Energy as waste, desirous and deadly

Linda Marie Walker at the Slovenian dance company Betontanc’s Know Your Enemy



Know Your Enemy is performed within a strict confined space, a line really, with little depth. Mostly it occurs vertically, as if the body must press itself upwards not outwards, as if the longing that brought the characters over the wall, to this place, has instilled a muscular and mental habit that is now relentless. Here, where something else (better) was imagined (greener grass perhaps), they are caught again in the dreams of living that subsume the very (every) moment. And so, what lives is an energy, as waste, desirous, and deadly. Deadly, in body and soul.

Three women and four men, four rooms (one that isn’t quite recognised by the others, that holds their fears even), a few pieces of furniture, lights, and a wall. And a picture on the wall. The image of before or after. Who knows. Either way, it’s central, and already redundant.

The performers move/dance in a solid fluid way, which betrays a kind of fine timing. They mostly climb up the wall, over and through struts, and especially on and around each other (each person a wall too). They literally climb-the-wall, in the sense of a creeping, on-off, madness. Madness which seems reasonable, which weaves a taut thread across beings, binding them together, and snapping them apart. It’s this thread that is the ‘enemy’. As the performance is ‘about’ nothing. A nothing which pulses between lethargy and athleticism. (The Theorist says: “The oscillation of which we have just spoken is not an oscillation among others, an oscillation between two poles. It oscillates between two types of oscillation …”) A strange economy of excess. An exhibition of the convoluted body, as it follows/forms thought’s need to exorcise ghosts and shadows, and to make itself known.

Time, waiting, is filled-in with ‘love’. The antics of courtship and seduction are displayed ritually, each move accented, defined. A competition, almost, of strength and resilience.

The music is melancholic, the choreography sits inside this mood, but actively, like a slow implosion. Know Your Enemy begins with a particular, romantic image, high, a couple quietly dancing, in the light, and ends with it. And between, the sadness of ‘true’ love and ‘lost’ love.

The tight limited/limiting overall style of this work, and its negotiation of flat planes which the body must press/spread against and climb, like beetles, clumsy yet liquid, harsh yet tender, is claustrophobic. Oppression comes from the back and front rather than from above.

This is an operatic struggle upon one word say, or a tiny mark, or a false hope. And it might be just a single night. A sliver of entangled gestures, a remembrance of deliberate and necessary exhaustion/expiation.

Slovenian dance company Betontanc’s Know Your Enemy, Scott Theatre, Adelaide Festival

RealTime issue #12 April-May 1996 pg. 14

© Linda Marie Walker; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 1996