With written warnings that this performance contains loud music - and they’re not joking - monumental, from Vancouver dance company Holy Body Tattoo and Montreal-based, post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, is set to polarise audiences.
With each audience member’s bag being searched on the way in and any opened plastic bottles being confiscated at the door, it is not surprising that the performance is nearly twenty minutes late getting started. Meanwhile, as the seats fill up, there is a persistent and uncomfortable drone (presumably from the band) that fills the air and makes the wait seem interminable.
When the curtain finally rises, nine dancers are posed, motionless, on individual pedestals, their bodies twisted into restless, awkward shapes.
As the band thrash out increasingly loud and mostly discordant sounds, the dancers, one by one, begin to echo the noise with thrusting spasms, vigorous gestures and abandoned movements of pain and ecstasy. These terrific dancers proceed to push themselves, in their own little space, to the limit of their endurance, while the music builds until it is so loud you can feel it. And then, at the point when you know that none of us can take any more, it all stops – suddenly and completely.
There are episodes during which the band is silent, the dancers filling the void by stomping out rhythms and shouting. At times the shouts call the dancers to move together, sergeant-major style, at other times they shout aggressively at each other and interact through attacking, violent gestures. There is nothing harmonious about any of this, even when the movements are rigorously synchronised. The relentless theme is one of disconnection, of sensation and selfish instincts.
The band appear in semi-darkness, raised behind the dancers and intermittently obscured by a gauze on which is projected time-lapse videos of highways and wind farms, or textual aphorisms from conceptual artist Jenny Holzer. The lighting changes starkly at intervals, throwing out a dramatic and startling twist of perspective and mood.
It is compelling but persistently challenging, which perhaps accounts for the number of walk-outs from the audience as well as the near-unanimous standing ovation from those left at the end. ‘Astonishingly astounding’ or ‘astonishingly pretentious’ – you decide.
8 & 9 Aug, 8pm, £10 - £32