Intimacy of the Skin – 35 minutes

Choreographer: Anderson Carvalho of ACDC| Anderson Carvalho Dance & Choreography

Dancers: Rhulani Neo Moloi, Alice Maybin, Nicolas Laubscher, Isla Spotswood, Anneke Claassen and Nicolas Laubscher
Music: Adam Claussen
Instagram: http://@andrsoncarvalho

“The difference between a child and adult is understanding the emotions of others and how your actions affect them – and taking responsibility for that. I didn’t think about the consequences of my actions for a lot of the time – and I would react very emotionally … I have always been pretty emotional, since I was a child but I kind of accepted it all- as a part of who I am… Everything that I have done has led me to the person that I am today. And I accept that….” This is in the evocative voice-over in Intimacy of the Skin– a tender and beautifully nuanced piece of dance theatre, which premiered in Cape Town in May 2023, at the Joseph Stone Auditorium, on Dance Intersect, the inaugural dance platform presented by Anderson Carvalho Dance & Choreography (ACDC).

Intimacy of the Skin was devised during a four month residency, at Ballet on Kloof in Cape Town (a studio space), by Anderson Carvalho (a Brazilian/Dutch choreographer) and six South African dancers. Intimacy was distilled and shaped from memories shared by the dancers.  As Carvalho has reflected in interviews and conversations, skin is the largest organ in the body. Skin breathes. It is about touch and being touched, connection, comfort and pain. Skin takes on nasty connotations in the context of South Africa and our Apartheid history of racially classifying people according to skin colour. Skin as emblematic of personal and collective memory is powerfully imaged in Intimacy of the Skin

In Intimacy of the Skin, there are couplings –duos – pas de deux formations- and groupings. Garbed in a palette of neutral toned costumes, gender and ‘skin/flesh colour’ becomes merged into one.  Dancers move in and out of the central space. We see figures – waiting in the wings – watching and being watched- waiting for cues- for points of physical and emotional connections. I loved the alone-ness of the dancers – using their own bodies to balance, leveraging off body strength. We are voyeurs to the way the dancers are intimately tethered together at times and at other moments, separated in their own bubbles.  There is constant pull, to bind and connect; to surrender and submit.

The dance is set against screens of panels. We see the figures moving within the parameters and spaces of the screens. Intimacy of the Skin begins with the panels as bodies of skin – unmarked – blank. Then, images, drawings, photographs are projected onto the screen and the lighting is intensified and sharpened.  Some of the drawings made by the dancers, during the process of devising Skin, are used. We get a sense of the visual mapping – an expression of the process of developing this work as a company- a palimpsest of memories flickering onto the panels. As the piece continues, the screens revert to skin, parchment without hue, which could reflect anything.

In tandem with the dance and filmic constituents of Intimacy of the Skin, there is a stirring soundtrack of music, by Adam Claussen who was on board from the start of the project. Claussen worked with sounds and refrains from recordings made during rehearsals (voices, buzz of a mobile phone in a pocket) and from notes and drawings made by the dancers. We see for instance drawings, with scribbles of mapping – “bathroom, piano, office.” We hear in the voice over: “Stop. Go. Breathe in. Repeat. Skin. Skies… waves… surrender… no words…no place- just skin.” When skin transcends colour, geography, ideology, origin story- then what? As we touch and truly connect, there are no words as we find our intimacies – even if it is fleeting. The layering of visuals and sound heightens the narrative of Intimacy of Skin and the tensions and resolutions within the group as a whole and the individual within that group. We hear snippets of memories from the company, cantilevered onto Claussen’s waves of sound.

It has taken me a while to write this review as I saw Intimacy of Skin at the preview/FDR (final dress rehearsal) at the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone. Due to load shedding in Cape Town (electricity power outages), there were issues with the sound and lighting.  I needed to watch a recording and have time to consider this tender piece of dance theatre, so here I am with my impressions of Intimacy of the Skin.

Intimacy of the Skin was presented on Dance Intersect 2023- a platform established by ACDC to facilitate a vital intersection of dance and collaboration. For Dance Intersect 2023, ACDC invited three South African dance companies/artists to present work: Elvis Sibeko, EOAN Group, and SboNdaba Dance. In addition to premiering Intimacy of Skin, ACDC also performed When I Left The Room [2022, also devised with a group of South African dancers).

Bravo to ACDC for its investment in dance theatre in Africa and its commitment to creating original dance theatre, during dance residencies, as a collaborative process. Intimacy of Skin was devised in four months, working three days a week – 3-4, hours of rehearsals per day. During the four month residency, ACDC also rehearsed When I Left The Room [2022] which was also presented at Dance Intersect 2023.

Next up – ACDC – is performing a fragment (20 minutes) from Intimacy of the Skin at the Ubumuntu Arts Festival [July 14-16, 2023] in Kigali, Rwanda. The festival is taking place in the outdoor amphitheatre of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre Festival link: Note: Adam Claussen has released the music for When I left the Room and he will release the music for Intimacy of Skin on July 15, 2023, on digital platforms. See his Instagram page, for details.

Image: Intimacy of the Skin, performed in Cape Town, May 2023, pic supplied.

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