Signdance Collective International performed a UK premier of their tale about Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca to close Together 2012's One World Conference at St John's Church, Stratford, London. Richard Downes explores questions the 'moving painting' brought to his attention
A dancer approaches me with a glass of red wine which I imagine to be Spanish. I am not alone in this, each member of the audience accept a drink. 'Dead Days Beyond Help', a drum and guitar duo, begin. A bass note is prominent, militaristic, repetitive and demanding, creating an austere environment. Franco is in town riding on his pony. The wine, the music, crashes into a communion, which is increasingly sensuous and between the sexes.
I imagine accusations flying around as the women keep their fingers pointy. It is you. No you. You did it. You are not to be trusted. Pointed out for punishment perhaps or maybe it is you he slept with! You, you and you. The poet is a sex pot.
Lorca is on stage now hurling out exclamatory lines. The fist becomes important. Spain is beating itself but when raised the fist becomes a sign of freedom. The women are on chairs. They seem to be sharing thought reveries. Language points to nature, the natural world, the natural things that we do to each other. Sleeping around as he does, is Lorca, a poet to be feared, within the State, within relationships. I hear the stars are going out tonight. Lorca seems to be anxious now, tortured by his own position and the expectations that arise around him.
More words are heard and these seem to fit with how I am seeing. "All the lessons I never learned," "when I disappear from sight," "working poor reported to the law." The sense of oppression hovers ever more tangible.
Lorca shares his clothing with the women. Is he saying I own you or you are me, wear my cloth, try on my shoes? Are his lines all that cover them. Certainly there is much to consider and the women take time out to look at themselves. The accusations are lost to time. Should I look into the mirror and find that I am beautiful? Is this something that I can believe? Is there now a tension between seriousness and self indulgence? Which would Lorca prefer?
Does he wish to lose himself in their dark country, to not be of Spain or of women? Lorca's position is now to lift, to elevate, to cause the voice of all to be heard as the women turn to tidying up. Do they fret at the thought of freedom? Why do their hands scrunch into their clothing? As disabled people is this concept something that might worry us? Should we take out allegiance to the states of oppression? Should we stay locked away at the thought that we do not know what waits on the outside?
The dance leaves you with much to ponder. Best imbibe on another glass of wine, give thanks for the music, rhymes and movement, and take the opportunity to ask a dancer what a dance is? I was told: "watch it as if it is a moving painting". I think have done this. Unusually I have seen detail rather than the whole picture. Brush strokes have held me spell-bound. I will remember this day a long time.