Within This Dust, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Smallpetitklein dance conpany
Thomas Small (artistic director), Emma Jane Beatt (executive producer), Yolanda Aguilar (learning & development manager), Allan McIntyre (assistant producer), Linzi McLagan (learning & development officer), Sarah Oakley (learning & development artist)
Embers: Marta Maseiro (dancer), Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds (music); Absence of Options: Marta Maseiro (dancer), Thomas Small (sound design); S/HS: Marta Maseiro and Tom Pritchard (dancers), Gorecki (music); Animation (Graeme Hawkins aka Retchy), Johann Johannsson (music); Falling Man: Tom Pritchard (dancer), Max Richter (music), Text based on an article by Tom Junod.
Running time

It is now more than ten years since the two hijacked planes were deliberately flown into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, early in the morning of September 11th. More than three thousand people were killed that day.

Photographer Richard Drew had rushed to the site, where he captured the dramatic images of people jumping out of the towers after the attacks. ‘Within This Dust’ comprises five dance and animation pieces that were inspired by this series of photographs.

In the Traverse Bar, a notice board had been set up depicting various accounts and perspectives of what is now known simply as ‘9/11’. There is a transcript of a phone message left by one victim, saying a final goodbye with love to his wife. An eye-witness describes watching, with incomprehension, from his apartment window as people held each other, leaned forward and fell out of the building.

The wife of another victim recounts, ‘I knew that Terry would have been on one of the highest floors… When the building came down, I grabbed the dust on the ground and I thought, he’s in this dust.’

This was the starting point for tonight’s performance. In the first piece, ‘Embers’, a figure stands, black and white and motionless in a dim spotlight, cradling armfuls of artfully-folded white paper. More are piled into a mound at her feet. During this 15 minute dance, she rolls around in the paper - the ‘dust’ - rubbing it over her body, merging with it, burying herself underneath it, before carefully smoothing out ten sheets, laying them lovingly on the floor and lying gently on top of them, motionless once more.

The second piece is a five minute interlude entitled, ‘Absence of Options’ during which three stage-hands, armed with brushes, clear the paper from around the woman who is still lying motionless on the ground. A newsreel describing the events of 9/11 plays continuously on a loop.

In ‘S/HE’, dancer Marta Masiero is joined by Tom Pritchard for 15 minutes of spinning, embracing, falling and soaring before small white particles fall from the ceiling and the lights fade to blackout.

Act Two opens with a ten minute animation by Graeme Hawkins of black and grey vertical stripes across which white shapes float as if carried by the breeze. This is especially reminiscent of Drew’s photographs and the floating objects increase in number and movement as the music in the background builds dramatically to its climax.

The final piece is a dance with storytelling, again performed by Tom Pritchard. This directly addresses the images of the ‘jumpers’ and the denial that still exists concerning these ‘suicides’. People ‘fell’ from the towers for one and a half hours, silently, as the people watching on the ground screamed. They looked relaxed, comfortable – they could have been flying… if they weren’t falling. These photographs are images of freedom, of people literally taking their own life into their own hands and choosing to jump. They are beautiful and traumatic in equal measure.

This subject matter is emotive and the performance was intense. Tension and a deep sense of tragedy was emphasised by everything being presented in monochrome, starkly and dimly lit. This was an ambitious piece and, while brilliant in parts, it was uncomfortable, even painful, to sustain the level of engagement necessary throughout with no respite, no light relief. Whilst clearly appropriate to the subject matter, one would not necessarily describe the experience as ‘entertaining’.