6: The Square

Does '6: The Square' think square?

from: Dans Magazine 21/05/2016

We're too focussed on creating order in chaos. This is the message that choreographer Nicole Beutler implies with her dance piece 6: The Square. The piece is performed in SPRING 2016, a ten-day festival presenting experimental dance, theatre, installations and lectures. Beutler exposes the tendency to stereotype without passing judgment.

THE SQUARE. The bodies of four male and four female dancers form these letters at the beginning of the performance. One boy, for instance, shapes the letter T by raising his arms level on either side of his body. When the words have been formed on the stage, the only actress says: 'Ready, okay?'. The woman prepares the audience for what's in store. In 6: The Square, Beutler zooms in on the urge to draw squares in this world.

6: The Square constructs a seeming chaos. Beutler portrays this drawing of boundaries using square dance, too. In that dance form, four couples execute various dance figures. The steps and patterns derive from different Western folk dances. In the process, each couple stands on one side of a square. And so it is with Beutler's dancers. When the dancers in 6: The Square slalom about each other, the end result is chaos. As I track one dancer, I notice that she keeps returning to the same spot. By analyzing the choreography, I try to create clarity in this apparent disorder. Returning to the same spot is one of the principles of square dancing. This is what Erik Pluylaar tells us in the Bar Talk afterwards, in which a range of guests discuss the dance performance. Pluylaar is a square dancer who contributed to 6: The Square.

Beutler lays bare the process of thinking in squares. In another dance, eight different stereotypes are present on the stage. A girl with a head scarf dances in synchronicity beside a blonde in a 'Heidi dress'. Here, too, the four couples intermingle in their dance. Still, each couple has a different movement vocabulary. The 'Austrian' and the 'worshipper', for instance, both kick their spread legs high as hip-hop dancers. It is not what you would expect from these two young ladies. By contrast, two dancers repeatedly lie on the floor, on their backs with their right legs up in the air. One man wears a suit and the other dancer has too short a shirt on, with a zebra print. I catch myself pigeonholing these stereotypes. The realization tenses me up. Luckily, Beutler deflates these conceptions. Why shouldn't women be allowed to walk in manly ways? And of course male characters can be flexible, too.

Beutler makes you think. Beutler clearly exposes this stereotyping tendency. And yet stereotyping people is a rudiment from the time when man was still a hunter-gatherer; when it was useful to know whether or not that approaching bear took you for his dinner. Nowadays, however, we're seldom confronted by such dangers and enemies. And the classification of people by properties does indeed drive discrimination. Beutler makes me aware of this. Even though I try to be free in spirit, I sometimes have prejudices. It's always a sticky wicket. Because of 6: The Square I realize that I, too, wish to create order in this world. It's not so bad. As long as I stay aware of it.

© Nadia Tan