Having never seen a performance by the Amsterdam based Emio Greco/PC dance company, I was fully unprepared for the extremalist, action that unfolded during their award winning production ROCCO at REDCAT on Thursday, April 17th. I have also never witnessed such violent and tender masculine prowess and physical endurance on a stage, in a theater space nor in an arena before. Coming close would be Nick Duran’s powerfully emotional every time you are near which he presented only a few nights before ROCCO with Brian Getnick at Pieter in Highland Park on the evening of the blood moon eclipse. I venture to imagine that if Nick lived in Amsterdam he would collaborate with Emio Greco/PC–or vice versa if Greco and Pieter C. Schouten were based in L.A. In Nick, I see a younger Emio(if only in premonition from photos and videos) with a similar originality and control of one’s dramaturgic, dance performance aesthetic.
ROCCO Round 1: the boxers in “Twins” brand satins eyed each other from their respective corners with intimidation and indifference as we the audience made our way ringside. A deep male voice counted down in English from 10 like we were all about to take off on some odyssey that initially looked and sounded like schizophrenic, pseudo-shock therapy—legs and faces twitching in circular, synchronic gestures; both spastic and fluidly graceful repetitions revolving around and through an ever expanding circular spotlight focused on the shiny black floor of the ring. At first the figures came close to one another but barely touched. There was a tribal, ninjistic and ceremonial choreography to the movements. Spinning so rapidly, like muscular trains, I worried their arms would dislocate from their shoulders. As they spun them so rapidly and for such great lengths, I worried; it was almost pitiable. Then, they had each other, they embraced, kissed passionately and fell to the mat. They knocked each other out with their own electricity and lay splayed, lit only from the legs down.
The identically clothed, mouse eared dancers whom descended down the stairs at the beginning gave the satin briefed duelers well deserved breaks. Eyeing one another from opposite corners, the fetishized mice rose like charged magnets; touched, spun each other from the waist and sparred; their stylized and impassioned steps crescendoed with the keyboard, baroque, and operatic music that sounded perfectly inspired. Round bells rang and jarred us, snapping us back and forth between mesmerized arousal. Gradually the two dancers removed their funny mouse masks to reveal yet another black covering. Now they looked like burglars or shadows of each other. Moving symbiotically, their movements were captivating and reliant on each other.
Like in the plot of Visconti’s “Rocco and His Brothers,” which Emio Greco/PC’s ROOCO was based, we see how dependent the brothers in the movie and the dancers onstage are to each other and to us the viewers–especially at the very end when all four dancers crawl around the edges of the ring like scary villains trying to escape, perilously confronting the audience to return their eye contact or cower into their seats. For this end, I would not describe ROCCO as controversial to watch, as Rocco and His Brothers was described and censored when it was released in 1961. What can we call controversial in dance or in art these days that is not explicitly tied to an unsettling narrative?
Emio Greco/PC’s ROCCO is more original than any dance I have seen because language becomes inadequate to describe the experience. When words are part of the soundtrack, they are repeated: “do re mi fa so la… and something, something, something… “ Outside the context of the dance, however, the words no longer hold meaning. Even during the “Pause” section when the dancers lip sync in either French or Italian, the words’ meaning fall short to those not fluent. It doesn’t matter. You have to watch the dancers to decipher and contemplate the masculine conflict and melodrama that likewise rages in every man, despite their attempts to undermine and suppress it. The dancers’ movements are almost entirely linked which looked like a controlling tactic to remove any sort of independence. So, if I were to metaphorically apply the bound duality of the dancers portrayal to life, it would be controversial to say there is no such thing as independence in contemporary society. We ARE each other whether we like it or not. Self-sufficiency is becoming unbearable and impossible to achieve or desire.
Too, the idea of dance as sport goes back to when it was originally viewed as a gym activity in academia. Now that dance practice is taught and chosen as a studied curricula in the performing arts, I question why other “sports” like soccer, tennis, football, basketball aren’t universally accepted as an academic discipline. Economically, it would certainly create new jobs and teaching positions. Aren’t dance companies similar to sports teams anyway? That is what could be controversial about Emio Greco/PC’s ROCCO: it pushes the boundaries and potentials of any sport and performing discipline to an intellectual tipping point in our society. The success and power of ROCCO is the residues of unpredictable movement memory that during flashback, create a sense of questioning; a subliminal exposure, like the magnetic effects of a full moon or eclipse. ROCCO is a game changer, a seismic shift in my growth as a dance viewer that I will never forget.