Dispatches: Springdance, Utrecht, NL, The Making of Doubt (work in progress)

One might forgive audiences for initially interpreting Colette Sadler's The Making of Doubt as a meditation on high school detention. As we entered the theatre we were greeted with six figures, clad in hoodies, jeans and runners, lounging in various positions of dejected boredom, all facing upstage. As the piece begins we realize that only four of the six figures are in fact alive--the other two being dummies clothed in the same costumes as the dancers.

As the dancers slowly come to life, they manipulate each other's bodies as if they were dolls, moving from chairs to the floor, climbing into giant heaps, and bending their limbs at strange angles. Sadler has specified in the program that the piece is a work in progress, and through the performance she is sitting in the front row of the audience, occasionally yelling out commands to the dancers. It's a bit confusing here that the dancers don't seem to be reacting to what she's saying. If the intention is for us to see them reacting, they'll need to come up with slightly more concrete ways of doing it, as it currently seems like they're just ignoring her.

As the piece progresses, the line between live dancer and dummy starts to blur. The dancers strip the dummies of their costumes, revealing flesh-toned cloth beneath, and then proceed to strip out of their own costumes, revealing body suits of the same fabric. Donning different clothes, they then sprout extra and inappropriate limbs; feet become hands, a third leg or arm appears.

The piece is chock full of these moments, which toy with our sense of the body, with engaging and frequently hilarious results. I would have never thought I'd be engaged watching someone dance with a piece of cardboard for ten minutes, but Sadler pulls it off, as she reels us deeper and deeper into this strange world of twisted bodies and logic. As fast as she makes the rules, she breaks them, leaving us constantly wondering what will be next.

One of Sadler's objectives with the piece, was to question the notion of "human" itself, and whether that can be extended to objects which take on a human form. She's definitely succeeded on that level; By the end of the piece, we start to loose track of which objects on stage are the actual humans and which are the copies. By pairing quasi-human forms with the real thing, Sadler succeeds in questioning not just the possibilities that a choreographer can explore, but the medium of the human body itself as a site for art making.

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