• Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.
    Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.
  • Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.
    Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.
  • Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.
    Photo: Maarten Vanden Abeele.

Sydney Festival -

Charleroi Danses: Kiss and Cry -
Carriageworks, 22 January -

Where do people go when they disappear from our life, our memory?
Lost in the deep dark recesses of your memory.

-- Thomas Gunzig's text, in Kiss and Cry's program notes.
Kiss and Cry, from Charleroi Danses Artistic Associate Michèle Anne de Mey and film maker Jaco Van Dormeal, is a seamless 85-minute dance theatre and live film performance. Rarely does one see a work of this complexity so smoothly, even joyously, delivered. The leading roles of the production are played by two pairs of hands that morph continually from characters to hands, captured before us in an extraordinary feat of direction and projected simultaneously onto a screen hanging behind.

De Mey’s fine, articulate fingers assume the role of the central character, a woman, reflecting on her five love stories, like the five fingers of a hand. They are matched by those of co-choreographer Grégory Grosjean and together their fingers dance pas de deux, pirouette, slide and wrap, tempt and taunt, make love, reject, die and disappear. These hands are filled with personality through choices of movement and dynamics and delivered with exquisite sensitivity. Curiosity draws our gaze from the hand up the arm of the performer and we see that hand is the final expression of a fully engaged and dancing body and face.

While the hands of De Mey and Grosjean are featured, another well-rehearsed set of choreography takes place around them, performed by camera man Julien Lambert, his focus puller Aurélie Leporcq, lighting operators and prop manipulators. Timing is everything, as the miniature sets are manipulated, cameras dolly-ed from one tiny scene to the next and all edited together before our very eyes. Kiss and Cry premiered in 2011 at the VIA Festival in Mons, Belgium. Now in its fourth year, it is understandable that the crew-cum-cast of nine should move together with such aplomb.

We are carried along with a beautiful score that mixes effects, diverse music choices and sounds made by the crew, interspersed with narration. The text is by writer Thomas Gunzig. His words are played out in the scenes sometimes literally, sometimes abstractly, always surprising the audience into thinking and seeing things differently. I was reminded of Terrence Malick’s 2011 film Tree of Life, the story melting in and out of a concept of time and linearity. Both directors take us away from the narrative early in the works to a primordial world, as though reminding us of humanity’s place and hinting where certain instincts evolved. For this primordial scene, Kiss and Cry cleverly sinks us into an aquarium, the camera pressed against the glass, dye dispersing in globules and loops -- the bottom of a murky pond, a placenta. The hand becomes a beating heart, then a fish.

De Mey describes the creative process in her program notes – an attic filled with bric-a-brac like a shop of wonders; the team of three becoming ten; tables, a screen, a camera, a screenplay, a text. She notes that it was the most wonderful experience of collective creation she ever had. Its success is apparent. The way in which the parts of this production dance together, highlight and abstract one another, could only be achieved by a group in total synchronicity of purpose and understanding.

 - Emma Sandall


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