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Chipping away

Chipping away

KARACHI: The question whether space and time are mutually exclusive or reinforcing has often been raised (read: analysed) by philosophers, thinkers and writers. Rarely does one see it being examined through a dance performance on stage.

An attempt at exploring this theme on Friday evening as part of the National Academy of Performing Arts’ ongoing theatre and music festival in a piece titled ‘Chipping’ directed and choreographed by Anna Konjetzky from Germany was as a decent effort. The reason is simple: it takes some guts to have a crack at interpreting a philosophical concept (some might want to use the adjective scientific as well) through choreography.

To achieve her goal, Konjetzky uses dance (Sahra Ruby) and cubes as the primary prop, which lends palpable physicality to the idea. The variation in pace of the moves, ranging from sluggish to swift and from dawdling to rapid, touches upon the ‘time’ factor. Observe the two together, and you’ll start getting the drift of the artist’s message.

The use of cubes can be ascribed to fragmented movements (like fragmented objects in the art of painting) which make the progression of the performance seem like happening in fits and starts. That’s the idea, which is to show things not as a linear concept but as part of a movement that begins and ends rather abruptly.

But then there can be a number of interpretations of the piece. The flickering spotlight and the shifting of the objects, with the dancer oscillating between a state of helplessness and a phase of intense struggle, gave of a Sisyphean vibe. There isn’t a moment in the entire act where the protagonist is at ease, either with herself or with what surrounds her. It is a potent symbol of life’s vagaries and the travails of existence.

The ambient music that ebbs and flows with time, and for a brief period comes to a halt to creating a menacing environment, accompanies the protagonist not as something which signifies the moves; rather, it is there to augment the sense of foreboding. This is where ‘Chipping’ strikes with reasonable force. From the word go, it never ceases to be less foreboding. The image of the protagonist getting walled in by the props on stage reflects defenselessness despite working hard towards consolation.

Shows like ‘Chipping’ are a little foreign (in every sense of the word) to Pakistani audiences. It is for this reason it was nice to see the audience (well, not all of them) watching it with a keen interest.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016

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