secret communication, their effect was very different. The "Number Stations" score echoed cold war, and technical effects used as a weapon, to confuse an enemy, while the animal sounds of "The Secret" gave the piece an air of nature, of the peace and tranquillity of an evening in the forest.

This seemed to be mirrored in the choreography. Most of the dance was calm, and the movements looked natural, as many of them were everyday gestures. An example is the point when all dancers hold hands and walk in a long line.

The "everydayness" of the movements was clearly emphasised by the way the dancers used the head. The choreography is carefully filled with tiny head gestures, when the dancers look at each other, giving quick glances, possibly saying "did you see that?" or "what do you think?". The dancers keep the intentions of these glances pure and natural, which is very hard to do on stage.

In the beginning, the dancers have solos together, but they soon get together in series of duos. We remember the animal sounds, and wonder if these duos are the choreographic equivalent of those communications, whether these couples correspond in a way others can not understand. But the choreography is not strikingly different from pair to pair, they share the same natural, fluid movement quality.

The costumes of the male and female dancers are similar, thus suggesting that the relationship the dance indicates does not depend on sex.

At one point, the lightning design takes the role of the animal sounds in setting the natural atmosphere, and a big, half-shadowy circle appears, like below a tree. The dancers sometimes close their hand like around something, and brings this to someone else. It's like the communication taking place on the stage somehow allows t