Blog: ‘North of Nowhere’

In a series of blogs, Anne-Bénédicte Lebeau visits the ‘language no problem’ performances at Over het IJ Festival.

‘’I don’t need this table,
I don’t need this bed,
I don’t need this roof above my head.’’

On the uncluttered and raw shoreline of NDSM wharf, seven youngsters are experiencing life. They play tag, music and games all together. In the air or right down on the concrete floor, they draw a light and insightful picture – a rite of initiation into maturity.

Airiness.

De Dansers is a troupe from Utrecht, trying to tie live music and dance. A dance concert, that’s what they called their performance: a fusion of choreographic acrobatics and bittersweet live folk music. ‘’Dance concert’’ is not an understatement, as the three musicians also throw their bodies into the fray.

Ten Noorden van Nergens
(literally translated as ‘’North of Nowhere’’) could appear as a succession of innocent and poetic play-scenes one might observe in a schoolyard: harmless taunting, exhilarating crashes, blind-man’s bluff, hide and seek, human pyramids, playing tag, acting as puppets and other forms of running around. Bodies flail and are flung at each other, one fiercely grabs the shoulders of the other and pins him to the ground before launching him back up into the air. One rule seems prevalent: never stop smiling – and therefore never stop trusting on another, no matter what he may be doing to you.

In a deserted landscape – concrete, windy and rough – these colourful elves create warmth like magic. The three delicate wooden shelters for the musicians remind us of our beloved tree houses, in which we would always find solace and sun.

The piece begins playfully; sometimes even those imps can make us laugh, and this is a rare occasion by itself. It’s an adventure of young people who want to stand up, to identify and push themselves – or the group? – to the edge.

Asperity.

But the process of discovering ourselves is often painful, if not violent. The performers in front of us experience domination, submission and some level of roughness. The “youngsters” are smiling, yet their bodies are being mauled and their faces skim over the gravel.

As the piece progresses, their vulnerability becomes tangible. The colourful clothes are shed and abandoned, symbols of this sloughing.

The whipping wind, the starkness of the space, the lack of setting, the melancholic notes and the uptight words lead to a sense of introspection and emotional sincerity. Together they try to stretch the limits of their bodies and their integrity. Together, constantly touching each other, they try to escape their human condition and express their animality. Together they struggle, search, and get lost, sometimes frustrated. On the stone floor they roll away from individual concerns. Entangled they find a way to make sense of what life brings us all – and what the songs of La Corneille are all about: storms, love, pain and loneliness.

And yet the youngsters are smiling – I don’t think it’s because they’re growing, but because they’re taking root.

Anne-Bénédicte Lebeau