Following MOVE OUT LOUD (2021), choreographer Modjgan Hashemian returns to work with the ensemble of Theater Thikwa, which consists of disabled and non-disabled artists: Dance Loves Music Loves Dance is an interactive quiz-dance show that brings Thikwa dancers together with guest dancers. The work premiered on 17 May 17 2023 in Theater Thikwa and can be seen there again at the beginning of July 2023.
Ten mixed-abled dancers, dressed in futuristic disco style with silver catsuits, bell-bottoms, and wildly glittering fabric appliques storm the stage in the mood to party, accompanied by throbbing, uplifting techno beats that DJ Grace Kelly plays live from the DJ station at the left side of the stage. Welcome to the quiz-dance show. Let’s get started.
The concept: Five Thikwa artists, accompanied by Modjgan Hashemian and Michele Meloni (assistant choreographer), have choreographed duets for themselves and a guest dancer. The audience first watches the duets without music and votes on which song fits the choreography. Three possible songs are played at the end of each duet; the audience selects among them by means of a voting game and the duet is danced a second time to the chosen song. Maybe the audience guesses correctly which music matches the choreography, maybe a spontaneous new composition is made, maybe the music is never found at all—the possibilities are left open.
Dancers Debrecina Arega and Filimatou Lim begin, with a wild mixture of flowing, ornamental movement in unison, from soft partner lifts to choreographed laughter and meaningful gesture and pantomime—part romantic, part beautiful, part funny. They seem (as do all of the pairs of dancers) very comfortable with one another; invisible agreements and intuitive touch direct their shared dance. I vote for Elton John’s Your Song (“It’s a little bit funny…”), but the majority chooses a dreamy guitar number as the correct match, which admittedly also fits.
Tim Petersen and Anna Athanasiou dance together in a robotic style. Their movements are eruptive and isolated. Wearing glittering masks that hide their faces, they seldom touch; a certain distance permeates, and yet they are bound together as if by an invisible bond—a sense of mystery spreads. Music chosen to match: 80s synthpop, new wave, disco punk.
Lia Massetti and Brit Rodemund focus on the interaction between movement and voice. Gulping, gurgling, and hissing sounds materialize in the space, resonating in the two dancers’ movements; they spar in acoustic-dancerly fashion, engaging in a playful fight, whimsical and affectionate, and the audience chooses an up-tempo song with an insistently happy beat to match.
Anne-Sophie Mosch and Adamou Bance appear, in comparison, casual, almost detached. They dance cautiously and sensitively with one another, inseparable and attuned with one another. The calm demeanor of the two, most of all their shoulder-shrugging choreography, has the effect of a subversive understatement when set to Deichkind’s Leider Geil. Overall, the way that the Thikwa dancers flicker between apparently private habitus and performer personas pleasantly shakes up my viewing habits, just like the specific expression of the dancers’ bodies that emerges at the boundaries of a normative movement vocabulary and eludes familiar descriptions of genre.
After a short break in which Thikwa dancer Debrecina Arega encourages the group to copy her dance moves accompanied by Beyoncé’s hymn of empowerment Run the World (Girls), Addas Ahmad and Kaveh Ghaemi initiate the finale. Their explosive and powerful duet somewhere between martial art, lyrical contemporary dance, and merman motifs is further intensified by the choice of the song Beat It by Michael Jackson—and before I can ask myself whether I even want to hear Michael Jackson right now (actually, I don’t), I’m carried away by the beat too (“It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, just beat it…”).
At the end, as DJ Grace Kelly spins once more, the dancers pull the audience onto the stage, and yes, everyone dances together, everyone in their own way, which feels cohesive rather than coercive in this context, since this evening is after all an open love letter to dance, music, and community.
English translation by Cory Tamler