Zombie Aporia, meaning 'living dead logical contradiction', is the latest work by Brussels-based American choreographer Daniel Linehan. Through the performance of eight short works with enigmatic titles including 'Before now and after' and 'Called nothingsomething', Linehan states his aim is to 'create hybrids, to unite contradictory terms, to merge contrasting rhythms in order to create unusual performative monsters.' Nevertheless, at times I was left wondering what had actually been created through the work or whether this was the performance equivalent of an essay on poststructuralism.
Running through the separate pieces is the unifying theme of distorting and manipulating a key performance aspect to demonstrate how one thing that is perhaps usually considered in isolation is actually wholly dependent on something else for its existence. In the most succesful piece 'Cool', with the sung lyrics being a response to 'Anarchy in the UK' by the Sex Pistols, Salka Ardal Rosengren stands facing the audience with Thibault Lac next to her with his hands around her neck. As she begins to sing, Lac starts to physically manipulate her vocal chords which, naturally, affects the sound of her voice. As the piece develops, the manipulations become greater in force and scope; at times, Rosengren is being swung through whole back swings. At its most comic moment, she is laid across Lac's back while he moves vigorously up and down through a cat stretch and she accordingly bounces on his back, all while still singing.
'Cool' could not have made it any clearer that the sound of the voice is dependent on the movement of the body but its strength lay in that by questioning and experimenting with this concept it added multiple layers to the piece. The distortions in the sound affected the meaning I interpreted of the lyrics themselves which in turn affected the way I interpreted the choreography overall. This piece provided 'spinetingly' moments whereas unfortunately some of the other works, which were all variations on this theme, didn't stimulate me from a choreographic perspective: instead they seemed to be a display of compositional exercises resulting from what would be valid studio exploration but which didn't have the same value in performance.
Although it had very little movement content, 'Before now and after' was the most emotionally engaging work of the evening. The three dancers stood stage right in an intimate tableau. The words Linehan whispered directly to Lac were repeated almost instantly by Lac himself but projected out to the audience while his gaze swept across us. The words themselves played with meaning by changing tense through the sentences and moved through themes including life, family, pain, sex and consciousness while Linehan's and Lac's facial expressions were variously in sympathy with what they were saying and at times contrary. The combination of the work's physical simplicity and subtle dynamic variations combined with its dramatic themes was intriguing. Who were these characters? Was the relish with which Lac spoke his lines genuine or was it a result of Linehan's verbal puppeteering? Was Rosengren's eyes-closed character passively receiving the world around her, or was she another driving pulse of the work but inaudible to us? Of all the works, this is the one which made me want to perform it myself as it felt quietly epic and fleshed out.
Overall, the evening left me with many questions about what I had seen. Was it an evening of choreography or compositional exercises and their logical outcomes? Why, when the themes of the spoken and sung content of the work were variously philosophical and emotional, was I being led to analyse the structure and form of what constituted their production and performance?
As I pondered the show on my way home, with every thought providing a contrary question much in the same way as the structure of each of the pieces, I started to think about the philosophical implications of what I had seen, in that my experience of the tangible reality life must naturally affect my understanding of its abstract aspects. Linehan's choreography showed acutely the fallacy of Cartesian seperation of mind and body, and this I believe is an important point of view which was useful to be reminded of.
You will enjoy this show if you have ever questioned what is the nature of performance or you are interested in understanding the components of choreography.