A presence. About performance “OTRAIS”

Elviss Zants – ELVI*

One does not understand OTRAIS** – a performance by a dancer (on stage) and drummer or in reality – a diverse percussionist (off stage). I would speculate that one feels it. Even – and that is very significant – one is on the intellectual side of art appreciation. And especially if that one – like yours truly – leans toward the musical side of things, rather than the visually corporeal.

Much as I had read the short description provided by the promoter of the piece and knew the admitedly witty title the conceptual backbone seemed to fade away just a few minutes into the performace. And in place of all the usual narrative seeking, symbol searching, conceptualizing routines one’s mind grapples with, I was taken out of time and into a world of a projected experience – close to a sort of dream state. One of those dreams in which you find yourself to be a different person, experiencing, judging, feeling not as you would but as someone you get to know in the process. Although usually – that’s just by the end of it all when you wake up. And you’re thinking – who was this? I’d like to get to know that person beyond the passing of a moment.

It seemed to me that the dancer too expressed a tension similar to that of a dream state. The feeling of a presence – a physical one and yet something that you can’t get a hold of. Or even see for that matter.

Of course I’m not one to judge where the interpretation of the dancer started and where the choreographers influence ended but it seemed that only a dancer that truly shares the vision of the author of the dance can provide such detailed expression like the one I experienced. It balanced on a thread between a slight theatricality and the uttermost honesty derived almost from that of a mentally disturbed person. I guess I got caught on that from the very beginning of the piece – that expression was sort of like a beacon that guided me throughout the colourful development stages of both the choreography and the music.

Supposedly one would find this piece of the sort that’s not tamed by both the formal, traditional and even more so the commercialized approaches to performance. Ok, true. But at the same time this definitely wasn’t an experience that seeks a trained intellectual audience that would sit tight, grim-faced, emotion-less and then go on in their reviews about what the whole thing meant. Philosophically. This notion I can base upon various episodical aspects of the beautifully timed performance though I’d choose not to reveal a narrative. But it has to be said that it truly was an emotional rollercoaster (see – my description of expression) as much as it was a provocative one (hence the duly used silence and non-movement).

As for the musical performance one must admit it was a little unsatifying that the opening drum sounds were so… drum set like! It seemed to lack musical imagination – a snare beating out simple ascending sequences of marches. What followed of course topped that by a thousand! I felt a little envy as I wished I could be that percussionist – such soundscapes and even sound design like wit. Is this really being performed live at this moment by two hands? And then only in the end to realize that the simple drum set approach had a meaning after all…

I do not posess a knowledge of the true concepts behind OTRAIS. And I do not believe the description reveals an inch of it too! But to me – what one experiences through both the dance and the music is a presence… A sense of transcendence that so much of the most diverse art and performance of today simply lacks.

*Elviss Zants – ELVI – is an electronic musician and disc jockey, co-author of the musical score to the feature film “People There” (2012) and author of the music to the contemporary dance performance “Il cimento della struttura e dell’accento” (2013).

**OTRAIS (THE SECOND) – contemporary dance performance conceived and choreographed by Sintija Sili?a, performed by dancer and choreographer Evita Birule and drummer Artis Orubs. It premiered in Riga at Dirty Deal Teatro on April 3, 2013.