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Dimitris Papaioannou Transverse – Dance Informa Journal

Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY.
November 8, 2022.

The set of Transverse Orientation, Dimitris Papaioannou’s newest work, is straightforward: a white wall with a white door and a flickering fluorescent. Suited males with bobbling black balloons for heads enter by the door carrying ladders, fascinated like moths by the shuddering tube of sunshine. They method it magnetically, attempt clumsily to remove the glint –– the primary iteration of one of many piece’s major motifs. Their awkward sidelong gait and farcical antics delight the viewers whilst we cringe once they stroll nonchalantly beneath a ladder, maybe a lighthearted omen of what’s to return. As a result of their coats cowl their heads and the balloons float above, the dancers look large –– a jab on the grandiosity of “critical males” whose heads are actually simply crammed with air? The opening scene ends with an opposing phantasm; one dancer seems child-sized. He bangs his “head” in opposition to the wall over and over (a activity which is later repeated by one other “character”) earlier than being pulled into the darkness of no matter lies behind the set door.

Vivaldi string music is available in, convulsing as a very real looking bull is wheeled onto the stage. A person and the bull face off as intense bass-heavy droning shakes the theater. The dancers puppeteering the bull rise to the problem of manipulating it whereas making it appear to be it’s manipulating them, and potential themes spin by my thoughts. The Charging Bull of Wall Road? Man versus cash? Or maybe extra deeply, man (hiding behind cash) versus man.

The person and the bull appear to befriend one another, if solely briefly, and at peace, the bull drinks from a bucket, the position of its tongue performed by the supple hand of a dancer standing behind. Earlier than we all know it, half the solid is undressed and a nude lady is birthed from the bull’s abdomen.

She folds herself into the body of a cot, following up her tangled, orgiastic motion with a deadpan take a look at the gang that elicits audible laughter. (The bull intermittently lapping water from the bucket within the background is a genius contact.) This solo is later repeated by a male dancer in feminine costume (lastly the distinctly non-heteronormative second we’ve been ready for!), its repetition in a brand new context extra grotesque than humorous. Suited voyeurs watch from behind skinny boards, and I can’t assist however really feel just like the contorting dancer is trapped by gender, trapped by the so-called male gaze.

Might the central determine of the bull characterize poisonous masculinity? Is that this all an elaborate touch upon sexual orientation? The piece is known as Transverse Orientation in any case. This interpretation is amplified when one of many males “rips off” the soloist’s balls and throws them violently in opposition to the again wall, and crystallized when a person with a bull head “licks” up a unadorned man’s physique together with his tongue hand, and ends the scene with a bull-to-man kiss.

Maybe probably the most mesmerizing (albeit luxuriously lengthy) vignette within the piece begins when a person hears somebody (or one thing?) knocking from behind the wall. When he opens the door, somewhat than being greeted by darkness as we have now been earlier than, Styrofoam blocks barricade the doorway. The person curiously removes one piece, however then, paying homage to the overstuffed closet that everybody is afraid to open, they begin to fall or somewhat dive out on the man, the squeaking of blocks rubbing collectively augmenting the humor of the scene. Dancers fall out at intervals in the identical method because the blocks and the curiosity of the unique dancer shortly transforms into him being overwhelmed, right into a want to undo––to dam up the outlet altogether. As in, let’s not open that may of worms.

However as soon as the can is open, the worms will comply with with or with out our permission. The dancers begin constructing a brand new set, which appears to represent the human tendency to deal with pure resistance in opposition to overwhelming quantities of latest data by “organizing” that data as logically as potential. They compose a rickety construction, a wall outdoors the wall, and the vitality step by step softens from frantic to calm and strategic. It’s a imaginative and prescient of individuals actually at work, even when we/they don’t know why, and I’m wondering, are they reconstructing what was contained in the wall on the skin? (A Kantian view of artwork as a illustration of the inside workings of the thoughts.) This part offers us the time we haven’t had but to course of what got here earlier than and regardless of its size, it feels earned.

The next vignette is nearly equally memorable, and likewise shows the human psyche’s propensity for fast shifts. At first, whooping nude dancers use momentum to athletically flip a big block backward throughout the stage. The scene is youthful, as joyful as a summer time day by the lake, and the viewers can’t assist however applaud. Then a suited man enters with a small block; he performs the identical motion to quieter extra somber music and all of the sudden overwhelming pleasure mutates into defeat.

At one level within the piece, a person manages to “slay” the bull (or at the least an iteration of the bull represented by a person carrying a black bull head) whereas at a later level, a person carrying a nude bull head sits atop the wall trying down on one other man, seeming to indicate that man by no means actually killed the bull, however solely minimize by its outer layer. At occasions, man and bull appear to occupy the identical symbolic position.

In one other vignette, a darkish cloth –– “the void” –– appears to flee from the door, but it surely’s only a man. The dancers are frantic, and I’m reminded of one among my recurring existential ideas: “We’re alone right here in/with this void.” The lady emerges from the material, and because the different dancers scramble away, a (faux) child emerges from the milky glob in her palms. The dancers return carrying black dunce caps and as all of them roll offstage, the lady cheekily makes use of the child’s hand to wave goodbye on the viewers. (One in every of many moments within the piece that feels prefer it may’ve been a powerful ending.)

The piece ends with a breaking down of the stage (in true Dimitris Papaioannou style), the bull and blocks nonetheless seen on the edges of the area as if to subtly remind us of all that has transpired. The dancers dismantle the ground piece by piece, revealing shallow water beneath that displays brilliantly on the white wall and creates a religious environment that contrasts with the dancers utilitarian somewhat than clever air. It feels just like the violent and careless deconstruction of a manifesto. A person with a mop enters and we relate to the impossibility of his activity because the solar units on stage and everybody else exits.

From sudden spotlights to glowing mermen, from a maddeningly quick faucet solo to a girl turned fountain, Transverse Orientation offers audiences infinite materials to chew on. Whereas the piece doesn’t fairly attain the grand cohesion of Papaioannou’s earlier work, The Nice Tamer (ironic that this piece wasn’t on condition that title given its content material), its symbolic richness greater than makes up for its meandering trajectory.

By Charly Santagado of Dance Informa.



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