In Brussels already for the opening of That Night Follows Day. All looking good so far. The fact that we had to make decisions about text (and almost everything else) months ago so that the kids could have fair chance to learn it and feel confident, means that things for us have been pretty relaxed in this final period. The kids are doing an amazing job. Last night’s rehearsal was kind of weird though because throughout it the kids were dropping like flies with minor variations on the old ‘stomach bug’ and ‘it’s hot in here I am fainting’ routine. Started the run with 17 onstage (how it should be) but within twenty minutes we were down to 15 and ten minutes later down to 13. As the last of these left the stage clutching his stomach I think I let out an audible ‘Christ’ – fearing I guess that soon we’d be down to a mere handful of kids in the lines, all of them tottering on the edge of hysterical/sympathetic collapse.
Things picked up after a while though and by the end we were back to 15 onstage, the other two lain down in the dressing rooms. Post run-through there was a photo-shoot for which, by some magic, everyone managed to be well.
After rehearsals we head to the square outside Vooruit where in the last three days, Meg Stuart and her company Damaged Goods have been staging a series of four hour improvisations. In the theatre at least Anna Viebrock’s set for Meg’s Visitors Only (a piece that I contributed some text to) was always hugely imposing – a monolithic two storey house-structure – but here, placed outdoors between the library and some other public building it almost looks small – as though a dolls-house has been bisected by Gordon Matta-Clark and set up here beside the road in this small Belgian city.
Sat facing the house Paul Lemp and his musicians are playing a kind of endless not-changing and always-changing whirlpool of cello, bass and echo – a circular tide into which the dancers ‘on stage’ and those of us watching are drawn alike without a chance to escape. For this final day the dancers work four hours around a single section of the old Visitors performance – a task that involves them, like the music, forever spinning and rotating either solo or in constantly recombining groupings. Observed from the street the dance is people spinning alone, spinning together, circling, walking, twisting, knotting, freaking out, pacing softly, running, all in circles, clockwise, anticlockwise; ones view of anyone only ever partial, framed up and fractured by the architecture of the set – windows, doorways, cutaway walls.
I stand next to the group’s manager John Zwaenepoel and look in, soon very much wanting to climb into the house there and join them, and then realising that in a strange way, like all of those watching, I am in it already. Looking up at the eddies and flows of movement, sometimes the dancers at the top circling clockwise, those at bottom anticlockwise, sometimes both levels working in the same direction, its like the house is haunted by a desire or need to drive itself out of itself, to torque its way down into the earth, or wind its way into the sky. Watching the dancers they seem like loners on a mission, or like lost ravers at dawn, like caged animals, transcendentalists, kids, zombies, and delirious technicians of spin. It goes round and round. The music swells and falls, and from amongst the street drinkers sat to one side of the crowd on the library steps, from time to time someone gets to their feet and also surfs the movement and the moment, spinning, and dancing to their own tune, in their own time. Meg, Tonya, Vania, Davis and many others move in different rhythms, in different rooms. It’s pretty incredible. At a certain point I’m weeping for no particular reason – like the way I’ve cried at a certain point in Tarkovsky’s Mirror for no reason I can ever describe, each time I’ve seen it. Some combination of the music, the energy, the lack of words, the sheer ‘ongoing-ness’ of it all. There is a cop car going by. There are people chatting laughing. Its broad daylight. We’ve stood talking about this and that, making jokes, and now suddenly, tears. A joy that’s also a kind of sadness, or more like vice versa. I don’t know.
Much later, early hours of the morning, a few of us go back to the house, through the barricades and up the stairs. All pretty quiet outside, on the street down below. I’m chatting to Meg and to Vania who is laughing when she talks about her two long long bouts of walking strong determined circles in the top-right room of the house, as a pilgrimage in two parts. Pilgrimage One and Pilgrimage Two. Someone clambers out of the haunted house and heads off to a Night Shop, returning afterwards with beers and paprika chips. From the top storey of the structure our view is into what I think is the darkened library and in any case to a series of regional flags the shift around only a little in the still night air. Sometime around 2.30 I go home.
(thanks to Frieda Schneider for the photos)