Review: When I left the Room – multifaceted layered dance theatre – lingering images of cohesion and estrangement– new dance theatre piece by Anderson Carvalho

When I Left the Room is a multifaceted layered piece of dance theatre – structured around Anderson Carvalho’s highly considered choreography which resonates with a powerful non-verbal narrative, embedded with lingering images of cohesion and estrangement. It is intensely visceral physical theatre – playing out on/in shifting spaces/boxes/rooms.

What occurs when we leave the room – physically and emotionally? What does ‘the room’ signify for you? What does ‘home’ denote for you? Is it a place; a state of mind; a room; a space; a box? Watching the opening performance of When I Left the Room in Cape Town and I was drawn into the intensity of relationships conjured up by the dancers – working on plinths/boxes. They work within their own spaces. They are conjoined and then they separate, flinch, pull away. There is a constant push-pull. They are together and apart. One moment, and there is stasis and balance and the next, there is a sharp disconnect. That is very relatable. We find commonalities and then things may dissipate and fracture: When we leave the room- the said and un-said and things that we wanted to say or act on but did not.  We catch phrases. Some parts are lost in translation in terms of language or the inability to communicate or sustain the moment of connection. There may be a touch; an embrace, a hug but what happens when we leave the room?

The choreography is potent. The dancers are fabulous. The muted palette of costumes lends itself to the body being the primary mode of expression. With Faheem Bardien’s lighting design (always exceptional to see this lighting artist at work) ​and the original sound composition by Adam Claussen, When I Left the Room is an exciting new piece of dance theatre. However, for future performances, I think that the work could benefit with a framing intervention/device/screening.

Watching When I Left the Room, on the large stage at The Joseph Stone Auditorium in Cape Town, I felt that there was too much space, which distracted from what was occurring between the bodies of the dancers as they shifted between their boxes/plinths. A screen/frame/box to demarcate the performance arena, could heighten the intensity of what unfurls before us and hold our gaze, without it meandering into the wings. Well, that was my experience. There seemed to be issues with the sound quality. Hopefully that can be sorted in the next season. It would be great to have musicians accompany the dancers, which would charge the stories/narratives with additional resonances, so that Adam Claussen’s haunting score become an integral part of the piece, beyond a backtracks.  Bravo to Anderson Carvalho and his team, for creating this exciting piece of dance theatre, out of a research dance performance project; with extensive collaboration between artists from South Africa, Carvalho (based in Holland) and others, from around the globe.

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