Wednesday, June 01, 2005

REVIEW: Just for Show, O'Reilly Theatre

It has taken the British dance company DV8 nearly twenty years to make their first appearance in Ireland, but we’re hardly going to hold that against them are we?

The company was founded in London in 1986, and over the intervening years has become one of the most important experimental performance groups at work, mentioned in the same breath with Germany’s legendary, Pina Bausch.

As if to make up for all that lost time, DV8’s latest show, Just For Show, will receive its European premier in Ireland, at Dublin’s O’Reilly Theatre. The show opened last month in Taiwan, and later this month moves to England.

So what is it that this much celebrated and occasionally derided company do? And, perhaps slightly more pressingly: what is it all about? Australian-born Lloyd Newson, who founded the company, may be in charge of one of the avant garde's most cherished troupes, but he is certainly not disconnected from the sort of questions that occur every night to audiences. “For a lot of people who go and see dance it is not about anything,” he once told a British newspaper. “DV8 is about something...” What?

The magic in a DV8 show, like the magic in a Pina Bausch show is that although it is created by a choreographer and often performed by dancers, it doesn't require a dance critic to explain what is happening. Dance at this level can have an ability to communicate with any audience that theatre can only wish for. Sidestepping language, this kind of performance can talk about what it is like to own a body, by putting own stage some people who own bodies.

A recent DV8 show took place at the Tate Modern, for which the audience was lead all over the massive gallery, pausing to get an eyeful of dance and circus performances, alongside video and sound installations. A previous show required an X-certificate in Britain, as it involved the projection of pornographic movies onto the performers' bodies as they danced.

Newson struggles against what he has described as the “fascism” of the dance world, the idea that there is nothing a dancer over 35 could possibly do on stage to interest anyone. Until relatively recently, DV8 had a 78-year old dancer, and have also worked with disabled dancers, including one who dances despite having no legs.

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