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Flash Review 2, 10-21: Shshshshshsh!
Burrows and Fargion 'Quiet Dance' Speaks Volumes

By Josephine Leask
Copyright 2005 Josephine Leask

LONDON -- Jonathan Burrows and long-term music collaborator Matteo Fargion have joined forces to create and perform a duet that is aptly called "The Quiet Dance." I attended the performance at the Place Tuesday and was surprised to see the theater totally full, as the sparsity of Burrows's choreography is not to everyone's liking.

"The Quiet Dance" quite simply consists of funny walks, arm gestures and voice sounds repeated over and over again in a series of conversational phrases which the two men took in turns to perform. What this UK premiere is not is frilly, virtuosic, theatrical, hierarchical, noisy or wildly accessible. What it is is humorous, honest, unforced, highly structured, precise, collaborative, and short, clocking in at 40 minutes. In other words, Burrows's and Fargion's intelligent little creation is uncluttered and formulaic in the way that the work of the Judson Church choreographers of another era was.

Burrows and Fargion are a comical double act. They look alike, are of similar age and have a highly compatible stage relationship, and it is this which fascinates me more than their choreography. While they perform similar pedestrian movements, or vocalize everyday sounds such as 'aaahhhhhh' and 'sshhhh,' their personal idiosyncrasies shine through and bring life and wit to some otherwise mundane actions and noises. As the piece progresses they begin to look like two quirky middle-aged men who are playing an intense game of 'follow the leader,' executing the most ridiculous walks with absolute sincerity and concentration, with the odd glance thrown at the audience to make sure we're still with them. Their unassuming masculinity is a far cry from what men often embody in dance performance, as it is devoid of attitude, sexuality, competitiveness, and aggression. They watch each other like hawks but in a very supportive manner. When they gingerly take each other by the hand in a half-hearted waltz near the end of the piece it is really quite touching, although emotion is not an obvious ingredient in the duet.

There is so little pretense in "The Quiet Dance," such an absence of striving to be 'something else' in the performance by these two men that it is soothing to watch. As Burrows's and Fargion's work is programmed during one of the most busy times in London's dance calendar, going to see them is like taking time out in an overloaded, over-stimulating schedule.


Editor's Note: To read more about the work of Jonathan Burrows, please click here and here.

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