Sivan Rubinstein’s gentle and insightful work envisages the planet as a body that needs the same amount of care and nurturing to thrive as our own. Shaped by the land, we must learn to live in our own bodies and cherish the planet as our home.
Dance No 2° probes, through multi-layered dance performance, how humans inhabit and connect with the fragile Earth. A lonely figure holding a long, thin branch appears on the white minimalist set, whose undulating structures depict mountains or sand dunes. Lydia Walker walks meditatively in circles balancing this important symbol of growth and sustainability on her head. As she does so, we hear a voice- over of Aturah Kedeeshah Baht Israel who talks prophetically about what home, her land – the planet – means to her. Walker’s energy and body language is also spiritual: she embodies a biblical figure, calm, contained and looking outwards. It’s a powerful scene and there are other similarly striking sections, rich in imagery and metaphors that enthral us throughout the hour-long show. Everything about the performance and its staging is refreshingly unforced and non-dramatic given its theme: there are no violent depictions of doom and construction, events unfold organically, movement builds gradually and there’s an ebb and flow to the pacing of the work that subtly evokes the restlessness of changing climates. Movement itself and the detailed choreographic arrangements create a fluid, non-literal response to the Anthropocene and the havoc it has wrecked.
Soon Jordan Ajadi, Nathan Goodman and Harriet Parker-Beldeau emerge from different corners of the stage, surfing belly-down over the mounds or rolling and crawling on smooth flat surfaces, as if growing from the ground itself. Together they lead us on their evolutionary journey – through the elements and different sound, light and landscapes. They are people who at the beginning cherish and love the place they inhibit but at the end must fight for its survival.
In each section the dancers react to the intensities of heat, water or overpopulation (created by sound and lighting effects) in movement that develops from simple gestures, grounded pedestrian actions that grow into complex, risk taking articulations. They move in ritualistic circles or group formations where at times, falling out of balance, they either throw their bodies into the space or quietly withdraw from it. While their faces are mostly neutral, moments of anxiety occur when they fix us with an unflinching gaze, that shifts to one of fear and mistrust.
Rubinstein, the performers and her creative team are good climate change ambassadors as Dance No 2°reminds us how to live sustainably on our land via quiet tacit messages such as Olubiyi Thomas’ sustainable costumes, Edward Saunders’ simple lighting effects and Liran Donin’s soothing, soulful music. Ultimately the tone is one of optimism, a meditation on how people can live together, work together and nurture planet home. All of which encourages us to engage more thoughtfully, and less despairingly with the issues at stake. What is missing, however, is the warmth of human contact and exchange. There’s a glaring distance between the performers themselves, and with the audience, that becomes tiring to witness, a vital connection that seems lacking. It is only in the film of community performer Aturah Kedeeshah Baht Israel, smiling as she dances in the desert close to her beloved tree, that reveals a community spirit that is also needed in tacking climate change.