She's flying, he's flying: Mette Ingvartsen and Jefta van Dinther’s “It’s in the Air” at PACT
Standing—lying—sitting—walking: What sounds at first like a rehash of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s successful “Rosas danst Rosas” is the newest experiment in movement by Ingvartsen and her collaborator Jefta van Dinther. Ingvartsen, whose aesthetic tools have in the past borrowed largely from the works of Jérôme Bel, runs counter to all our expectations in “It’s in the Air.” At first glance, one might suspect she took too much from her former mentor de Keersmaeker, but a closer look reveals that “It’s in the Air” is the logical continuation of earlier studies in which she investigated the multifarious relationships of the body through a series of “snapshots”. Ingvartsen’s previous works always thematise what could be described as a symptom of society for the Other to whom the body comes into relation or is placed into relation. In “It’s in the Air”, Ingvartsen and van Dinther explore the question of space and its boundaries.
“It’s in the Air” begins with two giant trampolines placed in the middle of the performance space, pushing the audience into the peripheries. Ingvartsen and van Dinther emerge, climb onto their respective trampoline bed, position themselves in a corner, and stand facing each other. The dancers appear motionless, their arms hanging relaxed at their sides, their eyes resting on the body of the other. Then, almost imperceptibly, they bring the trampolines into motion, creating a vexing play of stillness and movement that our eyes in their sluggishness can barely follow. Eventually, their feet leave the ground. In small, inconspicuous jumps, Ingvartsen and van Dinther consolidate the performance space by creating an intimate bond, a common vacillating mass whose energies—accompanied by the sound of the metallic creak of the springs and the rhythmic impact of the bodies—spread to the public and infect it. The white lighting, diffused at first, gradually concentrates on the performers, pulling the audience into the action with the force of an undertow while revealing the work’s sheer physicality. Step by step, they free themselves from the useless ballast of their outer layer of clothing and plunge ever deeper into the trampoline beds that now seem to catapult them to the highest point of the performance space.
Dance’s fascination with flying—its search for ballon—can be found in the brilliant jumps achieved by Ingvartsen and van Dinther, who appear, as if in defiance of nature, to remain suspended in mid-air for moments at time. When the performers rocket into space, when the force of momentum disrupts their balance eliciting facial expressions at turns terrified and ecstatic, they embark on the same kind of adventure into weightlessness that must have captivated Nijinsky's admirers at the beginning of the last century. During this evening’s performance, a young girl gestures towards van Dinther and calls out enthusiastically, “He’s flying, he’s flying”.
“It’s in the Air” does not limit itself to the production of a climax in a literal sense. It also understands itself as an agile interplay of everyday movements in their most varied metamorphoses. Their unending variation factors out, in a significant way, the zero degree point of the dance. While gliding softly and ethereally from one figuration to the next, the dancers illuminate every side and surface of their bodies. But what do these bodies, propelled repeatedly into the air so as to leave a virtual imprint in space, represent? The many candid reactions of audience members would have something to say to that—except then, rather abruptly, the performance is over, leaving us loathe to return ourselves to the reality of gravitational force.
Isa Köhler, Schauplatz Ruhr, Theater der Zeit, special edition 2008