2D Dance. Surviving Masculinity. Klāvs Liepiņš performance’s ‘Grosombols’ review

02/27/2021

Katrín Gunnarsdóttir 

The review was written as a part of the project 2D Dance where foreign authors assessed video recordings of several Latvian dance performances. 2D Dance is an experiment that studies if dance is a readable form of art when put on the screen, and how local choreographers’ work can be perceived by authors who know little or nothing about Latvian dance. Reviews will be complemented by online conversations with the authors of the articles and the works’ choreographers in question. The 2D Dance project’s primary goal is to develop and underline communication differences between communities in different countries, developing the ability to talk about the art of dance, gaining an international outline, and promoting Latvian artists’ recognition.

I. Camouflage

We see a body inside the wall. A man in a light brown suit that matches its surroundings, blending into the background. We see him spilling out of the wall. It’s very visual, could be a scene from a dance film by DV8 (theatre group Vesturport and its staging of Metamorphosis by Kafka also comes to mind). A vulnerable male body, opening up and arching in various ways. After a few minutes, we hear something: “My name is Klāvs, I am Klāvs…” repeated over and over. It’s not just a body; this is Klāvs; we are not in an abstract world anymore; this is here and now. The soundscape also intensifies, ambient and steady.

Klāvs affirms his identity, playfully testing his surroundings by leaning on the door, upside down against a pillar, crawling, sliding, extending. Something in his manner is not connected; he is displaced, a male sculpture or sculptor, shaping the body as it moves across space, articulating small gestures and torso isolations. He is gaining confidence, or at least he presents himself to us with a bit of swagger (think Michael Jackson performs in West Side Story). Something is stirring; he opens up with the facial expressions, smiles here and there. He takes off his jacket and is wearing a black shirt. Klāvs stops blending into the background. We see him more clearly.

II. Hazardous

The mood drastically changes as the theme song from the movie Rocky blasts away. Klāvs

presents us with a pink sledgehammer, parading it around like a girl in a boxing ring or a fashion show model. The poses are masculine, but transitions are feminine, and there are some funny moments (for example, he hits his butt with the sledgehammer and rocks it back and forth). Even though the atmosphere is light, there is something dangerous about all this. Klāvs swirls the heavy object around; it’s in the air that an accident could happen. After the Rocky theme song is finished, Klāvs presents us with a pink drill and turns it on, so you hear drilling noise serving as the soundscape for further physical encounters with the sledgehammer, playing with gravity and weight transfers between object and body.

Klāvs removes his shoes and pants and moves across the space, spiralling and convulsing with the torso and upper body. The movements are soft and fluid, his focus drawn inward, beautifully listening to his movements and impulses. Soundscape builds up as Klāvs pushes the movements further, a simple but striking image in his black shirt and shorts. This body is expressive. Finally, Klāvs arranges some of the objects in a hole in the wall. An altar, shrine, trophy shelf after his wrestling match with these potentially hazardous objects.

III. Survival

Klāvs performs a series of strict shapes with punctuating rhythm. Military sequences come to mind, but also cheerleading movements. He brings a pink ball on stage and while throwing it towards walls and surfaces (making loud noises and bangs), he recites some of his expectations towards himself, back and forth, always changing his wishes. How he wanted short hair or long hair, wanted big muscles or a lean figure. The pendulum swings between the feminine and masculine. As we contemplate his words, his actions speak louder, with these repetitive thuds from the ball, again, this imminent danger of the objects. Klāvs now extends our world beyond this room he is dancing in; we are presented with context.

Que music and Klāvs runs on stage with cheerleading pom-poms in a shiny pink top, shouting along with a British punk rock song, we are bombarded with lyrics that describe the dark side of masculine stereotypes:

“Man up, sit down

Chin up, pipe down

Socks up, don’t cry

Drink up, just lie

“Grow some balls,” he said”

As the pom-poms swirl around in Klāvs’s hands, he mixes masculine traits with feminine, aggressive energy with cheerleading poses and he even ends in a split (choreographer Erna Ómarsdóttir would be proud to have him in her Metal Aerobics class). The movements are repetitive, on the rhythm, a beating necessity. This survivor is now dancing to the beat of his own drum.

Katrín Gunnarsdóttir holds a BA in Choreography from ArtEZ School of Dance, Arnhem since 2008 and graduated with an MSc in Economics from Iceland University in 2011. She works as a choreographer, performer, researcher and teacher. As well as developing her own choreographic work, Katrín is a member of the Icelandic art collective Marble Crowd. She is a regular teacher at Iceland University of the Arts and is chairman of the board of the association Choreographers in Iceland. 

katringunnarsdottir.com.

Image: Grosombols, publicity photo