Go Deeper

Reaction: Ea Sola’s Drought and Rain Vol. 2

Posted September 8th, 2007

Danielle Hoffman and Ellery Biddle on Drought and Rain Vol. 2

Many shows in this year’s Live Arts program deal in excess—wild costumes, diverse and expertly mixed sound scores, endless video art, and writing that is as smart as it is shocking. Ea Sola’s Drought and Rain Vol. 2 is not one of these shows. Nor is it the sort of dance that you “enjoy” in the traditional sense—there is no easy narrative structure to follow, nor is there a character who guides you through the piece, as a narrator might. You will not leave the theater with that sense of contentment or inspiration that you might with other shows. But it is not to be missed.

<%image(20070903-Drought & Rain_4blog2.jpg|255|200|null)%>The Vietnamese-French choreographer has created a piece that requires emotional endurance on behalf of the audience: much of the piece is danced in silence. The dancers move slowly, and often in unison, with perfect execution. Stillness becomes powerful. The tension that Sola builds in these long sections of quiet, meticulous movement increases as the dancers, periodically break into periods of frenetic panic. The dancers fall into patterns of aggressive, relentless, desperate pacing across the stage, convulsing and twitching, their movement accompanied by a foursome of men in suits and sunglasses, traditional Vietnamese percussionists. The musicians break into a smattering of sticks on cow skin as the stage becomes a combat zone. The dancers’ bodies are rattled with invisible machine gun fire.

The physicality of these nine young dancers is astonishing, yet nothing is executed for the sake of impressing us with a display of skill. Their costumes are simple; the women wear all black. Their long black hair hangs before them, hiding their faces and making them identical, eerily anonymous figures. At times, changes in the lighting cause the women’s bodies to disappear entirely, leaving only their hands and feet for us to see. At first this appeared to represent the anonymity of the women and civilians who could not fight in the war, but towards the finale, they seemed more like abstract symbols of the relentlessness of war itself.

The stage is bare and white, only occasionally decorated with stark, enigmatic video projections. A collection of empty shoes and anonymous portrait photographs accumulates downstage; later in the piece, the dancers enter with backpacks, purses, and other modern accoutrements, creating a current of energy and conflict between past and present generations.

Drought and Rain Vol. 2 is alternatively titled The Memory, which seems an odd choice as these dancers have no personal memories of the Vietnam War. In an interview with a Vietnamese news service, Ea Sola explained “It doesn’t mean that young people who didn’t experience the war don’t have memory of the war. They know about those days through the stories of the old warriors as well as other sources of information.”

The piece ends with a strong sense of global consciousness about violence—yes, this is a dance about the legacy of the Vietnam War, but it is also a dance about reckoning with the histories of violence all over the world. It’s not fun to watch, but it is powerful to see.

Unfortunately, the house was only about half full the night we attended. Ea Sola will perform only twice more, at 8pm tonight and tomorrow. It’s not as hard to get to Temple University’s Tomlinson Theater as you think—just follow Broad Street until you hit West Norris Ave, or take the Broad Street Line and walk a few blocks—and it’s worth the effort.

Click here to purchase tickets for Drought and Rain Vol. 2.