To Hell and Back: Asesinos por una Noche
For much of the performance at the Miami-Dade Auditorium, the audience was positioned as voyeur in what could be described as scenes from hell. On a dark, minimal stage, two dancers articulated violent muscular contractions and unstable, collapsing joints. Dance isn't quite the right word to describe it. Choreographic phrases traversed catalogues of agonies: anger, sadism, domination, fear. There was something distinctly Catholic about this piece. It was part confessional, part exorcism.
At the back of the room, a projection extended the stage into a grimy back-alley warehouse space haunted by another performer and fractured dialogue. While the dancers on the stage were in the throes of embodied chaos, states of heightened anxiety were also coming through a film.
Text in the form of voice narration and subtitles, pretended to offer something concrete -- words almost became dialogue, power relationships were defined, or a story seemed to be developing. No coherent narrative ever emerged, though, and within the many shadow states in the performance lurked a vague and sinister one: disorientation.
Arguably, it's healthy to give free reign to all forms of ugliness, as a cleansing process. Consider the way that silence of the mind, as in meditation, inevitably reveals a cacophony of voices. By observing rather than suppressing destructive thoughts, one becomes free from their influence. There is a saying: "the demon screams loudest on its way out." Sometimes, the only escape from pain is to go full-force straight through it.
Whether or not the piece offered catharsis is up for debate, but the work imposed no judgments about its own subject matter. The audience was not trapped by either the space or the action on stage, and the dancers did not even confront us with their faces. For most of the show, they were turned away, a detail that de-personalized the whole episode as a universal human experience. (The back is very expressive of tortured states.)
The artists behind Asesinos por una Noche relinquished control over the viewers' reception of the piece by creating a state of overload. It would be impossible for any one person to entirely follow both the film and the choreography -- they were in competition with each other.
Bits of text or dialogue might reach the attention of some people in the audience but not others, and some no doubt would have devoted full attention to the dancers' intense physicality at the expense of narrative coherence (or the illusion thereof) offered by the film.
Asesinos por una Noche drew equally from popular culture and more formal dance languages. The film and music relied heavily on horror tropes, including creepy distorted vocals, scraping and shrieking electronic tones, and poorly lit spaces; and most of the music was dark industrial techno, something from a bad trip at the club. Meanwhile, the choreography moved back and forth between beat-driven patterning and abstract expression of emotional states, clearly rooted in contemporary dance.
Darkness and light exist in equal measure, despite the instinct to seek happiness, and Asesino por una Noche revels in the worst that life has to offer, as a matter of honesty perhaps. It belongs in the same category as a Lars Von Trier film. This may or may not be how you like to spend your Friday nights.
-- Annie Hollingsworth of artburstmiami.com