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Don’t fuss! – Attraction, Repulsion, Breaking Points

A drummer, a dancer, and a drum-set in between: they are bodies on stage in a strong interrelationship. Two human beings in diverse, yet intertwining channels of communication becoming bound to each other. This is the music-dance duo, “Don’t Fuss!” by Rita Góbi (dance) and Dávid Szegő (drums).

The drummer needs the instrument to make the sound; the drum needs the drummer’s rhythmical movements to create it; the dancer needs the music, and by association, the musician; the musician needs the dancer to embody, to live the rhythm, to bring it further. Yet, there is a constant questioning of these dependencies, and attempts to break the bond. How far can a dancer go with a bunch of drums without the musician? How far can the drummer go without movements? “Don’t Fuss!” deals with the conflicts of communication, the closeness and distance, the borders between two artists’ territories and their ways of expression.

Both the dancer and the musician initiate interactions, however, it seems that there is a point when the dancer takes over the control. She climbs on the drummer, grabs his sticks, and becomes an obstacle. Step by step, she reduces him to silence by taking away the drums and placing them far from him. The musician desperately tries to follow the instruments with the sticks until the point when he hits only the air, then collapses on his chair. This is the temporary triumph of the dancer, who owns the drums now. But does she really own them? It is time for her to develop her relation directly to the instruments. She is experimenting with the drums, which are lying on the floor in a mess, as performing a dance piece. She is playing with them. It is a powerful piece of dance that creates sound, but as a drum solo, it is rather clumsy, with a sad-looking, storm-beaten instrument. The scene feels like watching a child, who fought hard with the other children for a desired toy, being satisfied with her property, but playing alone with it, without the attention and presence of the others, the toy soon becomes boring, since the game should be created together. Her attention turns back to the abandoned partner, even though, this causes her momentary weakening in the power-relations.

The drum-set has an interesting role in the game. It becomes a third, transforming character: a tool that endows its owner with power (by its sound that spreads thought the space), a desired toy, a channel of communication, and even a costume, a shield, or a house to enter. At some point, the dancer’s body fuses into the drum that tries to play itself. For example, she positions herself inside the drum-frame, hiding or moving around with it, hitting her toes with the stick. Another time, when she is holding a stick in her foot, hitting the cymbal above her head, the sounds come as questions to the drummer, as if they were calling him back carefully to play on. So, the dancer is inevitably attracted to the drummer: transforming herself into a drum she is trying to reach the musician, who has been sitting motionless in the dark for a while.

Another time, the dancer makes a sound of a cry that is recorded and played electronically on repeat. Listening to this continuously resonating cry, its autonomous rhythm arouses and emerges into the music. The drummer, with his regained instrument, creates a dialogue with this cry. So, the sound that originated from the dancer travels through the drums, becomes music itself and goes back to her, inspiring her further motions. As another shift in their relations, now the voice of the dancer is taken by the musician, and channelled back into her dance.

The movements are fragmented, detailed, and repetitive. The stage is rather dark with a spotlight that emphasises the micromovements of the body. Each motion of the muscles and the fluttering of the fingers are visible. The face and the eyes of the dancer are extremely expressive too, displaying the quick alteration of the emotional states of the body, and its changing relation to the partner. Often it appears as if the body-parts have become autonomous from the rest of the body. For instance, the performance starts with the drummer playing in the middle of the stage, while the dancer is positioned next to him on the floor, motionless, her upper body bent down. After letting the audience settle, she starts to rise slowly using only her upper body for a long time. The focus is on her back and her shoulders, creating impulses which travel through the arms and the fingers. Then the head is included, first hanging, then allowing glimpses of the face, and the silently screaming, open mouth, while the lower body stays immobile. When eventually, the leg starts moving, the other parts go on, continuing a constantly alternating repetition.

So, the question of dependency and autonomy is also present on the level of one body/instrument. Regarding the musician, this issue is also present in his relation to the drums. Hitting the air rhythmically is the act of holding on to playing even being separated from the material presence of the instrument. The drummer’s relation to the drum becomes problematic again, when he desperately and aggressively puts holes into it. He keeps on doing this as a repetitive act as well, until the drum is completely destroyed. Still, it makes sound, a loud, unpleasant tone, which can be understood as the cry of the musician. Here the act of breaking the drum does not mean getting rid of it, rather, it is part of the playing, communicating through it in a painful way.

When the hysteria comes to an end, the partners are attached and calmed down by exhaustion of the emotive waves. Their voice is now taken over by the clicking of two metronomes. Their speed is carefully set, so the different rhythms are creating a self-repeating pattern, with moments of synchronised clicks, until they stop. This can be seen as a reference to time that binds them both, and the cyclical character of the game that yet, is a different experience each time. The show ends for now and the performers soon return for an open discussion with the audience.

The performance was premiered in 2014, in Budapest, and for Rita Góbi it resulted in the Best Hungarian Contemporary Dancer Award in 2015. “Don’t Fuss!” is also travelling to London (Cecil Sharp House) in June (2017)1.1

1 http://www.gobirita.hu/eng/article/article.php?menu_id=3&article_id=139
Image: Piti Marcell Photography