Impact, Mehmet Sander. Review by Diana Damian
Breathtaking and surprising, Sander’s ‘Impact’ constructs a physical architecture through a series of actions; rule-based collisions of bodies and surfaces defiant of and engaging with gravity as a structural component of a dance piece. Sander has collaborated with local residents to develop a performance using animated objects- bodies- which is self-reflexive and pictorial. Echoing throughout the walls of a metal factory and in dialogue with projections of previous work and an introduction on the development of his artistic language, ‘Impact’ is an impressive dialogue between movement and physics, fleshing out structured moments of defiant velocity in abstract patterns and formations.
This brutalist piece of dance explores the possibilities the body offers to deconstruct the relationship between space and perception, challenging the anticipation of meaning promoted by the representational and removing emotion by depersonalizing the body. There is no hierarchy between space, body and action; they all have equal stake in the construction of a performative moment. The utilitarianism of the performance in its rigidity and sheer block energy enters a dialogue with the functionality of the space, the power of gravity pulled apart through geometric constructions.
‘Impact’ provides an opportunity for performers to engage with risk-taking work whilst developing a particular physical and intellectual rigour and resistance which then forms the core quality of the performance. Sander’s method of training is very much informed by his cultural history, with experience in ballet, contemporary dance and bodybuilding. He was educated at London Contemporary and Harvard University, amongst others, and founded his company in 1990 in the US, although he will be relocating to the UK permanently at the end of this year.
In his ‘Manifesto of Dance’, Sander outlined the core elements of his practice at the age of twenty-three, structured around the body’s relationship to gravity and the construction of movement in space. These concepts have shaped his core practice ever since. ‘Impact’ constructs live moments of confrontation and collision through different permutations and combinations of the dancers involved, be it in synchronized group work, duets or solos. Sander’s work toys with audience expectation through engaging with risk and developing movement based on the internal logic of each piece, inherently self-referential and formally reflective.
There is an inherent gymnastic quality to the performers’ movement, an aggressive elegance whose constant reminder of collision cuts through any expectation of reconcilement, but also provides the rhythm and nuance of the piece. Stripping bare the physical language constructed by pioneers such as Merce Cunningham and Lucinda Childs, Sander’s work capitalizes on immediacy, play, deconstruction and minimalism to curate powerful interventions in space.
Sander’s ‘Impact’, as his previous work, is also relational to the deployment of geometric structures to frame the movement of the body, and the restrictive nature of the space versus the action, a potential subversion of modernist ideals. Sander’s work is reminiscent of Mondrian’s non-representational paintings; in the removal of character and focus on directionality, Sander introduces simple elements to add layers of visuality to the work. In the case of ‘Impact’, black costumes and a red floor create the dissonance between movement and gravity. For Sander, dance is an intervention of a body in space, and this strong belief in the power of physical action and the rigour of a body makes for endless visual possibilities, displacing notions of embodiment of emotion and allowing the architectural to be the guiding principle of dance.