Review: The Dog Days Are Over, Grand Theatre Groningen

Interview with Jan Martens, Choreographer of “The dog days are over” in the Grand Theater Groningen:

Jan Martens – 32 years old – studied at Fontys Dance Academy in Tilburg and started to develop his own choreographic work in 2009. Throughout his creations he approaches dancing from a non-traditional perspective. His last work “The dog days are over” – which was performed in the Grand Theater of Groningen on the 21st of December – is the incarnation of his philosophy and desire to create a symbiosis between “art and entertainment” according to his own words.

The performance:

As entering the theater, at first glance, it was obvious that the show would break traditional codes. Dancers were not backstage like they usually are before the act starts. No, instead they were there, on stage, getting ready for the performance to come. As the rest of the crowd settled onto their seats, the light weakened and the room grew darker. Eventually complete darkness ruled the entire space.

When the light came back, the show had begun. Four men, four women: different skin colors, heights, weights, morphology, styles but all frightfully static and staring. There was no music but the tensions between the public and the artists could almost be heard. Then progressively, the motion of their bodies brought the show to life. There was a non-stop jumping motion, geometrical patterns formed by the dancers, horizontal lines, parallel, synchronized movements, but still no music. Only sounds: the one of their steps and those of their breathing getting heavier. After an hour of constant jumping the artists came back to their initial stationary state, staring once again. Exhaustion on their faces. Emotionally naked. At last darkness conquered the stage, and enthusiastic applause arose. The end.

A meaning behind the dance:

It is a quote from an American photographer that planted the seed of “The dog days are over” in Martens’ mind: “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears” According to Philippe Halsman. In his last work, Martens implemented this idea on dancers to see how it would apply to them. The main goal was therefore to “bring them to the edge physically and mentally” so that the mask unfolds.

However, some aspects of the choreography seem contradictory regarding Martens’ goal to make the mask fall. In his work he mostly chose very synchronized and uniform movements, rhythms and systems. This could appear as reducing the freedom and the potential “letting go” of the dancers which can still hide behind the uniformity of the patterns of a choreography that they performed more than a 100 times before going on stage. Are these uniform patterns an obstacle to the letting go of the mask? To this question Jan Martens replied “Everything needs to come from the form… I don’t like to force things. The mask will fall only if the dancer allows it to do so”. After all Jan Martens’ work can be considered as Art: “All art is unstable. Its meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author. There is no authoritative voice. There are only multiple readings” – David Bowie.

 


By Maéva Mouton
Cover photo

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