Absolute body control

A review of Simon, performed by Joao Costa Espinho (France)


Absolute body control was set to the haunting soundscape of information technology in the second performance at Skena Up. The performance Simon was a (let’s say narrative) dance solo by a Portuguese dancer Joao Costa Espinho. He was the ultimate author of this performance, being its sole director, choreographer and performer. Being ‘Simon’ for 23 minutes – which the estimated time of the solo – Costa Espinho didn’t use his movements in vain. He really managed to tell a strange story. A dialogue between a man and his ideas of imperfection: between oneself and one’s own strangeness.

The aesthetics and the techniques of the dance in Simon were clear references to those of Butō – a Japanese style of improvisational and experimental dance – and especially to those of its arche-dancer Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986). But the more interesting part lies in the fact that the concept of Costa Espinho’s dance deals with the same fundamental ideas of Butō. Or to put it this way: Joao Costa Espinho and Tatsumi Hijikata seem to have very similar motivations for dancing.

Hijikata was the first authentic explorer of a language of dance that extensively used hyper-controlled body movement, which helped his dancers to transform into other states of being. In the elaborate dancing concept of this performance, which was textually presented in the catalogue of the Skena Up festival, Joao Costa Espinho made a literal synopsis of this dancing philosophy. Here he writes: ‘Simon is an interior journey of a man who’s questioning himself as a specimen. Simon wants to be something else. Wants to be a “thing”. Any “thing”. But less of a human being.’

Costa Espinho’s fascinating transdisciplinary art of controlled body movement should’ve been rewarded with more applause, but let’s explain the confusion of the audience (or at least a part of it) because of a healthy dose of ignorance. This idiosyncratic performance seemed to go towards the evasion of definition, nevertheless it was certainly very enjoyable. Even astonishing to some of us.

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