Sideways Rains Existentialist and Hypnotic Performance

Nélida Nassar   04.28.2016

Maqamat Dance Theatre have bold instincts when selecting work for their festival Bipod, and when their choice pay off, as they do in this triple bill, they can feel inspired. The first of the three is the collaboration with Brazilian born and Swiss national Guillermo Botelho director of Alias, makes me want to see everything that this choreographer has created. The second is Botelho who conceived and directed this piece of rigorously physical performance, is explicit in his intentions: to suggest that artistic, human and political dimensions succeeded in his cooperation with Moultaka Leymoun‘s residency program. To that end and within ten days he trained a highly expressive team of nineteen dancers, four professionals from his core company guiding fifteen emerging artists that he worked with for the first time from Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia. The third is presenting the piece between three dance festivals in Beirut, Amman, Ramallah and Jerusalem. The global touring and learning experience from others brings for him great personal enrichment.

Sideways Rains is a work of rare craft, which combines a metaphysical, philosophical and existentialist journey through life with a very simple choreographic structure of meticulous restraint. It opens to a bare, black stage, illuminated by just one wavering line suggesting a road on a river barge or the water itself. During the first section, the dancers in vaguely sweat clothes are an army of primitive creatures blindly crawling towards some hospitable terrain. As they start to move first slowly then more swiftly, then start again, tirelessly, driven by an inexplicable desire to run, travelling faster and faster the race for survival. Towards what? Towards a fate that seems to slip under their feet. Gradually the emerging themes of similar human condition, genetics and physiology, evolution of man and transformation of the universe unfold. Men and women walk, run, fall, meet, get up, disappear, reappear in loop and in an eternal, circular, repetitive beginning.

Botelho offers a visual and physical metaphor of the powerful force that animates all life. Sculptor of rhythm and space, he activates a pulsating dance. We are captivated by the suggestive power of the story, the apparent simplicity of an incredibly complex dramaturgy. A show off fads, dedicated entirely to pure movement. His imagery informed by Eadweard Muybridge photographic studies of motion and the nonsense tradition, is key to the compelling strangeness with which Botelho explores his topics: the dynamic of loneliness, the power of the group and love.

Taking his cue from his Murcof and Pablo Beltran Ruiz score, which alternates between pounding pointillist percussion and roaring dissonance, we hear the vestigial popular sound of Sinatra’s Come Dance With Me. Botelho, an expert in non verbal language elaborates on the flux and passing of life, evolving relationships, Adam and Eve and God’s watching gaze parables. He express complex ideas and stories solely through passages of sideway sliding or slowing down movements causing various states of emotion. Conceived in memory of his father while Murcof composed the music in memory of his mother, through this serendipitous coincidence, one senses that the prevalent motif of the current work may be a means of coming to terms with grief.

If the Beirut’s interpretation seems a tad too long this is because the final effect of naked dancers was eliminated by respect to local traditions. However the dancers do sprint like Olympians weaving a horizontal thicket of slender, silvery strings. Throughout they are uniformly very good and their performance is simply ravaging in its impact and empathy. Sideways Rains tests the physiology of endurance – when our brains tell our bodies to stop – and the psychology of carrying on. The piece is brutally honest, hypnotic, life-changing, oppressive at time and utterly riveting. We find among the sheer self-determination, a sense of solidarity and social idealism fueling Botelho drive for the primal energy running through all living things including as the piece’s title suggests sideways rains. Botelho’s motto is “It’s good to trust, it’s better to put to test.”

Choreography: Guilherme Botelho
Assistant: Madeleine Piguet Raykov
Original Music: Murcof, Pablo Beltrân Ruiz
Light Design: Jean-Philippe Roy
Set Design: Guilherme Botelho, Stefanie Liniger, Gilles Lambert
Decor Realization: Ateliers du Stadttheater Bern, Atelier GGN-Martin Rautenstrauch
Costumes: Marion Schmid d’après Julia Hansen
Outside Eye: Gilles Lambert
Photo copyright: Alias, Sideways rain
Solo picture: @Vojta_Brtnicky_Tanec_Praha_2012
Dancers: Fabio Bergamaschi, Angela Rabaglio, Luisa Schofer, Erik Lobelius, Jadd Tank, Charlie Prince, Hamdi Dridi, Mounir Said, Sharaf Darzaid, Bassam Bou Diab, Sina Saberi, Moustafa Shabkhan, Yousef Sbeih, Ghida Hachicho, Romy Assouad, Hoor Malas, Nataly Salsa,  Amal Khatib, Mitra Zieikia,  Nowwar Khaled Salem, Jumana Dabis, Jassi Murad, Ramz Siam

With support from Ville de Genève, République et canton de Genève, Pro Helvetia – 
Fondation suisse pour la culture, Commune de Meyrin, Fondation Meyrinoise du Casino, Fondation Corymbo, Fondation Leenaards

Production: Alias
Coproduction: La Bâtie, festival de Genève, Théâtre Forum Meyrin, Théâtre du Crochetan