Artificial Things at the Stopgap Dance Company online
An eerie hum echoes through a black screen, which slowly lightens as we inch into an abandoned, bordered-up shopping centre. We hear what could be a train in the background, as a man without legs uses his hands to move into the space. Cut to a man in a pale-brown suit pumping his arms up and down. A piano begins to play.
Artificial Things is a short contemporary dance piece performed by a mix of disabled and able-bodied dancers. It begins with two performers moving in isolation: one of them makes wild, frustrated movements and backs away from his reflection. The next scene, which opens with a woman lying on her wheelchair, is a beautifully intimate arrangement. Two performers, neither of whom can walk, climb over each other, lean on each other and maintain a facial expression and level of eye contact that makes this section feel incredibly affectionate.
The performance takes place in a colourless urban wasteland – a truly apocalyptic setting that would be perfect for a zombie movie. The performers’ clothes – pale pinks, blues and browns – match their surroundings. This is a dull landscape without any bright colours and is filmed mostly in almost sepia hues, before changing to a brighter, well-lit tone for the ending. The music starts off eerie and desolate, before becoming emotive, mixing with watery, electric sounds, and ending on a cheery note.
Artificial Things begins with dancers in isolation who are angry and frustrated, before slowly becoming affectionate and intimate. The moment when all performers roll into a pile resting on a wheelchair is really touching. It invokes feelings of unity and ends when the group almost become one, with one performer looking like he is flying as he balances on another’s legs.
While Artificial Things was filmed before the pandemic, the apocalyptic setting matched with the warmth and necessity of human contact feels apt for our current situation. It’s a wonderful performance that takes us on a journey from isolation to togetherness and ends in upbeat bliss, which is hopefully what lies in store for all of us as well.
For further information and future productions visit Stopgap’s website here.
Watch Artificial Things here: