Reviews - Fringe 2015

Fringe 2015 Review: Sand Body

By Paige Louter
Published July 19, 2015


Sand Body begins with an invitation to slow down and be present in the space. Performer Meryem Alaoui explains that you can sit or stand anywhere in the room, or walk around if you choose. A blue plastic tarp covers the floor, and white buckets containing sand dot the room. Alaoui speaks, and the audience is asked to close their eyes.

What follows, unfortunately, is a mostly shapeless movement piece that never becomes emotionally affecting. Alaoui is a gentle and inviting performer, and she moves with a steady agility that suggests she is capable of much more than she shows here. Perhaps "Sand Body" would make sense as a meditative exercise, or as an exhibit at an art gallery, but as a theatrical performance, it isn't enough.

If a piece that appears to have no story is to be successful, it needs to be engaging in other ways, especially if the audience is asked to give up their visual connection to the performer; a prerecording of Alauoi's voice periodically asks the audience to close their eyes again.

She hints at a soundscape to complement her movement; the crackle of her body on the plastic tarp or the hiss of the sand as she pours it out or moves it suggest that an immersive sensory experience might be a way to inject life into the show. A piece of music, for instance, would be a welcome addition.

A live performance is an opportunity for an artist to connect with and affect their audience in a shared physical and temporal reality. If Alaoui learns to really take advantage of this possibility for connection, she could create something beautiful.

Paige Louter is a recent graduate of Redeemer University College, where she received a BA in Theatre and Writing. In the fall, she is heading to the National University of Ireland to pursue an MA in Theatre.

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By christopher willes (anonymous) | Posted July 19, 2015 at 16:59:13

I wonder why we want immersive experiences so much. We so often assume that an "immersive" experience is something that comes through mediation predominately.

I understand this work to be more concerned with conjugating attention than creating an immersive "show".

"Sometimes observing, listening, sensing is enough. It can be necessary even."

Thinking about this work in regards to the performers "capability" is missing the point in my opinion.

Perhaps you don't have to close your eyes when you are asked to. Perhaps there is something being negotiated in the request that is actually happening right now. Perhaps this has nothing to do with an economy of affect; nothing to do with the production of emotions.

christopher

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By Laura Kappel (anonymous) | Posted July 21, 2015 at 22:36:56

As a dancer and choreographer who attended and enjoyed Sand Body, I feel the need to counter this review.

Sand Body is a brave work to bring to Hamilton. It is deeply rooted in both contemporary performance practice and contemporary dance which makes it stand out from typical performance offerings in Hamilton. It has great humanity and a clarity of vision which shines through. Sand Body is accessible work to those who are willing to approach it in the spirit of the Fringe: with openness and genuine curiosity.

Sand Body invites the audience to use all of its senses to experience the performance. It challenges the notion that dance can only be experienced with our eyes.The soundscape that accompanies Sand Body is not typical recorded music. It is the sound of the sand being flung, poured and shifted with the weight of the dancer’s body. It is the sound of the dancer’s breath, the crackling of the tarp and the movements of the audience. I had no problem with the requests to open and close my eyes at various points in the piece. This only heightened the experience and further encouraged me to fully open to the performance.

Meryem Alaoui is an adept dancer. She has selected a movement vocabulary that is understated, but each movement, no matter how small draws the viewer in with its intensity and purpose. It is hard not to have an immediate response to the performer’s body merging and emerging from the landscape: her toes sliding through the sand, her arms reaching out and weight shifting through her body in ripples. It is important to clarify that dance is not always about high kicks, pirouettes, leaps, poses. Nor does it have to tell a story with a linear narrative. The best dancing can come from the smallest movements, which appear larger than life by virtue of the skill and attention the performer gives them and by the images they evoke for the viewer. This is certainly the case for Sand Body.

Lovers of dance and those who are curious and eager to experience a cutting edge performance will not be disappointed with Sand Body. Be sure to see it here at the Hamilton Fringe Festival before it heads to Summerworks festival in Toronto this August.

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By Grh (anonymous) | Posted July 22, 2015 at 15:00:33 in reply to Comment 112972

There's no way to make this not sound sarcastic over the internet, but I'm going to try (and I assure you: I am in earnest).

How can dance be appreciated non-visually? It's visual. Unless you're the dancer, you have to see the dance to take in the art. Don't you? Would that be like putting on a blindfold and going through a gallery of paintings?

I am not being rhetorical or trying to be rude, I'm legitimately curious how one would appreciate a visual experience nonvisually. Can you go deeper into it?

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By Megan English (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2015 at 00:02:59 in reply to Comment 112996

I'd like to share my experience as an audience member of Sand Body. The poster had a beautiful quote that went something like, …we aren't human doers, we are human beings…. This cued me towards something I long for in everyday life, and the time and space of the performance allowed me to get close to that experience for its duration. For me, when I closed my eyes, not only was my imagination brought to life, but I noticed myself anticipating the next visual moment in the piece, enhancing my engagement. It also served to refresh my senses and brain, reinforcing the visual and sensory experience. The piece was crafted in a way that allowed me to notice what thoughts and feelings I was bringing to the exchange. I wasn't just receiving information one way, from performer to audience member. The performance challenged my expectations about what the performer should be doing and what I, the audience member should be doing. Dance, like all other art forms has a history and tradition and is also an evolving art form. Works such as Sand Body are part of that experimentation process and it is exciting to partake and witness new ideas in the performance of dance.

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