On Monday evening I went to Riccardo Buscarini’s rehearsal. It was rather magical, actually. Riccardo has five male dancers, two from the UK, two from Taiwan, one from Beijing. The interpreter, Soraya, is not a dancer but clearly has some experience of dance, and she can’t stop herself from joining in the warm-up. I think that helps. The group (if you discount us observers) seems pretty cohesive.

The warm up is all about flow and breath and touch. Riccardo uses images of water and waves and seaweed. He builds up the exercises. First they’re standing jiggling on their own, then they unfold and swoosh about more freely. Then they try pressing hands against the floor, against their own bodies. Then they do it in pairs, then as a group. Riccardo demonstrates the tasks and the qualities – and it’s clear that he loves doing the movement himself – but he doesn’t have to do too much. The group are already familiar with these exercises, and look at ease within them.

They run through the choreography. There’s a simple framework: an opening solo, an ensemble section, a duet, a final solo. There is a unifying quality – restlessness, unfixity – across the different sections. And there is a recurring motif: hands held over eyes. This sense of searching combined with these images of blindness form a potent mix. The opening solo is all about looking, looking everywhere and anywhere. The group section starts with leaning, reaching out and changes to blocking, impeding. The duet – the blind leading the blind – surges with emotive undercurrents. The final solo turns the search/struggle dynamic inwards, within a single body. And it ends with a vision – of sight.

That makes it sound very dramatic; it’s not. It’s all pretty understated. I like it, a lot.

I think back to Vera Tussing’s rehearsal, and ponder the differences. Unlike Vera’s group, the dancers here are all men – but still, they all have different training and personalities. Why does Riccardo’s rehearsal seems to flow more? It’s partly the subject, sure: the idea of “flow” is fundamental to the choreography. But I think it’s more than that. Vera was building up a choreographic picture with material generated from the dancers. When I saw her rehearsal, I got the sense of a jigsaw puzzle: I could see the parts but I couldn’t yet see the picture. I think Riccardo’s process was easier, simpler. He had already storyboarded his choreographic ideas, and came with some quite simple, open-ended instructions – twist like seaweed, keep shifting the gaze around, reach out but keep in touch – that he adapted for the different sections. In other words, he put forward a picture first, and the dancers flowed into it. It’s almost the opposite from Vera: one process builds up a picture, the other fills it in.

Such, at least, was my impression.

[Riccardo, Vera: please comment and correct me if this is plain wrong or a grossly oversimplified formulation!]

Going with the flow

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