We start with Gary, besuited, conceited, neat lines and careful phrases, elegant you would say, well rehearsed – a carefully drawn caricature of an accomplished performer. In the opening dance he shows deliberateness of purpose and what might be feigned nonchalance as he moves through his sequence of choreographed shapes and manoeuvres. Hands do this as hips do that, feet move to here and then bend from the waist and repeat and repeat and repeat. His shiny black shoes hover over the white footprints painted on the floor – familiar markers of the dance notation of popular imagination; the ghosts of steps performed or anticipated.
When the dance finishes Gary tells us who isn’t allowed to dance. People with no rhythm. People with no hands. People with no legs. No spastics. No one who is a little bit “slow”, the quotation marks hanging needle sharp in the air. And really here it is not dancing bodies we are thinking about, it is trained bodies of all kinds. It is training, or perhaps a particular kind of training. It is skill, effort and virtuosity. It is those
markers of proficiency and success, those demonstrators of value and worth. A hierarchy of bodies and abilities, and the spectre of commerce and competition hanging over it all as it always fucking does.
Initially at least, the show’s title lingers like a mumbled accusation - these two men can’t be dancers because no one would pay to come and see them dance, especially that spastic. Except here we all are, and here they are.
Here is Ian. Gary tells us Ian has an ‘unspecified learning disability’. Sometimes Ian speaks whole sentences at a time and sometimes he hardly says a word. Ian’s hands move to the words Gary says in the same way they move to the sound of music playing. It is like he is reaching out to hold each sound in the moments before it reaches him. Gary asks Ian if he wants to tell us why he likes to dance so much, and Ian says no, but Gary speculates that it might be because it allows him to feel more connected to the world than he can without dancing and Ian agrees. He can understand things more instinctively when he uses his body.
Ian has chosen some of his favourite songs and he dances to them. He dances carefully and precisely, not with uncontrolled energy or unthinking abandon. He dances in his own distinctive vocabulary. He dances expressively, beautifully, joyously. Gary dances with him and when they hold each other whilst Nick Cave’s ‘Into My Arms’ plays immediately I am thinking of Jerome Bel’s ‘The Show Must Go On’ and these two bodies on this stage and the many bodies on that stage and how I want to celebrate all of them. How I want to dance with all of them.
And then it is the final dance and, as we had perhaps hoped and anticipated, we are indeed all dancing together.
The next day of the festival at the Unlimited Salon another very different artist, Aaron Williamson, will talk eloquently about his improvisatory practice and his refusal to rehearse or to create a piece that he can get wrong, as if to do so would be to acquiesce to an artistic or political ideology he refuses to subscribe to. I doubt there is a way that Gary and Ian could get their show wrong. It’s all allowed, as Adrian Howells would say, and as we all dance in embers of this quiet hour spent together, it really does feel like that might be true.