Both Sitting Duet
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 5th 2002
The radicalism of omission
Dance in the process of development: Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion perform Both Sitting Duet in the Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt.
An increasing radicalism has been making its presence felt in the work of the British choreographer and dancer Jonathan Burrows since the middle of the nineties, a radicalism that refuses to conform to all the current theatrical conventions of stage dance. In 1995 he choreographed, initially for a film, the five-minute piece Hands, which consists solely of movements of his hands on his thighs. In a performance of the piece in 1998, in the Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt, Burrows preceded it with the musical piece Donna Che Beve, which was played live on stage by a musician, on three cardboard boxes reinforced to produce percussion instruments. The Italian composer, Matteo Fargion, who is also Burrows' current dance partner on stage at the Mousonturm, had also written the music for both pieces. Music as movement and movement as music also play a central role in Both Sitting Duet. As in his previous major small piece Weak Dance Strong Questions, which Burrows developed together with the theatre director Jan Ritsema, his trained dancer’s body mirrors and refracts again in the body of a non-dancer. Alternately, or in unison, they perform movements that draw part of their suspense from the difference between formation and ordinariness. In fact, there is a great deal in common between the two pieces as regards the radicalism of omission. So this time too there is neither music nor a rigorous choreographic structure. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt or a shirt, they both enter the functionally lit stage and sit down on their chairs turned slightly towards one another. Two ring binders with the relevant movement score are lying on the floor in front of them. It starts off with an elegant stroke across the thigh, a twist of the hand
and a quick grasp onto the floor. Their arms brush over one
another and writhe in front of their chests. Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion commence at different times and with slightly modified movements until after several minutes they have developed a common rhythm, which dissolves again moments later. Seated, the two men develop in this way a closely-woven composition of movements of the fingers, hands and arms, the elements of which maintain, by their very harsh minimalism, a seemingly endless variety of possibilities of execution and combination.
In contrast to Weak Dance Strong Questions, the movements in Both Sitting Duet are rigorously executed and performed with emphasis. With lightning speed and controlled continuity they race with concentration from focal point to focal point, stopping and starting again each time, all of them climaxes in which the preceding build-up is omitted. After half an hour there is a minor outrage within the continuum of interruptions. Suddenly, the two men grasp one another’s hands, and thus establish an unexpectedly new type of relationship with each other. Classical port-de-bras positions are slipped in, as if the 'proper' dance was now going to start at last. But they are simply pauses within the continuum of arm movements. At one point Burrows even lifts himself briefly off his chair, and later on even moves it a little, only to return it to its original position. Sounds are added, rhythmical clapping and a 'Hey, Hey' scan begins, with both of them counting out the fingers on their hands.
Whipped up in such a way, the evening simply breaks off after 45 minutes. Both Sitting Duet is a provocation to a dance that is continually being developed, in a pure form.