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invisible dances A Show That Will Never Be Shown
Here, As If They Hadn't Been, As If They Are Not

Bock & Vincenzi, Bonnie Bird Theatre, Laban, Deptford 31 May 2006
Composer: Luke Stoneham

Before the doors opened (rather late) we commented that the convivial buzz of expectation from the crowd of young people in the Laban Foyer made it one of the most attractive venues in London in which to assemble before a show and during the intervals (if any - sadly none on this occasion!).


This was the prelude to the most pretentious show, and by far the worst evening at Laban, we've ever endured - and we hope it will remain so. Our experience was of one and a half hours of unrelieved tedium without an interval or any possibility to escape our boredom and the assault of noise (composer Luke Stoneham...).


Laban was host to Act III of a major work (Act II is two and a half hours long) completing a seven year project; its predecessors had been shown at the Royal Opera House and Venice Bienniale. .


Our bit of the four and a half hours tri-partite invisible dances had a patrolling feathered shadow-man - "guardian of ghosts" - near nude with a plume of ostrich feathers, overseeing "broken movement of limbs" presented as "the crisis of gesture"...

Only retrospectively, following some reading, did either of us realise that some of the tortured performers were blind; we had both taken their awkwardness to be "metaphorical" and maybe related to world events....


The link at the top will lead you to Bock & Vincenzi's website and philosophy if you're interested. From it you will derive some understanding of the tedium of this non-dance event and the banality of a recorded spoken commentary on the proceedings by a "Watcher", who describes her experience of seeing a show, the idea of the 'show' and the idea of its 'audience'..."

From the website I have learned that "working with performers and dancers who are blind, they have continually questioned how an audience experience a physical event that can not be seen"... The image above is of a view from the stage with one person sitting in the auditorium....


Since even Dance Theatre Journal found it impossible to write a normal review (see below), Musical Pointers can fairly limit itself to a protest against invisible dances' prolonged assault upon our ears and eyes.


We have previously recommended that Laban's medical officer should be actively involved with the health implications of sound levels in Bonnie Bird Theatre. We wondered if some of the performers might have been wearing ear plugs to protect themselves? Apart from excruciating general volume levels, throughout the show there were sudden unpredictable disturbing stabs of sound at even higher volume, accompanied by lighting flashes (apparently there was a strobe lighting warning at the entrance to the auditorium - I didn't notice it) and this aspect too merited serious medical vetting.


Following our last and happy visit to Laban's own Transitions Dance Company , we urged (not for the first time) that Laban should - whenever appropriate - capitalise on its association with Trinity College of Music and avail itself of acoustic live music more often, to help retrain dancers' and audiences' ears.

The audience response at the eventual end was muted, and people around us shared our opinion that it had been one of the heaviest evenings ever. If this note saves anyone from suffering the invisible dance of Here, As If They Hadn't Been, As If They Are Not, should it be revived in the future, it will have done a small service.

Differiing opinions about Bock & Vincenzi at Laban will be willlingly published, but meanwhile a medical opinion is imperative, lest Laban trains a generation of deaf dancers, their tastes - and those of some younger dance directors - already compromised by exposure to blasting by today's pop music!

Peter & Alexa Woolf


P.S. The reviews quoted below make it abundantly clear that Laban and Bock & Vicenzi might have done well to have organised an introductory public discussion event to orientate prepare outsiders for so deliberately alienating an experience.

‘It is a performance which confounds any attempt to write according to any conventional understanding of a review or critique.' Dance Theatre Journal

Observer review: Bock and Vincenzi are exploring the pre-Socratic notion that everything that appears is an image of the invisible! - - the precariousness of ideas like 'reality' and 'objectivity' was chillingly exposed. As If... takes these preoccupations to a further level. The curtain rises on a smoky stage on which a man is standing. He looks twitchy and uneasy, and gradually you become aware of two things: that he is moving in response to a soundpack which is clipped to his waist, and that he is blind. He can neither see his audience, nor hear what we are hearing. We, for our part, cannot hear what is on his soundtrack. Right from the start, the contract between performer and audience has been torn up. All that we can see are ghost images, the vapour trails of a human experience. As the piece progresses, the stage fills with a random-seeming collection of characters, all wearing earphones and hermetically sealed into their own sensory and psychic experiences. - - A man stands in his Y-fronts, connected by a belt to a gymnasium treadmill. His gaze is distant and the earphone wires trail across his chest. 'It's fine,' he murmurs at intervals. 'It's fine.' For some audience members this is not the case, and they leave, looking freaked out. For those of us who stay, however, a haunting transformation occurs. It is as if the walls and floors drop away. We are just yards from the performers but they are unreachable, in another dimension. To be honest, it's as if they're dead. And as the piece ends, in a roaring darkness, it's as if we finally join them.- -

londondance.com - (5th June 06)
Bock and Vincenzi are serious artists. This show is the result of a seven-year project Invisible Dances - - exploring "our relationship to absence, to the memory of the body and our perception of space and time" - - I was warned by a colleague that the piece was "intense" and "hardcore" - - also, to be fair, somewhat "baffling" and "monotonous" - - It's certainly not an entertaining hour and a half in the traditional sense. Pondering the many repetitions and variations, the interspersing spells of nothingness, the recurring droning soundscape intermittently shattered by heart-leaping spasms of white noise, one is forced to wonder whether enduring the experience as an observer is in fact the point.

Denied the ready accessibility of the usual sounds, sights and context, the audience endures this performance in a state of sensory disorientation and unease - - The company comprises a mix of blind and sighted people. It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between them as, in turn, they throw themselves obliviously into frenzied, frenetic bouts of movement, eyes shut.
- - The piece raises and performs serious questions about perception and representation. There is evidently a wealth of research and commitment behind this epic project - - It's also highly reminiscent of a recent episode of Doctor Who, where humans were mind-washed through fancy earpieces and the possessed walked the Earth with the same juddering, jerky, robots-learning-to-walk-like movement as the aforementioned swimmers. Whether this makes Bock & Vincenzi absurd or sublime, I really couldn't say.


Photos: Henrik Knudsen





© Peter Grahame Woolf