Janis Claxton Dance: POP-UP (fragments of love)

Both love and dance can pop up unexpectedly from different places at various times. Sometimes just a look, or perhaps a piece of music, can bring them out into the open, either separately or together. Both can be infectious. It’s not uncommon, when we see a couple kissing, to feel the same desire. It’s the same with dance – when one body moves freely, allowing itself to express its feelings freely, sometimes we start to move unconsciously. Or we can decline to take up the offer we learn to subjugate the desire. Unfortunately, we are more often than not restricted by the things that we’ve planned to do in our busy lives – to work, to wait, to drink, to…  and we close down our perceptions and inclinations.

POP-UP Duets (fragments of love) is a site-specific dance performance in a museum, choreographed by the award-winning Janis Claxton, with  music by renowned composer Pippa Murphy. The team includes four world-class dancers: James Southward, Christina Liddell, Carlos J Martinez and Crystal Zillwood. The performance is inspired by the theme of love, and the possibilities of love, expressed in many different forms of composition – men dancing with men, women with women, and men with women. The dancers start from within the audience, suggesting that love can appear from anywhere, independent of the situation and the place. The choreography is strong and beautiful, precisely drawing the bodies in the space. The bodies slide across each other; the movements flow fluidly. There is a lightness to them; they almost take flight.  The body in love, we seem to be told, is light and adaptable,. There is no leader, no hierarchy – it is a dialogue. Gender roles are subverted – love gives them power: a woman can lift a man and vice-versa; they give support to the other. Bodies love each other just because it happens: it can be only for an instant or for a whole life. But even if just for an instant, the presence of love can be potent while it happens; whilst their bodies meet.

The sound design completes the show: speakers appear here and there, moved from place to place (it’s as if they have legs and arrive at each location in the museum of their own accord). They play a crucial role in moving the audience from room to room – people are attracted by the sound, which is the invitation to move on. The museum itself is a beautiful space, and there are moments in which the choreography and the space are in perfect harmony – for example, when they use columns or fountains to work with or around.

As a site-specific experience, it feels that the space itself isn’t the principle inspiration, for the most part – this feels like a piece that could work in many different public spaces. But the piece seemed to have a positive and infectious influence on the people around it: during the show we could see couples cuddling together; and children dancing around the room, using their bodies freely to express themselves.

In the performance theme and in the choreography itself – so fluid, connected, adaptable, and liquid – the work reminds me of the philosophical writings of Baumann. But perhaps that is another story…

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Marilia Ennes

About Marilia Ennes

Marília Ennes is founder/co-director of ParaladosanjoS (Brazil) and a PhD researcher at Unicamp (University of Campinas, São Paulo). Her work embraces visual and physical theatre, and much of her creation flirts with hybrid fields of art. Currently, she is involved with walking as an aesthetic practice. She has recently been appointed as Professor at the Department of Corporeal Art at UFRJ (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro). www.paraladosanjos.com @paraladosanjos