a body – gala moody at the volksroom

The coffee is made thus: In a small bowl two teaspoons or so of sugar for every cup is added. Once the coffee begins to run out of the espresso machine, the first trickle is poured onto the sugar. This is beaten with a spoon until taking on a pale brown colour, emulsifying. Into each small cup, two viscous spoonfuls of this amalgam, and then the coffee on top, stirring until a crema floats on its surface.

This is the coffee of Giacomo, who has been in Brussels the last week and an half while Gala finishes some weeks of rehearsals in a single performance at Ivo’s Volksroom, along with Anuschka von Oppen, who was showing Nearby Buffalo in Brussels after a short season in Berlin.

Gala and Giacomo haven’t been sleeping so much the last week; long nights working on the set, lighting, rehearsing, rewiring, trying ideas and pre-show amendments (a whole scene vanishes, and the sound from a previous one also). Coffee is in abundance, as is beer and cigarettes. A calmness across the days also.

I found myself in the place I am happiest: a theatre, making performance. I do mundane things such as taping things, hanging things, adjusting things. This is not a review, though perhaps can be taken as one.

Throughout is a stillness, waiting attentiveness. For a dancer who has found home in companies where movement is the heart, she makes nothing that could be said to be dancing. Perhaps the floor on which she rehearsed is responsible, but equally, there is no inconsistency between one being a dancer who dances and the same one making performance far removed from this. At the end (less than thirty minutes), had she continued the room would have gone with her.

Rope bondage and suspension. Gala hangs sideways from her waist and abdomen. Giacomo dresses her in a sheet of emergency orange latex. She is in a box inside a room, walls of opaque or transparent plastic, floor reflective Aluminium. Lights stutter and tremble.

Giacomo illuminates the performance with perhaps twelve or so sources, some recognisable as theatre lights, others fluorescent tubes, others common household lamps. At times, a fan pushes the plastic sheeting, undulating and filling the space with sound.

She is naked until the end. This also is a change; before she was naked the whole way through. In the end she is talking, in jeans and a t-shirt. A story, autobiography? A poem. She is swimming, no water, no, definitely water, water goes in, goes out, polluting a little. In ten years, twenty years, only a photograph left. I am paraphrasing here.

Earlier, she is running. On the spot. Endlessly. Throwing dirt or dust or ashes, which haze in the aura of light. Giacomo … his lighting is as music, classical music perhaps. Deeply artistic and romantic, and also precisely technical. Without being obvious, it fills the room, gives not simply form and colour, but emotion, movement, sense, time. He says we should come to the Gorini home, to eat rabbit and drink coffee.

I spend Friday with them watching this, light and performance, trying to find some settings on my camera that will not balk at the conditions. Low light is one concern, and ultimately the difficulty I can’t surmount. The plastic sheeting between Gala and I, the other; the camera resolutely focussing on any light reflecting off the sheet, making her even more unfocussed.

This morning, more coffee. Then a failed trip to the markets for crëpes, arriving too late. Anyway, it was beautiful, poignant. Some photos.