Memory unmade: on Igor & Moreno’s Andante

Forgive me, this is going to be scrappy. I have no time to write just now but still want some record of one of the most simple – and in that simplicity, complex – and extraordinary shows I think I might ever have seen. Igor and Moreno’s Andante starts with feet stepping with exactitude on firecrackers. Snap snap snap. Tiny flares of light bursting beneath the soles of the dancers – first Igor (or was it Moreno?) and Georgia Nardin, then Moreno (or …?) and Eleanor Sikorski. Could have been their souls – no, that wasn’t true yet. Each of them wears the same costume: a long hooded top stretching down to their thighs in the blue of a summer sky, a white band across it like cloud seen from an aeroplane. They take off their shoes and move on to a white floor that sweeps up behind them in a smooth curving sweep. Moving slowly at first, towards the audience and away, towards each other and away. Humming all the while. Already I’m not remembering it right.

They move in murmurations, this way and then that. They move into quadrilles, the humming grows stronger, into the lilting murmur of folk song. No words. Partner this way, partner that. (The dramaturgy of it is exquisite, by the way: Simon Ellis is amazing.) A long stretch of fabric, just before the slope, begins to billow, just softly, rising from the ground. Round in this circle, round in that. When did it happen, and how? Were they still on stage or had they drifted away? I don’t remember the bodies any more: I remember the sound. Crashing, cruel, abrasive, loud. An explosion, smoke, thick, almost choking. And the smell. Like incense. Like church.

It smells like church and the dancers are humming and in the cadence of just two notes is the whole of Catholic liturgy, distilled to a harmonic interval. Suddenly the blue of their long hooded tops is the blue of the Virgin Mary. And I’m thinking of what brings people together as community, and what we build to feel that in the absence of church. (For me: theatre.) Stamping soles and hidden souls and where faith in something bigger sits. (For me: perhaps love.) And I’m thinking of how Igor and Moreno are from Sardinia and the Basque country, and how they’ve made reference to the folk traditions of their homes in their work before. There is such a direct line of thinking from Idiot-Syncrasy to A Room For All Our Tomorrows to Andante: a series of reflections on what it is to belong. Is that right? In Idiot-Syncrasy they belonged in part to the bouncing, the ridiculous actions we repeat day after day, and the flexibility we find within them to live somehow closely and strangely – and in that belonged to the possibility of collective action, revolution, radical surging change. In Room they belonged to adoration and annoyance, to what Jake Orr described, in his beautiful blog, as “rising through repression, finding your voice and those that share it. Finding sadness, hope and longing all at once.” To coffee and to shouting and to breaking a routine – and in the breaking finding new harmony, new connection.

Andante describes itself as a work about attention: connecting with the senses, the more strongly when one of those senses is blocked. But the gap between the copy for this work and the experience of it is huge. In that simple, silly bouncing, Idiot-Syncrasy paid homage to the folk traditions of Igor and Moreno’s separate youths, the song and the dance; in Room they searched for new folk with whom to build new traditions. And Andante is a work of profound and painful nostalgia for everything you’ve had to step away from to do that. A work in which memory mists and grows distant until you’re no longer sure what it’s made of. Nostalgia for the home you left so long ago you no longer feel part of it, not really. I think of my father, born there, living here, trying to return there, coming back here. Nowhere is home except memory, and that’s insubstantial as cloud.

How untrustworthy memory is! Already I can’t remember the order in which things happened and it’s less than a week since I saw it. And although it was simple, in its complexity there’s so much I’m forgetting. Eleanor Sikorski dancing in a circle, her foot stamping each turn, a closed vortex, the whirlpool her own making, her movements so calm within it. Sikorski and Nardin’s bodies rising up the stairs; the directness but also lack of aggression with which the four of them would hold out their gaze. The point at which there was nothing to remember because nothing to see but a stage filled with smoke, thick and white, a wall of it, choking for some, itching at the eyes, dense as mountain fog, heavier. Two people walking out, then four, then a group. Aghast at their lack of patience – their refusal of this offer.

In this thick white cloud that could be our politics and our borders and our Brexit negotiations, everything that separates people into nationalities and ethnicities and subdivisions of a human race, figures fleetingly emerge and recede. Those blue hooded tops become transparent, showing the naked bodies beneath. So vulnerable these bodies, disconnected, hardly seen. Eventually I’m aware that an usher is standing at the bottom of the stairs, that no one on stage has been visible for a while, that although the smoke is still thick and the sound still playing – a drone, not unpleasant, not comforting either – the invitation now is to leave. And so I leave. And drink up the cloudy night sky with such pleasure.

 

by Maddy Costa

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