Joli Vyann: Imbalance
Circus-dance examination of digital equilibrium in everyday life
This article is from 2016.
There's a fair chance you're reading this on digital technology, possibly at home, possibly on the hoof. Such is the integration of tablets, phones and laptops into our everyday lives that in circus-dance troupe Joli Vyann's show, performers Jan Patzke and Olivia Quayle don't disconnect from their devices even when dancing.
It's an innovative marriage of theme and form, using the idea of physical balance to explore digital equilibrium. A real-life couple, Patzke and Quayle's early long-distance courtship was facilitated by Skype and Facebook, however technology also took a dark toll on the pair when Quayle ended up suffering from adrenal fatigue.
In Imbalance, choreographed by Jonathan Lunn, dance is used to examine the positive and negative physical and emotional changes the body undergoes in its interactions with devices: shoulders hunch; ears press to phones; two faces stare peacefully at the same middle distance. As well as some nifty gadget-switching moves, there are playful passages of technological harmony – Quayle tangling and balancing on Patzke as they both have separate phone conversations.
Even when hands free (of technology) the choreography has a lithe, mechanical feel, graduating to whirling passages of clockwork speed and smoothness. The dynamic of the pair is saturated in trust, which makes them a joy to watch partnering in lifts and holds.
But although there are dark edges to Imbalance – not just in its tangential nod to cyber-bullying, but in the use of technology to manipulate, punish or isolate the other person – still the piece feels gentle on its ideas. Ultimately the ending, a cycling back to the start followed by an intricate duet, seems predictable in its uplifting message of human-to-human connection. Sleek and immaculate, Imbalance is maybe a bit too well balanced to have anything truly daring to say.
Underbelly's Circus Hub, until 22 Aug (not 15), 7.30pm, £11–£12 (£10–£11).