Staging Ages sees H2Dance, the international practice of Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard, collaborate with dancers aged 11 to 67. With a nimble lightness of touch and playfulness, it investigates the generation gap, the passing of time, and the fragility of memory.
The piece opens with each of the dancers introducing themselves and stating their age. Then with gradual, growing intensity, they form a series of shifting tableaus. The images produced seem both familiar and abstracted; hands are joined in union, a bottom is smacked, a girl removes herself from a scene to sit alone. Shifting and interacting, these fragments of life begin to intermingle. Movements are exchanged, echoed and reinterpreted.
8 – an anarchic game of dressing up with clothes that are spread across the stage. The joyous freedom of possibility. Identities are yet to be formed.
I’m distracted for a moment by the implication of this interchange and the universality of experience it might imply. I am drawn to the familiarity of even the most banal of moments and feelings. I am looking for and seeing myself in the work and the lives it reflects. Yet this possible claim of a shared consciousness also concerns me; there are experiences and bodies not visible here.
13 – a young girl tussling with hands that grab at her clothes, her hair. She’s carried, squirming, resistant to the expectations and demands placed upon her as she leaves childhood behind.
But its fragile and porous – arcs and movements overlap and intersect, over and over. It’s organic and mutates from one vignette to another, sometimes cutting, sometimes eliding. Memories are intermingled, susceptible to misrecognition or fabrication; possible futures continually shift as intentions and perceptions alter through time.
15 – the first draw on a cigarette. A tender moment defined by shaking hands and a haughty gaze. The awkward and undefined rebelliousness of adolescence.
At times, moments laden with emotion are delivered with poignancy – and each of the dancers has a subtlety and care to their movements that carries this weight, communicating these moments of internal drama even when the fragmentary narrative is ambiguous. At other times, these moments are undercut with a refreshing and direct flippancy and humour.
The year 2926 – a zombie stumbles across the stage, its clichéd moaning infected with a helpless laughter.
At one moment, Sandro, the youngest of the cast, a brilliantly boisterous boy of 11 (almost 12), is brought to the front of the stage. Andrew, a dancer of 27, whispers in his ears, feeding Sandro lines, spouting clichés, premonitions of the future left-leaning, high-culture appreciating, monogamy rejecting, 40-something he might well one day be. It’s an irreverent, striking moment and a well-placed break to the soft and undulating rhythm of the piece, playfully considering with lithe simultaneity the problematic habit of projecting our own wants and values on the young, but also the futures our vocabulary and choices inevitably help to define.
100 – the eldest dancer, is rested in a chair. The cast, one by one, shift her stiffening arms, her back. She’s weathered by age and incapacitated, but still she is dancing with one arm gliding ever so slightly with tender precision.
Staging Ages was at the Laban Theatre on November 15th. For more details, including future dates, click here.