Despite its name, Belgium’s Les Ballets C de la B is pretty much the opposite of a ballet company. It thrives on the disparate physiques and techniques of its dancers, revels in mash-ups of different media, and encourages collaboration and experimentation from its performers. Patchagonia bears the company hallmarks. Choreographed by company performer Lisi Estaràs and performed by a quartet of dancers and a trio of musicians, it is an impressionistic montage of scenes, set in a desolate terrain that figures as a kind of wilderness of the soul.
The set – straw-coloured boards and a rough-hewn tree skeleton – is inhabited by three solitary men. Into their world comes Melanie Lomoff, a skittery pied piper leading a line of musicians, who begin to play. Sam Louwyck performs a stunning solo to a melancholy violin melody, his body splaying bonelessly under its own weight as he sidewinds across the floor, flips upright and tumbles back down. If Louwyck is a drifter, lanky Nicolas Vladyslav is a searcher, badgering the indifferent others with advice about going forward, looking towards the horizon. Ross McCormack, a breezy cowboy on the surface, is a mass of tics and twitches, a man out of place in his own body, constantly flinching from and overreacting to contact. Lomoff is a flighty creature, difficult to place: at times she is coltish, tossing her mane of hair; then she will swish and stamp to a folk tune, or breathe and blow as if her spine were a straw.
In fact, the piece as a whole is difficult to place: the typically wandering, disjointed scenes means that its focus strays precariously. Sometimes it finds moments of bleak drama that, like the yearning music, powerfully intimate the spaces of the human heart; and sometimes it is as empty and ungraspable as the landscape it imagines.