Both Sitting Duet
De Morgen, Belgium, January 3rd 2003
The delicate musical choreography of Burrows and Fargion
The Kaaitheater in Brussels presented a short initial run of Both Sitting Duet by the choreographer Jonathan Burrows and the composer Matteo Fargion in October. This very special, modest musical choreography was re-run in January.
Last year Burrows, a British choreographer, caused quite a stir with the duet Weak Dance Strong Questions, which he improvised together with Jan Ritsema. The most striking thing was the contrast between Ritsema's rather crude way of dancing and Burrows' elegance. In Both Sitting Duet Burrows ventures into a similar encounter, this time with Matteo Fargion, the composer with whom he has collaborated since 1989. Burrows, who already has a career as a top dancer at the Royal Ballet under his belt, and who has worked with Rosemary Butcher and others, had then only just established the Jonathan Burrows Group. In the setting of that company he developed into one of England's leading choreographers. His work is primarily an examination of the potential and the limitations of dance.
He has set up several projects with Fargion in the past, in which they studied the relationship between dance and music, and in which the two disciplines commented on each other. The result can be described as musical choreography. The same applies to Both Sitting Duet, which barely lasts fifty minutes, but whose meticulously composed structure means it stays with you much longer.
As the title suggests, Burrows and Fargion are both sitting on chairs in an otherwise empty space. On the floor in front of them lie the score of the performance, which they stick to meticulously. The choreographer and composer rub the legs of their trousers with the palms of their hands, and with their fingers count abruptly to five or briefly touch the floor, and throw their arms in the air. Smooth, rhythmically, sometimes in unison, sometimes alternately, they produce sounds by their movements, and their choreography is at the same time a fine, small-scale composition. In this way, just as in their short 1999 performance Hands, ordinary hand gestures assume an unprecedented significance, and no longer appear so natural. They are reminiscent of the movements of a conductor. The difference is that Burrows and Fargion do not insist on close-ups of their hands or arms, but that every detail, every fibre of their body, every knowing look or mischievous smile, right down to the creaking of the chairs, is essential to this performance.
There is something fragile about seeing Burrows, the graceful, practised dancer, and Fargion with his stiff angular movements, sitting alongside each other in such concentration. At the same time this is a bold and many-sided composition, in all its restraint and simplicity.
Sally De Kunst