cieLaroque/helene weinzierl: THINK FISH part I ¦ Photo: Graeme Braidwood

cieLaroque/helene weinzierl: THINK FISH part I

cieLaroque/helene weinzierl: THINK FISH part I ¦ Photo: Graeme Braidwood

THINK FISH by the Austrian company cieLaroque/helene weinzierl was the final performance of what had been a tense Friday evening at the BE Festival, and so its light energy and easygoing comic style was well received.

CieLaroque/helene weinzierl are described in the programme as Austria’s most prolific dance touring ensemble, demonstrating BE Festival’s success in importing exciting European talent to Birmingham. Helen Weinzierl, a tall blue-eyed woman in smart shirt and trousers presented a welcome, gentle face. She playfully led us through a choreographic sequence that culminated in us, the whole audience, following instructions to turn our heads to the side, close our eyes and imagine we were a fish.

The performance critiqued (mis)communication, and particularly communication through contemporary dance, becoming hilariously self-referential, critiquing and brilliantly undermining itself, as the two performers whipped their way through a sequence of obscure, agile movements. The second performer, a man sporting tie, shirt and sleeveless jumper, acted as a sort of silent clown and devil’s advocate in the piece, never doing what he was told and eventually exposing his bottom to the crowd. Weinzierl, mortified, tries to soldier on, but the piece increasingly breaks down as it demonstrates the absurdity of power structures and the innate limitations of our attempts to communicate transparently through movement or other means.

For me, the show’s highlight was the unexpected appearance of a fish from Helen’s mouth, provoking much post-show debate about whether or not it was real. The BE Festival audience really seemed to appreciate this performance of heavy duty, self referential, contemporary and comic dance: it felt very muchfor us, which I think was down to the attentive and charming presence of Weinzierl as host.