Portuguese choreographer Miguel Pereira opened his work Doo by
playing a nostalgic piece of music from a record player that he casually dragged to the front of the stage. Later we returned to the same spot for an explosive and emotionally charged percussion solo by his Mozambican collaborator Bernardo Fernando. In between these two symbolic moments of "back then" and "now", middle aged Pereira revisits his childhood memories.
He was born in Mozambique and left the country as a young boy, when it became independent from Portugal in 1975. His personal stories subtly hint at the different experiences of life in Mozambique for white and black people under the oppressive power of the Portuguese colonisation and the growing resistance from the black indigenous majority. The spot at the front of the stage gains a second meaning as a place where the two men address their personal struggles that arise from the political violence and their desire to find something in common.
The following performance was a solo entitled Loin by French choreographer Rachid Ouramdane.
"The recent European avant-garde performances at the Southbank Centre are the kind of works that tend to veer between the excruciating and the revelatory; Loin, a solo by the French performer Rachid Ouramdane, leans towards the latter. More an installation than a dance piece, Loin is based on Ouramdane's memories of his Algerian parents, and on his travels in south-east Asia. A documentary seam runs through it: voiceovers of his mother recalling the torture of her husband by the French; the brutality he encountered and practised in the French army in Indochina; video footage of war veterans scarred by the knowledge that they had killed in order to survive.
Words define the field, but it is unspeakability that powers the piece; one woman, having recounted her story, says: "That is why we don't talk about it." Ouramdane first appears as a hooded youth, mutely facing the image of his mother; later, he patrols the stage perimeter like an impatient guard. In the few dance passages, he is stunning, transfiguring body-popping moves into convulsive spasms of electrocution, or undulating with a shirt wrapped around his head in a queasy intimation of faceless, sexualised bondage. When he does speak, it is in a barely intelligible rush, like scrambled poetry.
For all its bleakness, it has an ineffable beauty, especially when the human presence disappears. Loudspeakers are left rotating on stage; faces depart from the screens, leaving images of empty roads, waterfalls, fish, fields – a peaceful world in which people are absent."