What is truth? It’s a big question to explore in 50 minutes, but Agora Dance’s The Kind of Thing That Would Happen attempts to do exactly that. The result is a beautifully executed, if overly intellectualized, piece of modern dance-theatre.
An interdisciplinary mix of dance and spoken word (both recorded and live) performed by a cast of four, The Kind of Thing That Would Happen loosely follows the memory of a past romantic relationship while exploring the idea of perception versus reality.
The Kind of Thing That Would Happen
closes July 21, 2017
Details and tickets
A woman (Melissa Lineburg) reads from journal entries recalling a man she once loved. As she does so, we watch the memories come alive primarily through simple yet effective pas de deux between her past self (Catherine Roth) and the man (Robert Rubama). The final dancer is a Stage Manager-type character (Hannah Joo) who appears, like a one-person Greek chorus, to comment on and call into question the veracity of the scenes before us. The smoothly interwoven text is sourced from various pieces of literature and theory, from Aristotle’s Poetics to David Shields’ Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, all addressing the theme of truth in art. Think lines like “art is not truth. Art is a lie that enables us to recognize truth” delivered with sincere seriousness.
The choreography (by Olivia Sabee) evokes the contrast between misty nostalgia and realism. Fluid, balletic movements mixed with more grounded contemporary dance and splashes of pedestrian movement, all to music from various genres from classical to rock. Mundane actions like cooking, eating and sleeping evolve into the elevated composition of choreography. When the four dancers come together, they dance in sync at first, but eventually each one breaks out of step for just a moment with their own unique movement, like a shared memory that evolves differently in separate minds.
The various pas de deux between the main couple reveal a range of interpretations of love from the idealistic fantasy of love at first sight to the more complex realities of couplehood. In one memorable scene, Hannah Joo recites text while dancing to no other music than her speaking and breathing heavily. A reminder of the inherent truth that a body is moving and exerting itself on the stage in front of you at that very moment.
All of this takes place on a set that strikes a dream-like balance between realism and abstraction: a kitchen and a bed on opposite sides of the stage both in the middle of bare, blank black stage that suggests the vast expanse of memory and mind. Sabee’s choreography makes full use of the set and various planes of the Elsted auditorium’s stage, often simultaneously. But even when there is a lot going on, it never feels confused.
The idea of mixing movement with text is not new, in either the theatre or dance worlds. The Kind of Thing That Would Happen felt like an interpretation of something I had seen before, rather than fresh and exciting. This kind of non-narrative piece works best when it sweeps the audience into an emotional journey that adds up to some kind of arc. Here is where Agora fell short. Ultimately, The Kind of Thing That Would Happen was more like an intellectual exercise rather than something that moved me. That said, the truth is that it is a lovely and thought-provoking intellectual exercise. Or, at least that is my perception of the truth.
The Kind of Thing That Would Happen choreographed by Olivia Sabee with original sound design by DeLesslin George-Warren. Performed by Hannah Joo, Melissa Lineburg, Catherine Roth, Robert Rubama, and Meredith Stapleton. Set Design by Ben Levine. Produced by Agora Dance. Reviewed by Amy Couchoud.