Who’s in control here? Blindfolded and dressed only in underwear, Mirva Mäkinen and Eero Vesterinen are guided onto a faintly dungeon-like stage by clothed choreographer Valtteri Raekallio, who remains a shadowy presence throughout Rehearsal on Love. If the set-up is fetishistic and voyeuristic, the opening is touchy-feely: Mäkinen and Vesterinen reach for, support and caress each other, to the sound of waves and pipes. When the blindfolds come off and the clothes go on, the lovey-dovey cliché gives way to an abusive one: in an increasingly violent partnership, the woman may fight back but it’s the man who dominates, spinning her around, weighing her down, yanking her by the hair.
Mäkinen and Vesterinen are skilled performers, and the contact-improvisation style, though familiar, is apt: it’s a very direct way of embodying relational dynamics. But this work simply re-enacts normative and oppressive dynamics of sexuality and power – and seems almost wilfully blind to its own implications.
The sound tells you everything in Jivko Jeliazkov’s F 63.9. Spacey blips and buzzes mean that dancers Simona Todorova and Yasen Popov twitch and jerk like robots. Plaintive piano cues tentative gestures of longing. Mechanical grinds accompany piston-pump limbs. Loud, propulsive rhythms drive assault and battery. Slow, sparse music is for solitary isolation, and crashing booms signal dark portents and ominous intentions.
Why? Todorova and Popov seem to be playing out the phases of a love story, as experienced by androids on steroids (both dancers are gym-toned, in tight-white acrobat outfits). Stylistically it’s intriguing, with alien contortions and sci-fi ambulations. The pacing is way off though: it’s an over-extended series of set-pieces, each with the same straightforward musico-choreographic approach. Worse, the alien love story simply retells a deadeningly familiar human one. Man is aggressive. Woman fights back. Woman leaves. Man feels sorry for himself. Woman comes back, feeling sorry for him too. What?