An empty house (full of air): Brave Movement, Unusual Experience

An audience of six huddles around the open door of Pandora Park’s Fieldhouse, fluorescent light burning a rectangle in the darkness, a moth flutters into our faces (not part of the show) as two girls inside a closet fight with balloons. Well, maybe fight isn’t the right word. And they aren’t really balloons. Two girls inside a closet roll their bodies against the thin squeaky skin of two clear plastic garbage bags puffed up with air and tied tightly like empty pillows. They wear matching pajamas - a black and white pattern that makes me think of bratty privileged children.

As the scene eventually moves from the front closet to the kitchen, we’re asked by the usher to follow the performers into the two bedroom apartment where rough benches line the back wall of a nearly empty kitchen. We’re two feet from the playing space.

In fact, we’re not. We soon discover that the playing space has no limit. In one moment a girl undulates on the ground, and her hand brushes against my boot. In another moment, the door next to me is slammed open and shut, open and shut. The walls shake, and I feel the reverberations speed from the wall to the bench and into my body. The wall shakes. I shake.

Later one girl is under the sink while another is on the stove. The dancer’s foot flicks the stove element on by accident. Only to low heat, but the audience starts to murmur worriedly. What if the girls don’t notice and then one touches it and burns herself...

There is more murmuring. The six of us look around at each other.  One girl is under the sink, inside the cupboard, the cupboard doors closed. The other is on top of the kitchen counter, her head stuffed inside the sink. Her body shakes; the plastic bag cushions her head. The stove is still on. We’re still worried. One young woman in the audience looks at me and gestures that I should turn the stove off - I’m the closest.  Unused to breaking a performance’s fourth wall, I creep over to the stove awkwardly and flick it off. The performers don’t even notice. But one audience member, a photographer who has been trying to tactfully take pictures from the corner, gasps and giggles loudly when she sees me creep onto the playing space.

If it’s not clear by my description, An empty house (full of air), performed and choreographed by Carolina Bergonzoni and Luciana D’Anunciação, will probably be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.The two dancers, both members of Dance Troupe Practice, a movement collective that just started a three year residency in the Pandora Park Fieldhouse, are skilled dancers who bring a varied background in the fine arts to their work. Bergonzoni, an Italian dancer who has her Masters in Philosophy, has a fiery stage presence and confident almost aggressive movement.  D’Anunciação, a Brazilian dancer who has also studied theatre and uses video and explorations in sound in some of her work, is softer and more sensual in her approach. Both are grounded in truth. They are not “putting on a show”. They are living an experience.

I know nothing about contemporary dance, so I can’t offer much insight into the purpose and meaning of this show besides what it says in the program. (It’s an exploration in partnership.)

I will say, however, that I’m glad I had the privilege of experiencing such a brave and intimate piece of art.  It’s not every day that you see two skilled and talented artists doing something one hundred percent their own way, clearly committed to exploring and expanding the frontiers of their art form.

By Colette Nichol