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About the Change

Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion

‘The Quiet Dance’

October 2005
London, The Place

by Ann Williams

© Chris Nash

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I’ve never seen The Place as packed as it was on Monday night for the opening of Jonathan Burrows' new work ‘The Quiet Dance’. Arriving uncomfortably close to the 8pm start time, I just about managed to beat another latecomer into one of the last remaining unoccupied seats.

It quickly became obvious that Burrows has a large and devoted fan-base among the (mostly young) dance in-crowd. There was scarcely the rustle of a programme during the 40 minutes duration of the piece. This may of course have been because it demanded intense concentration, but I think it was simply down to the fascination of the work. Burrows and his dance partner Matteo Fargeon, both now in middle age, appeared uncannily like twins with matching bare heads and matching clothing (nothing so fancy as ‘costumes’) - long-sleeved shirts overhanging baggy trousers. The piece began abruptly, with the pair marching unannounced onto the stage. As the pre-show hubbub died down, they began to slap about on it with their bare feet. Silently facing each other, one began moving towards the other, stooping far forward and measuring his slap-footed steps carefully, whilst the stationary partner emitted an accompanying wail (the only ‘music’of the evening was vocalised by the men themselves). Back and forth he went, each short, slow journey accompanied by a wail from the standing partner. I didn’t count how many time this movement was repeated, but I’m guessing six or seven.

Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion in The Quiet Dance
© Chris Nash

Eventually, as at a tennis match, the players changed ends. I think it was Burrows who had been doing the steps and Fargion the wailing; now the situation reversed, Burrows emitting a different noise – a hissing sound - to accompany each of Fargion’s stooping journeys. Hard to explain, but this was absolutely riveting stuff, especially when the movement subtly changed from solos to a rhythmic duet of perfectly synchronised and speedy steps and turns, the partners linked together by their arms. This bit was almost too brief for me – I loved it, maybe because it reminded me unexpectedly of a number from a Hollywood musical (am I the only dance fan who grew up on Hollywood musicals?).

It‘s plain that Burrows is the professional dancer of the pair – you can see that simply from the shapeliness and clarity of his hand and arm movements and his ‘looser’ body, but Fargion, shorter, stouter and a mere composer of music, has by now become a mover to be reckoned with.

There was no actual dancing in ‘The Quiet Dance’ yet it was unmistakeably a dance piece. It perhaps lacked the easy accessibility of ‘Both Sitting Duet’, Burrows' previous work at The Place, but has every bit of the wit and warmth of that earlier piece.

I was unable to stay for the ‘meet the artist’ session following the show, where Burrows may have explained his inspiration for the piece. But for me at least, ‘The Quiet Dance’ spoke of Burrows’ and Fargions’ friendship, trust and interdependence, which is explanation enough. Long may their partnership last.

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