Stephanie Schober: Traffic

Image credit: Stephanie SchoberImage credit: Stephanie Schober

This is the first piece I have seen by Stephanie Schober, and it was exactly how I had imagined her work would be. Quite subtle and the movement quintessential contemporary dance performed by accomplished dancers – embodied, soft, a few peculiar ticks here and there but a steady appreciation of line like a hangover from ballet training, on the whole smooth and effortless. So effortless I sometimes stopped watching, kind of like the feel of water as it engulfs skin when in a bath. I am the kind of person who gets bored in baths, unless I have something to do…

If the dancing was the bath water then Camilla Barratt-Due was the something to do. Whoever knew an accordion could be sexy. Her stark but performative presence often had more of a pull than the dancing. There was a lot of movement, maybe too much movement; there was no tension to hold my attention. In this environment Barratt-Due and her various sound-making instruments and her shiny hair (one of my top three favourite haircuts) and her spot-on outfit and her legs astride the accordion was much more exciting, stamping like a precocious child playing house repeating,

“Would you like to come in?”

Her movements and the music were sporadic and unpredictable and it was refreshing to see someone so ‘real’ on a stage; there were several moments of the dancers visibly beginning to dance, making that break from normal movement and entering In To Dance that I found jarring and a bit contrived.

When the lights came up I cursed myself for only having half-read the programme – word to the wise: never read the programme before the show! The three performers were sat and stood accordingly in a rectangle of light, all holding instruments, who was the real musician? I spent the first few minutes distracted, trying to identify the imposters.

Traffic was an understated piece punctuated by the ‘scene changes’ the sound score required, each state was elegantly lit and pleasingly neat but the contrast between the jagged vitality of Barratt-Due, eager to engage with her instruments and objects and fellow performers and the smooth and fluid ease and affluence of the dance only served as a means to draw attention away from the dancing and to the sensual ‘realness’ of the performance situation – bare heels rubbing on a material whose texture results in a squeaking sound, chairs dragged against the dance floor bringing a depth and richness to the sound that I had been missing – rather than uniting as some greater whole.

The ending felt quite abrupt. I had just been led by the hand into this world and then it was over and I was thrust back into the outside air.


‘Traffic’ by Stephanie Schober 16 – 17 March 2011, LABAN