“Motivaction” is a compound word; and Oihana Vesga’s Motivaction is a compound work – a mashup of words with movement, in which you’re never quite sure which is the hand and which the glove. At first, speech has the stage: “Tonight we are going…,” says Ruben Brown. “…to move,” interjects Vesga. And move they do, just like the words said: crazy-limbed, wobble-hipped bopping sequences that words really cannot describe. Then they take turns to do them again while the other names body parts – chest, pelvis, knee, elbow – so that now we can pin down those moments when the chest opens or knee collapses or elbows jerk upwards.
As the moves slow down and the dancers try out different actions, something else begins to happen: the piece gets more personal, and more physical. Right, left, right say the words, but the movement is air kisses from cheek to cheek. Down goes the head, closer comes the pelvis. It’s not just words that say something, the body does too. In the end, the piece arrives at a strange crossroads between language and movement. Parts of speech – verbs, the active and passive voice, the subject and the object – intersect with another kind of enunciation: the subject as body; action and animus; motion as material, sensation and volition.
It’s a fascinating journey – articulated, layered, highly punctuated – though where it gets us I’m honestly not sure. Still, whether acting as script or as subtitles to the movement, the words in this work do help us to see what’s going on and give it a reason why (a “motivaction”) – a level of legibility that’s all too rare in the field of contemporary choreography.