A brave, ambitious work that seeks to strip the East and the West of its choreographic ornamentation and, instead, present both side as a united entity, through the similarities of their respective artistic passions. And, though its attempts are noble, it is not so much the height which it misses, as it is the earthiness and groundedness that a work of this nature deserves from presentation but, most importantly, from its dancers.
In collaboration between Beijing Dance Theatre and Dance North, One Infinity was created. It bares all the striking hallmarks of its choreographer Gideon Obarzanek. This- what should be, dynamic teaming, is underpinned by an ensemble of musicians, whose sound, often outshines the physicality of the work. It’s a jangled mess of ideas where none are allowed enough space to breathe, let alone come into their own.
The single thing which it does do successfully is to bring audience into its entangled-fold; here, in this experience, the fourth wall is removed, not so much through its impressive set up- not before have we seen the cavernous Merlyn Theatre set in the round- but, through audiences themselves becoming an extension of movement, and for sheer theatrical guise, this performance is a winner. But even this – is any new ground broken? No.
The choreography delivered by dancers as they sit among each flanking side of the audience, is stilted, too short in length to ever offer something tangible; it borders on the repetitive, and, though we are at once dancers ourselves, we should not have to work hard to also engage in the visceral nature of this piece. We should, instead, float or rise just above, be taken somewhere other than the performance space. In the too-brief moments where dancers break from the audience and take to the stage, this work’s small glimmering moments of something extraordinary are extinguished too quickly.
Any dancer or maker that has engaged in this kind of performance work or creation should come away from this work affronted by it tokenistic delving into the places it so desperately reaches for. With the encroaching nature of globalization, and with cultures, now at great risk of being swallowed by another, art has more of a role to play in the preservation of difference then it does in presenting a united front. A more interesting work could have evolved if its focus had lied on the differences and combating of Eastern and Western modes of performance. But within the context of a premiere arts festival- taking into consideration access and affordability, an entitled audience may not wish so much as to engage with this work, let alone interrogate its failings.