In its final image—a hazy video recording of two friends (and creative partners in this show) synchronized in movement in an arcade playing Dance, Dance Revolution— Progress achieves its goal. It celebrates and mourns the delicateness of friendship with a tug of nostalgia, loss, and sensitivity.
Not all aspects of the production are as sharp, but its winsome duo of performers and creators, Nikhil Vyas and Jasmine Price, still manage to get you to invest in the end. There is charm in a dance piece that focuses not on perfection but on unpolished, haphazard, sweaty, fumbling, and self-expressive movement.
Progress acknowledges the frustrations of people who don’t move with natural grace (my people). The repeated instructing phrase of “feel yourself being pulled by a golden thread from the top of your head” is met by a movement that does not centre the body from the top of the head. If it was appropriate to shout “THAT IS ME,” I would have. What happens when your body does not operate that way? No amount of repetition and guidance will change the awkward result.
Dance and movement can feel so damning when your body does not conform. Of course, there is precision in dance, but can it be messy and still valuable? Who is judging?
This show tries to look at all sorts of dance and movement that people might share, whether formal, casual, pleasurable, or exasperating. They expand their focus to the gamification of dance through the Japanese game ‘Dance, Dance Revolution’, exploring competition, and failure. Most of all, they explore the relational tension when someone is better at it than you.
Pulling back further, they muse on what would a “revolution” of dance look like (“dance lanes” rather than bike lanes, borders dissolve as people just dance across them) and an imagined future for Nikhil and Jasmine as artists together and as friends (the work gets harder to make, they become tired of one another, they drift apart).
While all of this is spiritually interconnected, visually the piece struggles a bit more. In moments, there are too many things to take in at once—performers moving to ‘Dance, Dance Revolution’ with the video game playing on a monitor, and then hard-to-read additional text projections on a black curtain behind them. Rather than thematic cacophony, I wasn’t sure where to focus my attention. I only caught bits of the projected CVs of the artists, which emphasised moments of informal, pleasurable dance in childhood, at school or in a grandparents’ living room.
Even if there were baggy bits (this was a first preview which they generously allowed me to review), its narrative of the casual disintegration of a relationship is clear. There is no one big blow-out. Things dissolve with time, change, age, and shifting priorities.
While the video game may deem certain performances “Failed” in bright red letters, the show takes a more sanguine view. Art, relationships, and movement are more complex than that. Who knows where these artists and friends will end up? We are left with a final image of them in perfect harmony, knowing it is just one moment in a long arc of life. So you might as well dance.
Disintegration is on at ZOO venues, Edinburgh until 17th August. More info and tickets here.