Written by: Nanna Vibe Spejlborg Juelsbo
Seven dancers in an empty warehouse. Seven dancers, a crowd of one hundred people and one empty warehouse in a remote fjord in Iceland. Outside the midnight sun is blurring the borders between night and day, but as we step into the murky warehouse collective time is instantly transitioned to night.
The audience is spread out in the space. Few rules are given when entering the warehouse: you are free to move around, you are free to stand still, you are first to leave the space again when the performance is done. Concrete floor and tin walls creates an open, box-like space. The lights are out. Only a few monochrome lights projected from the sides, shinning a dusty light onto the crowd coercing the space into a certain stillness. Faces light up as they slowly walk into the coloured beams of light only to disappear again a second later into the mass of darkness.
Suddenly - a loud techno breaks the stillness. The light beams begin to dance. The crowd is still spread around, some touching the outer walls and some centred in the space. Some begin to look around at each other as if anticipating the other to break out into a performance, others seem puzzled and uncertain whether they are to start dance themselves.
A woman in an army mesh top picks up the abrupt rhythm of the techno. With her eyes focused on the middle of the space she lets go of the outer wall behind her and starts moving towards the centre. People gather attentively in a sphere around her - but she seems completely unaffected by their gaze. Unperturbed, she continues to make her way through the crowd of people with both arms pumping heavily up in the air. Her head is still, her mouth closed tight and her facial expression focused in a way that is reminiscent of cold sweat in dark basements, intoxicated raves and crowds of lost souls.
A man in a see-through top and a bronze robe moves from the other end of the space. Just like the woman his eyes and body are in a trance and as he moves forward the crowd around him opens up the space so he can move freely. The scene is almost cinematic as he breaks through the wall of people in a staccato techno dance. Three young women begin to dance as he walks past as if trying to entice him into joining their dance. Without immediately sensing them with his eyes he spins and then returns to the women, kneels at their feet and performs an untamed set of continuous movements with his back up against their crotch and thighs. At first the women laugh to each other, but as his movements build into an almost violent nature they finally stand back to become a part of the rest of the crowd. He has danced them out.
The woman and the man’s movements through the crowd are only two out of seven courses of actions that take place, spread around the space at the same time. The seven dancers move in individual narratives. Each person lost in different rhythms and energies and all of them dancing alone, avoiding eye contact or any other connection to the crowd surrounding them. The seven all seem to have one thing in common: they are all moving from the outer sphere and into the centre of the space.
Finally, all seven make it to the middle of the space, all dressed in a mix of dark, tight, see-through fabrics revealing bare skin. A collective expression that leads one to think of a darker version of the early 90’s club kids. The crowd forms a large circle around the dancers who continue their individual dances through the flickering strobe light and the engrossing techno bass that treads a fine line between nausea and euphoria. The space heats up with sweat and heavy breaths. The lights follow the intensity of the movements that seem to be slowly, but steadily escalating.
One of the dancers drops to the floor stroking his arms mechanically in large circles along the concrete’s surface, as if he is scrubbing the floor clean with an invisible rag in each hand. His body forms the shape of a tense bow. Drops of sweat fall from his string vest to the floor as he continues on and on and on. The crowd around him follow the mesmerising movements as the pool of sweat beneath him grows bigger. In the continuation of the mechanic movements his expression becomes liquid; magnifying, sexual and thick of sweat.
All seven dancers move collectively, but alone. Spread around the floor without interfering with each other or the crowd they become seven pillars moving in space. With the crowd gathered around them; some standing close, some a distance away, the scene evolves overtones of a religious ritual. We are at a mass at the church of techno. The seven hypnotising characters are bound together by the poetry of their abrupt movements.
The intensity of the dancers’ monoton movements and the crowd’s distress builds through the hour-long piece. Throughout, the crowd seems equally intimidated and enchanted by the seven dancers. As if, through their movements, the dancers are exalted to unearthly creatures. As if, the crowd holds its breath, awaiting permission for the very first collective inhale.
Air returns to the space when the music is muted and the last glimpse of the strobe light fades away. Just before, the dancers leave the circle, move through the crowd and into an adjacent space.
When we step outside again the Icelandic summer night remains bright and quiet. People gather in groups of friends, some rocking from side to side keeping the techno alive in their bodies while others have a stoned look on their face seemingly puzzled about the experience they just had.
MASS is a bodily exhaustion, a liquid analogy, a hesitant breath.
MASS is a pocket in time and space where neither exists.