Burrows and Fargion have an audience with huge expectations and preconceptions. It is the cross they must bear for being wonderful. Expectations are not in themselves a good or a bad thing but they can overwhelm the experience of a piece. When watching One Flute Note I make an effort to suppress both my excitement (to see great work) and dread (of seeing something I am over familiar with). I block out my surroundings, relax my jaw and watch the men at work as if I am seeing them for the first time. They are, save distractions, trying to be serious, so I will too.
One Flute Note is like a piece of music, but it also is a piece of music. It reminds me of Peter and the Wolf, or a narrated version of Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra – it is a narrated and explained musical composition. But in One Flute Note the explanation becomes increasingly disturbed, misleading and twisted. Nothing happens for any particular reason other than that it should. It is ‘right’ there, so it is put there. These decisions, albeit already made, are vocalised a discussed.
‘Yes, no, yes, no’. The words are used compositionally but still do not loose their impact. Too many ‘nos’ and it becomes tedious to listen to, lots of ‘yeses’ and I start to think that life is beautiful. By using words dryly and almost ignoring meaning, Burrows and Fargion bring our attention to that fact that meaning cannot be ignored. The sound within the piece has a similar affect – ‘beautiful chords’, ‘strange voices’ and ‘fog horns’ make a dance with ugly chairs become tragically epic. When the sound is taken away everyone realises, with greater clarity, just how ugly the chairs actually are and begins to notice the awkward details – the tape on the floor is stopping the chair legs from sliding.
I feel that One Flute Note should be watched like a piece of music. Of course music doesn’t warrant one particular kind of attention, but my generalisation would be that peaks and troughs in music are often considered to be just that; they are peaks and troughs and are not thought of as gags and as dud moments, which is sometimes the default setting for audiences of dance. Everything in Burrows and Fargion’s work is as precious as the next thing, but the same conclusion could be made that each thing is also as mundane as the next thing. Highs and lows pass without narrative acknowledgement and this is still somehow radical in performance.
I found this piece difficult to access and struggled to engage.
I’ve seen previous work by the duo and liked it. But this did nothing for me.
A lot of the time the pair is hidden behind two screens and we are left starring at a blank stage, harshly lit to a disjointed soundtrack. They pop out from their hiding places intermittently like little moles, Farigon coy, Burrows ever so slightly smug.
There was a moment that I liked when they held hands; Burrows looked suddenly vulnerable and Farigon strong and confident. This reversal in the strength of their physicality and presence was surprising. There was a spark and then it was gone. The chair duet bothered me, once with, once without; it seemed a trifle naff, again there was a moment when Farigon sat slumped and Burrow’s faffed around behind him that I thought maybe could have been something.
The audience seemed to like it, laughing at parts I didn’t find funny, but thought were perhaps a little immature; the contemporary dance crowd’s sense of humour continues to baffle me. Disappointing.
Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion will present One Flute Note, Counting to One Hundred, Cheap Lecture, Cow Piece and Speaking Dance at Dance Umbrella. Visit the website for details.