Arnhemse Meisjes & De Nieuwe Oost – Dance Flavours Performance Night

“F**k man, do we miss the theatre”. The generic introduction to Oostpool STREAM hits the bullseye, five seconds in. Oh hell yes, how we miss it. With the 14th edition of Dance Flavours Performance Night on 2 April, curated by dance collective Arnhemse Meisjes, both house and company achieved their streaming goal: to bring the magic of the theatre into our homes.

And not just of any theatre, however much the online world might have us forget that not every venue breathes or smells the same. With the refreshingly cheeky introduction, the use of pre-recorded applause at the end (lowering the awkward sense of loneliness when the lights of the living room come back on), and a cheers with beers to close, De Nieuwe Oost and Arnhemse Meisjes brought to life the sort of theatre they represent: supporting works by young makers, rough around the edges, fuelled by bucketloads of possibility, enthusiasm and – yes – hope.

Seated in the stalls, the ‘Meisjes’ Inbal Abir and Aïda Guirro Salinas introduced the programme and each piece in it. This was the first Dance Flavours to be shown via livestream, and Guirro underscored how this made it available ‘for the whole world’ to see. The duo’s slightly nervous speaking to the camera drove home the sudden realization how dearly I have also missed this as a spectator: the thrill, the sense of excitement in the hall before and after a show in a small venue. Another good trick: despite the foyer being closed, the credits provided a telephone number to send a text message to the makers after the performance. A place to have a conversation!

In her solo Nogi v ruki i vperiod Hellen Boyko dives into her Russian heritage. A ‘baptist ritual’, divided into several scenes, each one fed by quintessentially Russian content. Words from Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, the music to Pavlova’s Dying Swan, a church bell heard at the light of a single candle – Chekhov’s Ivanov is never too far away. Boyko is a well-rounded performer, who holds her ground and our attention as she plays the doll with double-edged pathos, twirling and stomping the floor as if overtaken by physical gestures stemming from her own folklore. A recognizable identity quest: how much of this given and culturally soaked symbology is truly hers? With which quality do this movements resonate within her body? To what extent are we ourselves, and to what extent are we part of a larger community? A quest potentially tapping into larger debates around power structures within historic and cultural narratives, Boyko’s solo is part of a larger trend – in the Netherlands, think Junadry Leocaria, Sandra Kramerová or Christian Guerematchi.

Next on the menu was the short solo Out of my Mind by Fernanda Silva, made in collaboration with performer Julia Heider. A danced illustration of a point: we would do well to let go of the mazes in our mind. Accompanied by a very literal soundcloud of edited words, uttered in a near whisper by a deep and heinous male voice, Heider appears to be controlled by it as she keeps fighting her own limbs from reaching her head. Focus on your own experience! A choreographic haiku.

A Matter of Time closed the evening, a work-in-progress by contemporary circus company TeaTime Company. Speaking of heritage, contemporary circus differs from contemporary dance in that, overall, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It taps into a sense of simple playfulness, of playing characters that make you smile while acrobatic abilities are folded into movement phrases. A Matter of Time is no exception. Even though this was a rough draft, the three performers sold it throughout, to the point that when one of three juggling balls went missing towards the end I wondered if it wasn’t part of the gig. The point here being: circus folk know that putting on a clownesque mask does not exclude authenticity. If anything, it underscores a very present and touching form of vulnerability, common to every acrobatic act seeking to wander as close as possible to the breaking point of a fall.

photo: Anna Fransen

Jordi Ribot Thunnissen. Originally published: April 4, 2021. Movement Exposed