In 2002, the choreographer Jonathan Burrows began a collaboration with the composer Matteo Fargion. Their duets are small-scale and apparently simple: two men exchanging gestures, speaking in rhythms or walking about. It's gentle and absorbing, with basic means building into virtuoso display.
Now, for the first time, Burrows and Fargion are performing all three dances – Both Sitting Duet, Quiet Dance and Speaking Dance – in one programme. On paper, that sounds risky. These dances ask an audience to pay close attention to small details, so three in a row sounds like too much concentration for one night. In fact, the charm holds as they're light and varied.
They're performed in chronological order. Both Sitting Duet, from 2002, is the most minimalist. Burrows and Fargion do indeed sit, exchanging gestures – from a sweep of the arms, wrists crossing and uncrossing, to a bend forwards that suggests picking a teacup from the floor. Both have notebooks, pages of notation outlining the sounds and gestures.
Burrows and Fargion look similar enough: short-cropped hair, bright eyes, the same kind of casual clothes. Burrows, who started at the Royal Ballet, is more fluid, with greater reach. Fargion is stockier, a sturdily relaxed performer. They have a complicity, with shared smiles or glances. Every look may be practised but always feels spontaneous.
Quiet Dance (2005) has a lot of walking. Burrows moves in a zigzag, knees bending further with each step, as Fargion cries "Ahhhhhh". The whole thing is an implied fall, with the voice tailing off as the dancer gets closer to the floor. Then they change roles, and noises, or break into new patterns. In one sequence, Fargion does something that looks like hopscotch without the hop.
Speaking Dance (2006) has the biggest changes of gear. They start by exchanging spoken syllables, but drift into playing mouth-organs and other instruments, or taped music. Birdsong comes and goes. Fargion sings what sound like Italian folk songs, or even advertising jingles.
In the funniest sequence, both men take folded paper from their pockets. Each has a single word written on it. Fargion starts chanting the words, fast, in changing order, while Burrows does a gesture for each. It's incredibly quick, rehearsed to astonishing precision. Again, simple material becomes quietly spectacular.
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