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Reaction: MAP ME

Posted September 1st, 2007

Last night, I saw Belgian dancers Charlotte Vanden Eynde and Kurt Vandendriessche perform MAP ME at the Painted Bride. The average viewer might not classify MAP ME as dance: indeed, there is very little live action in the piece—most of the movement seen is on video. Instead, MAP ME focuses on dance at a more larval stage—Vanden Eynde and Vandendriessche, who perform in the nude throughout most of the show, investigate the body: where bodies come from, how they are made, and what they can do.

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At the beginning, Vanden Eynde lies on her side, her back to the audience. Vandendriescche rests his body on top of hers, so that their backs, parallel to one another, create an almost perfect projection screen. They remain completely still as video is projected onto their bodies, rendering them almost inanimate; they execute a nearly seamless union of the body and the projected image. And then suddenly, the projections begin to transform the dancers’ bodies into a nipple, a lock of hair, a finger print, an open-mouthed kiss.

Later in the piece, Vanden Eynde, standing and facing the audience, becomes a chest of drawers. This particular bureau has the kind of drawers that have small half-moon cut-outs at their centers, where the user can insert three or four fingers and pull the drawer open from the inside. Evocative of Dali’s “The Burning Giraffe,” one of a series depicting women’s bodies with drawers coming out of their legs and torsos (the burning giraffe is in the background), the projection coincides perfectly with the contours of Vanden Eynde’s body, most notably at the bottom, where the last half-moon cut-out aligns with her pelvis. Throughout this section, an anonymous pair of hands rifles through the drawers, pulling undergarments from her throat, and periodically pulling turtleneck sweaters out of her vagina. I thought this was funny, but didn’t laugh.

Regardless of how silly or strange these images or their actions might seem, the dancers maintain remarkably indifferent facial expressions. They don’t encourage us to react in any particular way, but I got the sense that if we did laugh or express shock, they wouldn’t be insulted or surprised. The piece has incredible potential to evoke feelings of tension, humor, and intimacy, but it doesn’t—nor does this seem to be their intention. Rather, the focus seems to lie in the ways in which two people can investigate and react to the substance and capabilities and textures of each others’ physical bodies.

Throughout the piece, the dancers begin each section by holding up signs that say things like “Join Me,” “Fix Me,” et cetera. Towards the end, they hold up a sign that reads, “Forget Me.” In their opening performance, this prompted an especially enthusiastic audience member to shout, “forget me NOT!” and then laugh at his own joke. Of course, I hated this guy and the cliché in the moment, but on some level, he was putting things in perspective—we started out as fetuses, and now we spew clichés without thinking twice.

Needless to say, if you see MAP ME this weekend, you probably won’t have to deal with this guy. Either way, it will be more than worth your while.

Click here for more information about dates, times, and ticket prices for MAP ME.

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