(UN)COMMON GROUNDS by Klevis Elmazaj | Review

Words by Inês Carvalho.

We listen to echoes of the cracking wood floor while watching an empty house. No furniture. The broken windows allow the light to come in. A room only gets inhabited when the camera captures four bodies hugging each other, as if they were one. Flashes of the empty space oscillate with the imagery of touch and closeness until they all break apart. There is a couple taking the centre of the scene and being manipulated by the other duo. They try to bring this couple back together while reshaping their bodies to bring back proximity. However, after rounds of unsuccessful attempts, we realise that the feeling of togetherness belonged to a past that does not exist in the present anymore.

The video performance (UN)COMMON GROUNDS follows the journey of four individuals trying to relive episodes from a past life, while they explore what was lost in between, by visiting a past they cannot go back in. Layers of memories and new realities are defining the quality of the movement, which reacts to this multitude by combining static, dynamic and synchronised sequences that compose this piece, divided into five Acts: Unveil, Wrapped & Twisted; Revolting Bodies; Solace; Empty Corridors; and a closing Act, Ground Zero. Created by Albanian choreographer Klevis Elmazaj and performed by a Lebanese group of dancers, (UN)COMMON GROUNDS explores separation when we lose a common ground that used to link us in the past. The piece was produced in 2019 with the plan to be performed live. However, the October revolution in Beirut and the Covid-19 pandemic changed the plans. Nonetheless, all the external circumstances played a vital role in expanding the concept of the piece, while also questioning how to keep creating dance in times of uncertainty. Based on this premise, Elmazaj asked What does it mean to retroactively layer new intentions onto a performance? And the movement replied with fierce routines alternating between solos, duos, trios and groups.

As soon as the performers step into other rooms of the house, new emotions fill the atmosphere and affect how we experience the performance. If the first Act evoked the will of being together, scene after scene we receive glances of revolting, escaping and returning. A dark corridor now takes the screen and introduces a gradual increase in the energy of the performance. Scenes succeed fast through these reactionary bodies, almost like a cry for answers, for a way out.

With the team having to face several restrictions to rehearse and to record the performance, it is impossible not to mention that (UN)COMMON GROUNDS is also about resilience. And the frenetic sequence of the closing Act reveals exactly that: a powerful collective decided to keep dancing, against all adversities. By the sound of electronic music, the camera closes up to a solo. As soon as we dive into the detailed arm gestures of the performer, the video interrupts right at this vivid scene. We leave the piece missing an end, but we also leave accepting that this search for unity is a constant fate that will never finish.

(UN)COMMON GROUNDS was streamed publicly on the 9th and 10th of May and it can be shared upon request by visiting Klevis’s Insta.