The Living Room - Yael Flexer and Nick Sandiland Digital Works

On entering the familiar space of PATS dance studio, an unusual scenario awaits me. A small child is happily toddling around the space, surrounded by six plainly clad dancers who are all making an attempt to copy the child. To the audience’s cooing delight, the little girl marches around with innocent glee, completely unfazed. After a while the audience settles, softened into malleable onlookers, innocently open to a plethora of metaphorical images that will henceforth be pitched from the performance arena. Or, put simply, this familiar scene of literal child’s play welcomes the audience, so we can all begin the piece at the same level.
After this brief prelude the stage is then lined with the six dancers, now childless. The dancers address each other fondly but confidently, names and fleeting comments in different languages scatter and rebound across the space like electric currents. A clear game structure becomes apparent, as each dancer takes on the ‘character’ of a certain piece of living room furniture. Shouts of ‘I’m the arm chair!’, ‘No... I’m the arm chair!’ spark comical battles between the dancers as they crescendo; elbows rigidly marking out shapes in the space, spines snaking and hands neatly folding the air. The use of witty timing makes this simple section effectively engaging, and the immediate introduction of the dancer’s names makes me feel connected to the performers, I’m part of the family, part of the furniture.
Then comes my official welcome. Yael Flexer addresses us by reeling out a list of things that we must expect from the performance, what there will and will not be, who will be dancing, when they will be dancing, and pretty much the whole structure of the piece.  There are no illusions of grandeur here. We are all adults now and this is a time for adult conversation and reflection. The living room is transformed into that mysterious shadowy place that you imagine after bed time as a child, once play time is over and the land of the living belongs to grown-ups. Flickering lights accompany a glitchy electronic sound track. Dancers walk purposely into the awaiting space, arms slice and torsos fold and invert themselves, enveloping in before whipping in momentum and suspending in mid air. It’s as if there is another force in the room, contorting these dancers. Sounds of crackly digital sketching are combined with live cello as the dance tidily shifts between complex duets and explosive unison.  The lights blindingly flash to full beam and... we are back in the room. The piece shunts us in and out of ‘reality’ so quickly that we barely have time to stop laughing and act serious.
The piece follows this prescribed and increasingly predictable text – dance – text linear structure as it progresses. Contrasting snippets of heavy duty dance with stripped down text, designed to enhance the everyday quality of the piece. This pedestrian element is subtly interspersed amongst the more virtuosic parts, cleverly injecting elements of playfulness and humanity. A ‘solo’ is ricocheted around the stage, bandied around like an old dress, fighting for an owner.  An intimate duet is mirrored by two couples, with meaningful eye contact and rash yet warmly placed palms are pressed onto chests and thighs; sensual yet charged with dynamic immediacy. The movement vocabulary of the dancers is impressively compelling, yet is not exempt from moments of over repetition. Luckily it sits comfortably within the comparatively short time frame of the piece.
A heavily pregnant Yael sits in the corner, playing Barthes’ dead author. The piece is something she has created, yet somewhere along the way she let it go, and now it is just playing along by itself, taking the audience on a journey of its own accord. She can but narrate this resulting detritus of everyday living.
An overarching theme of the everyday, the household, the living room, infuses itself within this piece. It is like an impressionistic visit to Ikea, complete with clocks and pot plants, old married couples and newly weds, and ‘subliminal jazz hands’ cheekily appearing in the lighting department.

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