Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion
'Both Sitting Duet’
by Ramsay Burt
October 2003 -- The Place: Robin Howard Dance Theatre, London
Two chairs, angled
slightly towards one another. Two identical but well thumbed notebooks
open in front of them on the floor. Burrows and Fargion enter from the
door at the back. They're wearing jeans, solid boots, Burrows has a dull
coloured, round necked, short sleeved t-shirt, Fargion a blue, broad checked
short with the sleeves rolled up -- i.e. they're casually dressed, dressed
down, and definitely don't look like they're about to dance a conventional
Or the torso folds forward so that the head bobs between the knees and then returns to vertical. Or their heads turn left, right forward in 90 and 180 degree turns. Mostly simple movements performed with quiet sensitivity and clarity and used repetitively. The patterns of repetitions and the relationship that develops between the two performers is increasingly fascinating.
nevertheless is far from repetitive but develops in its own rather surprising
way. Later they both sing in fast high pitch bursts that sound like 'ee..oo..ee..oo..'.
They count their fingers touching a fingertip with the flat palm of the
other hand. They stand up and robustly stamp. Burrows places his chair
behind Fargion's and each stretches out their arms like airplane wings:
when Burrows's slope up, Fargion's slope down and vice versa making a
cross. And as usual with Burrows's work there is an 'unexpected', abrupt
ending -- no build up, no gradual cadence: one second it seems to be movement
as usual and before you realise it the lights have quickly faded and we're
clapping. (I don't think there were any other changes in the lighting
throughout the piece).
In an interview with
Donald Hutera, Burrows and Fargion explained that they had taken a piece
of music and created their choreography note for note. They wouldn't say
what the piece was. It was in fact a piece for violin and piano by a composer
within John Cage's circle, and while these composers mostly used innovative,
unconventional methods of musical notation, in this case, because it was
a late work, it was scored entirely conventionally.
To suggest that the way Burrows and Fargion are doing this is 'old-fashioned' is surely disingenuous. Nothing in the world of performance survives unless it is performed again, but each performance of it is nevertheless unique and has the potential to create innovation. The way that Burrows and Fargion have approached the relationship between movement and music in “Sitting Duet” is new and fresh. It articulates an intriguing relationship between what I have suggested is noise and information. The performers' informal, unseductive, uncharismatic presence directs attention away from the dancer towards the movement itself and the affective qualities that their movements generate.
As such it has a lot in common with the current so-called conceptual dance in continental Europe. It is also a conceptual piece in so far as the original music is essentially absent and only present through its translation into another idiom. In its own, quiet, reticent manner, "Sitting Duet" does far more than reproduce an old-fashioned idea about the relationship between dance and music; it changes the way we think about it.
Edited by Jeff.
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