Blog: ‘You see green, I say grey’

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


The Uncanny is a Freudian concept describing an instance in which something can be familiar and yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange [or comfortably disturbing].

If you want to see green, you will have to put yourself in Alice’s white shoes. Your way to the hidden garden won’t be a dive but a gentle walk across the former wharf. You’ll pass the crane and reach the concrete slope, from where huge freight ships used to take their first plunge into the water. And there, where this narrow living space seems to have crouched between the walls, some trees, and an abandoned boat; there is where the reverie begins.

Because You see green, I say grey is the kind of moment that dreams are made of. It is a moment, as well as a peculiar space that we enter. The five dancers of MAN || CO thought of their performance as an empty room which slowly becomes their – or perhaps our – home. The setting is an integral part of the experience: carpets on the ground, old chairs strewn around, and most importantly a couple of mirrors hanging from the branches of an old tree. More than spectators we feel like guests, most welcome to barge in.

We witness a room, a living room perhaps. We recognize it right away; we are part of the building process, we immediately belong to this strange in- and outside space. But, paradoxically, it does make us feel slightly uncomfortable – uncanny.

Unsettling gaze(s)

The place looks familiar and is occupied by strange creatures, who are but semblances of human beings. They move at a jolty pace, to the beats of some strange electro music. The tunes are either strident or melodic, at times they even sound like waves or a breeze. The creatures dance on their own with jerky motions – and their eyes are open. They stare at each other and inscrutably fix their gaze upon us. Sometimes they interact, holding each other or helping one another’s limbs thread into their clothes.
But, at a certain moment, the audience becomes an important component of the piece. As the five creatures look at us from the broken mirrors, their beauty slowly unveils. They all start dancing together and we join them in a trance. This is when they achieve a full transformation; we are somewhere in their disturbing and quiet wonderland. This is when we start dreaming – or living.

Anne-Bénédicte Lebeau