Note: This is a backdated entry.
Before the show.
I chose to watch this show at the beginning of the term, when I found out we needed to watch a dance show. I checked out all the dance shows happening at the NAC, watched their trailers, and decided on this one because I found the staging interesting as a concept.
I haven’t really watched too many dance shows before. I went to go see Betroffenheit when they came before and I remember being more interested about the tech than I was watching their movements. It was probably because I didn’t really understand how to interpret the dancing, so while I found the first part with the cool staging and costumes engaging, the second part where it was just them dancing in plain costumes on a plain stage had me nodding off slightly.
This time, I’ll be careful to watch out for how the movements of the dancers might be communicating something that can’t be portrayed with words, and to follow the way the dancers interact with each other. I also don’t really know anything about dancing, movement, or physics, but I assume the dancers will have to move differently to accommodate the moving floor, and that intrigues me (hence why I chose this show to watch).
I’m going to see this show with my friend and she went to a performing arts high school and has friends who are dancers, so hopefully she’ll be able to give me some insight about the dancing.
Honestly, I’m not really sure what else to write about it because I’m going into it with a completely blank frame of mind. I’m just trusting that the NAC picked out a good dance show, and that a moving floor will be a fun time for the dancers, and that’s about all I have in terms of expectations. I don’t really watch dance shows so I don’t know how to comment on that, and for everything else, I’m assuming that it will be much the same as watching a play at the NAC in terms of routine—waiting in the lobby, getting your ticket scanned, filing in and sitting, waiting for the lights to dim. For the other stuff, I just want to be completely surprised, as that’s how I like to watch most of my shows,
I guess all I’m hoping for is that I don’t nod off, because I hate being that person. I feel rude trying not to fall asleep when so many people worked hard to produce what I paid to watch, in front of me. I have faith that the moving floor will be intriguing enough to keep me awake, though.
After the show.
This was a great show. Great. Absolutely phenomenal, honestly.
I think it helped a lot that I had absolutely no idea what to expect and that I only really had stereotypical thoughts about what a dance show could be, because this was nothing like how I would imagine a stereotypical dance show to be, and it has opened my mind up to the possibilities. Just like what Fringe theatre did for me the first time I went to go see it, seeing He Who Falls has made me realize that there are all sorts of ways to communicate with body language and movement alone without it being miming, and that you could probably lump a whole bunch of things under the category of “dance show”.
Anyways, there are two things I enjoy ruminating on when I think about this show: the stage mechanics, and the athleticism of the dancers.
The stage was a large floor that moved, and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that someone thought about this and made it happen. They made it spin, they made it swing, they made it hang both horizontally, vertically, and in lopsided fashions, and they attached bars to the bottom so that the dancers could hang from the floor themselves.
There are so many possibilities when you can control the floor, and I found that this show really made use of it all. By controlling the floor, you could control and manipulate the movements of the dancers and where they went, and He Who Falls really showed us how the space (and the space within the space) dictates where and how a person might move.
Some examples: when the floor is spinning, the dancers went along with the movement, went against it, but always had to find ways to keep balanced, lest they get unceremoniously tossed off the floor by the momentum. When the floor hung vertically and became a wall, the one man on top of it walked the very thin edge of it way up high, and the others, on the floor of the stage now, sat and leaned against it. When the floor was swinging left and right, the dancers were running and pushing the floor to give it more momentum, ducking under it and hugging the ground so it could swing on top of them, holding onto the edge and swinging along with the floor until their feet were off the ground, or jumping on top of it themselves.
That brings me to the people doing the moving: the dancers. I must say, for a dance show, there wasn’t a lot of literal dancing, to a beat and a melody (although there was that too). Most of it was dancing around the wooden floor in a more figurative sense, in that they were just trying their best to interact with it without actually getting hit. It makes me wonder about what dancing really means, though. They were more or less choreographed to move in ways that interacted with this wooden floor, so is that not dancing too? Even though there wasn’t any music playing for a lot of it? It makes me wonder.
But yes, as I was saying: the athleticism of these dancers was intense and impressive. The core strength and cardio it must take to do this show is unbelievable. Some of the notable moments were: when the six of them were partnered up and the girls were being held in the air by the guys in a frozen pose while the floor spun around; when one of the girls runs around and around the spinning floor, jumping over the prone bodies of her colleagues as they lie there on the ground; when the one man stays on the floor as the ropes bring it up until it’s hanging vertically and he’s on the top; when the same man hangs from the bars hidden under the floor and hangs too high off the ground for it to be safe if he falls; and anything that they did when the floor was swinging at them. Watching them, I could see how fit they were to be able to keep up. It was like watching a sport—and I guess it was, because dancing is definitely as much sport as it is art. They also sang too! Later on in the show as well, after all that running. The wonders never ceased during the runtime of this show.
It was also fun being an audience member because I think a lot of the people watching this were in the same boat I was in that they didn’t know what they were expecting, and so they became enraptured by the movements of these dancers and what they (and the floor) might do next. People clapped when they did impressive things (there was clapping for when they all posed on the spinning platform), they gasped when the floor looked like it might hit someone, and the tension in the air was palpable as the one guy hung from the platform, the audience so silent you could probably hear a pin drop on the stage. Watching him hang there, thirty feet above the hard ground, you wonder start to wonder if he is the He in He Who Falls. When he doesn’t drop, but instead climbs his way back onto the platform, you could feel the tension in the air change to that of relief as the audience collectively breathes out in silent relief.
The lighting was also really cool. It started with a harsh light from over top, the dancers casting long shadows as they tried to walk up the platform as it slanted and made it look like they were climbing a really dusty hill in the middle of the desert. There were also self-reflective parts of the show, where the audience was made aware of the mechanics that went into the show and the floor by showing us these maintenance guys that fix and adjust the mechanism that makes the floor spin. During these parts, the lighting would be more white and fluorescent, the whole stage lit instead of just the wooden floor the dancers interact with, and you’re reminded that you’re an observer, and these dancers are perhaps experiments you’re watching.
That feeling of watching an experiment is exacerbated by the fact that there is a man at a control board behind the platform who controls how the floor moves. One thing that I found really interesting was that he walked around the platform to unhook it from the ropes used to bring it down from above, and he had a pronounced limp. It was a direct contrast to the easy, athletic way that the dancers move and really brought attention to the fluidity of the dancers’ movements by showing us this guy who limped around. It was a good choice.
Aside from everything I just talked about, there was a lot of symbolism in the show as well. Because there’s only body movement in the show, and the only words were sung in a language I didn’t understand or recognize, there was a lot open to interpretation. I was trying to figure out what everything might mean, and ended up not really settling on any one meaning, but I think that’s kind of beautiful—that dance can be so open for interpretation, especially in a blank context like this, where there isn’t anything but a moving floor, six dancers, and sparse music. The most present noise in the whole show, actually, was the sound of the floor itself—the creaking as it spun and swung, the thuds of the dancers walking and running on top of it.
I would definitely watch it again, and recommend it to all my friends and their whole families, because it was interesting and thought provoking, and a wonderful exercise in thinking about movement when the floor itself moves.
I only wish that next time I sit a little closer, because I would have loved to see the expressions on the dancers’ faces as they worked as hard as they did.
Hello! My name is Reine Tejares, and this is my blog for THE 2100: The Theatrical Event at the University of Ottawa.