any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones – Abbey Theatre – Review

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones – Abbey Theatre – Review

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones – Jan Martens / GRIP & Dance On Ensemble
Presented by Dublin Dance Festival and the Abbey Theatre

Irish Premiere from Belgium / Germany

The title of this work, “Any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones”, comes from a statement made by Chinese President Xi Jinping. This gives the viewer an idea of what the choreographer is trying to achieve in this work.  The production is by Flemish choreographer Jan Martens and explores protest in a variety of forms. The piece is performed by 17 dancers, who are a diverse, multi-ethnic group aged 17 to 70. For the choreographer, it is “An ode to civil disobedience”.

The dance is performed to three very different pieces of music. The first and main piece is Harpsichord Concerto Op. 40 by Henryk Mikolaj Górecki. It’s an intense and troubling piece of music that repeats the same refrains a number of times. The second is a more straight forward song performed by Kae Tempest called People’s faces. The third and final piece is by Maxwell Roach, called Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace”. Although all three are quite different, they are all protest songs, in one form or another.

“There is too much pretence here
And too much depends on the fragile wages
And extortionate rents here”
–  People’s Faces by Kae Tempest

The floor of the theatre is marked out in a grid, with a number of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. These lines are used by the dancers during the production to ensure they are placed correctly in this complex work. The piece starts with a solo dancer emerging onto the stage. His movements are wild and vigorous, and reflect the rapid sounds of the Harpsichord Concerto. He is then quickly replaced by another dancer, and then in turn by another. These rapid changes form the initial part of the production, before the stage starts to fill with the multitude of performers on display.

There are also sections of spoken text and text projected onto the back wall of the theatre. This is often hate speech taken from on line forums and twitter. This leaves the viewer in no doubt that the need for protest continues in our time. While in one sense, we have progressed, in another we have achieved very little as we see the words of internet trolls on message boards along with Donald Trump’s speeches.

In the after show talk, the choreographer said that the repetition of the sequences was important to him but at times this did feel laboured. There was enough strength in the images on stage without the need to force these ideas home. The strongest section was also the simplest, as the dancers walked on staged without music in a number of different directions. There steps were regimented and controlled, sometimes criss-crossing each others paths, but always flawlessly in time. This section, while at odds with the spontaneity and recklessness previously on display, was dazzling for its control and precision.

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