Following a digital version in 2021, the live premiere of “safe&sound” by choreographer Lee Méir took place from 27 until 30 April 2023 in Radialsystem. The piece deals with linear and cyclical forms of time and with rhythm as a social and political instrument.
A lunar landscape strewn with countless colorful pieces of clothing awaits in Radialsystem’s large hall. Six performers (Cajsa Godée, Dessa Ganda, Eli Cohen, emeke ene, Cary Shiu, and Willie Stark) move about in this undulating, vibrant world, all of them on their own and absorbed, restless and visibly occupied with something that cannot be seen. Softly wavering over the stage as if in a trance, some of them seem blissful, others manic or playful. Following a kind of out-of-control multilayering technique with various pieces of clothing, they continuously dress and undress — with just one shoe or a single pant leg, with a skirt repurposed as a top or with fabric creations temporarily bound to their heads they swarm through the space, as changing textile beings, as eccentric and flamboyant stuffed animals.
The performers’ voices become material, become a moment of confusion that at the same time eludes every form of representation: murmuring, moaning, huffing, crackling, popping, lipsmacking, whispering. The first rhythms develop through sounds coming from the performers’ mouths and sometimes synchronize with steps and with head and arm movements. In between small formations emerge, as if by chance, two or three performers who come together and make sounds in a shared rhythm, scurrying, hopping, pacing. Things get loud and fast, pieces of clothing and objects fly through the air, Eli Cohen flails colorful rubber batons around, Dessa Ganda throws balls and Caijsa Godée tennis shoes in the air, animalistic calls resound through the space, there is leaping and stomping. Moments of anarchy. The performers circle a pile of clothes in the middle of the space, dancing and singing; a common rhythm flares up, reminiscent of ecstatic dances and of forgotten hymns and rituals.
The performers explore rhythm here as a social tool. Each seeks out their own rhythm and sometimes the rhythms of the individuals merge as if by chance. How is it, in fact, possible to make a collective decision on a common rhythm, and how does the desire for freedom opposed with the desire to belong determine individual behavior? Each of the performers’ actions occurs in the space between leading and following, chaos and order, chance and control. Many little bubbles of rhythm form here and there, called up through breath, sound, movement, yet the moment a bubble is well enough established to be recognizable, it pops. Every time the audience wants to (or can) surrender to a groove, it disappears instantly. Because of the desire for synchronicity, for familiar kinetics, it’s not easy to watch this performance, which repeatedly evades any clear rhythm. In the process, the evening narrowly escapes giving the impression that it’s all arbitrary — that the sound is produced solely by the performers and their momentary decisions and there is otherwise no music to be heard is only logical.
It grows calmer on the playing field. Quiet, persistent rhythmic experiments follow, with rubber sticks, clacking shoes, and hi-hats; in between, silence, time moves slowly. Towards the end, however, the performers create moments of attraction once more, each action always fueled by a charming absurdity: running here and there, irresistibly grinning into the audience, letting out gurgling screeching sounds, launching into an aria over and over. Cary Shiu leaps in a circle, grand jeté after grand jeté. emeke ene stamps a booted foot impatiently on the ground and quickly performs a tap dance. Dessa Ganda, Cajsa Godée, and Willie Stark emit indistinct sounds that develop into a kind of capricious operatic singing. Everyone ultimately bounces about together in ordered chaos, they horse gallop over the stage singing and shouting. Hello rhythm, hello anarchy. I catch a faint smile playing at the corners of my mouth.
English translation by Cory Tamler