The Black Piece dances in the dark—quite lit­er­ally

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - By

FJanet Smith or years, mav­er­ick Dutch­flem­ish dance artist Ann Van den Broek had been drawn to the colour black. She’s been fas­ci­nated with both the neg­a­tiv­ity and pos­i­tiv­ity as­so­ci­ated with it through his­tory—from the Black Plague through to its sta­tus as a good omen in an­cient Egypt, and from the dan­ger of film noir to the se­duc­tive power of the lit­tle black cock­tail dress in modern times. As she started to cre­ate her hit dance work The Black Piece, she also felt in­ex­tri­ca­bly drawn to the dark.

“In the dark you can feel fear, be­cause there are peo­ple and things around you that you can­not see,” she tells the Straight from Gaspé, Que­bec, where her Rot­ter­dam-an­dantwerp–based com­pany Ward/ ward is on a tour stop. “But also you can do things that no­body can see, and there’s al­most com­fort in that.”

And so, in­evitably, she hit the light switch in her dance stu­dio and started to work with her per­form­ers in the pitch black to see what would hap­pen.

“They were try­ing to im­pro­vise and feel­ing each other or feel­ing the wall, and im­me­di­ately it felt like magic,” she re­lates. “All your senses have to be so en­larged—you’re re­ally work­ing with touch and your ears be­cause you can­not see.”

But what most shaped The Black Piece was adding rov­ing light back into the work. In the pro­duc­tion, Van den Broek her­self stalks the stage with a flash­light, il­lu­mi­nat­ing her mov­ing dancers through­out the night, while cam­era­man Thorsten Alofs also turns his lens on the ac­tion, pro­ject­ing it live on a screen.

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