Grind – a dark and pulsating performance collaboration at Weld

I have a ticket for the dance performance Grind at the experimental dance and arts platform Weld in downtown Stockholm. It is a dark rainy winter evening and people visiting the performance don’t take off their shoes due to the cold, although shoeless feet are not uncommon in this location.

 

Descending into the cement cubical-shaped dance space, a minimalistic stage is awaiting the visitors. We sit down at one side of the space and soon the lights turn off. Music with elements borrowed from German industrial techno and a heavy bass starts. The knowledge of being enclosed in the small restricted space and being unable to see anything at all except complete darkness causes discomfort. Whereas I first think that this must be a dramatic intro for a different story, after a while I realise that the music style will not change, nor the set-up or general atmosphere this beginning promises. After a while, I begin to feel claustrophobic – but in an exciting way.

 

Faint light flashes illuminate the scene every now and then and a figure dressed in black becomes visible. This person is fighting with an entity that at times appears as human being, at times as big black monstrous obstacle. The dancer and the second being engage in an abstract encounter that at times suggests a dance and at times turns into a fight. While the light becomes stronger over the course of the first scene, the human figure starts dominating the stage and quarrel. The constant shaking and rocking body leans over the now discernible black fabric and I can’t but think of violence, rape and feel almost nauseous.

 

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

 

Suddenly, there is much more light, displaying a dystopic minimalist landscape of steel, something between an industrial nightclub and a high-tech fabrication hall. The dancer Jefta van Dinther, who is also the choreographer of the piece, rocks back and forth in regular movements, banging his back against the steel-resembling backdrop. He keeps pulling an electric cable, while his body moves fast and seemingly automatically, driven by an inner electricity, banging against the back wall and slowly sinking down into a crouching position.

 

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

 

The title of the performance Grind refers to abrasion, milling and rubbing, originating from an industrial language and entering pop culture mostly through dance and music. Whereas the industrial reference of cutting metal by slow abrasion suggests itself with the stage setting and choreography, it also makes me think of the sexualised movements in the perreo dance. This style emerged in the Caribbean in the late 1990s and is usually danced to reggaeton music, but has its roots in Brazilian lambada. With the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, a milder form of this rubbing style had already entered North American culture and nightlife. These dance styles and the so-called grinding developed further with the Hip Hop movement in the US. The youth who first started dancing it aimed at expressing their dissatisfaction with the conservative system and wanted to provoke societal norms through their sexualised and tabooed movements.

 

And then there’s the hardcore punk music genre grindcore, founded by bands such as British Extreme Noise Terror and American Repulsion in the 1980s and around the time grunge became fashionable. Listening to this music makes one think of abrasive machining processes, cutting metal with a grinding wheel and a certain gloomy atmosphere. The shortest song in the Guinness Book of World Records is also a grindcore song by the band Napalm Death. You suffer is 1.3 seconds long and the lyrics consist of only one word, “why”. Especially the first part of the dance performance that resembled a rape or a stabbing, grinding of a real against a suggestive body imitated by black fabric, makes one think of a time in which melancholy and sorrow in an angrier form shaped pop culture than they do today. Even though these feelings undoubtedly still exist in music, nowadays they manifest themselves rather in the glorification of fancy rehab clinics connected to a certain glamorous chic.

 

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

 

In the next scene of Grind, a light spot irradiates the darkness and a figure stands in the centre of the light cone. The person’s body vibrates and twitches heavily, which misleadingly causes me to think that this effect is produced with an electronic device, due to the hard and quick movements. Engulfed in light whose effect feels like fog or water, the dancer appears in a state between birth and death. Next, an element resembling a skipping rope disrupts the intensive scene. The performer swings it through the light beam, transferring his twitching body movements to the rope and creating a playfully childlike and innocent moment. The shiny rope forming waves of light reminds me of an Anthony McCall installation and his sculpting in light. The scene is disrupted by a rapid and violent moment in which the dancer lashes about with a whip-like rope. The performer then goes back to the first prop of the electric cable. While seemingly pulling it down from the ceiling, he moves in a rhythmic way that one can see in music videos or nightclubs, with emphasis on his torso. There is an abstract sound that only after a while finds a visual source the viewer can connect it to, when the dancer starts circulating a lasso-like construct above his head. A lantern flares up at the cord’s end every now and then and the sound circulates together with the movement until the bulb is completely lit. Soon, the light goes out and a decrescendo of all elements, light, sound and movement happens until they completely cease and we are left alone in the silent dark.

 

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

Grind - Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers. Photo: Viktor Gårdsäter

 

The post-industrial club landscape carries one away and between the short and precise visually perceptible moments, the mind completes the emptiness with its own images. The performance does trick the viewer and darkness is a somewhat convenient tool for producing impressive effects. Although one is immersed and at times lacks calmer moments that allow escaping the affective scenes into more cognitive realms, one cannot be malcontent with the group because the piece is too well produced and does offer surprise moments. I read the work as a metaphor for contemporary life, for struggle, for pleasure and experience, feeling one’s senses and trying not to drown within all the sensations and impulses assailing us. The constant movement, shifting from being above to below, oscillation and vibration, have something monumental but at the same time show how fragile contemporary life is and always has been. If one is to speak about post-industrialism as marker of our times when we have to deal with all the goods we have produced and where ideas and services are more important and economically valuable, Grind is a statement recounting this straining condition.

 

The collaboration between dancer and choreographer Jefta van Dinther, lighting designer Minna Tiikkainen and sound designer David Kiers is an example of more and more interdisciplinary projects within the arts. The merging of three different areas into one piece benefits from all of the creators’ expertise and understanding of the effects they produce with the respective devices. Grind is as sharp as the abrasive metal-cutting knife and after an intensive one-hour performance I enjoy the reverberation that keeps on swinging in the mind like a tuning fork even after the dance has ended.

 

 

by Stefanie Hessler

 

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Don’t miss the next dates in a city near you:

 

16-18 DEC            Weld, Stockholm (premiere)

12-13 JAN             Fabrik Potsdam

16 FEB                   De NWE Vorst Tilburg

21 FEB                   Grand Theater Groningen

23 FEB                   Dansataliers Rotterdam

29 FEB                   Inkonst Malmö

2-3 MAR                PACT Essen

3-5 APR                 Frascati Amsterdam

11-14 APR            TQW Vienna

 

 

GRIND by Jefta van Dinther in collaboration with Minna Tiikkainen and David Kiers

Concept: Jefta van Dinther and Minna Tiikkainen

Choreography and Dance: Jefta van Dinther

Lighting design: Minna Tiikkainen

Sound design: David Kiers

With music by: David Kiers and Emptyset

 

GRIND is a production by Jefta van Dinther – Sure Basic and Minna Tiikkainen | Executive producer: Hybris Konstproduktion – Sweden and Frascati Productions – The Netherlands | Co-production: Frascati Productions (Amsterdam), Weld (Stockholm), Tanzquartier (Vienna), PACT Zollverein (Essen), Grand Theatre (Groningen) and Jardin d’Europe through Cullberg Ballet (Stockholm)| Funded by: the Swedish Arts Council, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst and Nordic Culture Point | Supported by: Fabrik Potsdam

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