Words by Katie Hagan.
A billowing, sartorially-hung cloth of gold suspended from upstage left is draped across the Blue Elephant Theatre‘s performance space, like a figure nonchalantly lying on a chaise longue, undisturbed.
Such a powerful aesthetic commands the first few moments of Michaela Cisarikova Dance Company’s I Love Myself, Do You? Our attention is kept as the cloth starts to cascade with the help of a discreetly hidden wind machine. The space’s focus is then regained by the sudden appearance of a body from a conveniently-cut hole in the shimmering cloth. All we can see is a spine, vertebrae and tightly-bound tar-black straps, as if the dancer’s breasts have been mummified.
As the dancer curls her arms, arches her back and splays her upper back in Graham-esque positions, it becomes apparent there is a figure beneath the cloth mirroring her movements. There is a battle, there is subordination. Necks interlock in the tender, yet pressing way penguins share and conserve body heat. Another body rises. Although the bodies look identical, from the discordance between the three it is clear we are witnessing the internal conflicts which occur in one human.
What emerges after this point is the hypnotic interplay of three female bodies, who derive from the core of this golden volcano. Once the cloth is pulled offstage, the three dancers move and interact ritualistically. Now there is nowhere left to play and hide. Together, the trinity body-ripple, elbow-cartwheel in sync and maintain a great dynamism. It’s as if an invisible thread sews them together.
One dancer is always at the mercy of the others, and this is the crux of the narrative. Will good or evil win? As with the dancer at the hands of the other two, the audience too are engrossed by this interchange. The entire mood is other-worldly and disorientating, with a sensuality undercut by the sheer uncertainty of where the dancers’ relationship will take us.
MCDC’s I Love Myself, Do You? is a strong piece even though it is still in development. On reflection, I am hesitant to say the Cherokee fable of two wolves fighting within you is a necessary illuminator. The dynamic between the three dancers does a great job at representing the divide between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects of ourselves. Although perhaps once a crucial element of the initial, conceptual process, it feels as if Cisarikova’s sense-blowing choreography has outgrown this reference. She has cultivated a newer, unique story in such a way that it is now limiting to be pinned to something else.
Definitely a choreographer to watch, Cisarikova’s I Love Myself, Do You? awakens its audience to its senses, and invites us to self-consciously consider the demons we ourselves must fight or surrender to.
Header image: Michal Marko. Dancers: Michaela Cisarikova, Jenn Vogtle and Maria Sole Montacci.
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