BEIRUT: Five towering figures stand with their backs to the audience. The performers are dressed in segmented white tops and long black skirts, the latter concealing the columns atop which they perch.
Five more human-sized figures – three women, two men – stand silently.
This is the vista awaiting spectators as they file to their seats for “Borderline,” the latest show by Nada Kano’s Beirut Dance Company, now in the midst of its run at Theatre Monnot.
For more than an hour, “Borderline” hypnotized its audience, transporting them upon the contours of the mysterious, unspoken story beneath its choreography.
Choreographer Nada Kano studied dance in Paris and enjoyed a busy international career before returning to Beirut in 2002 and founding BDC in 2003, with the aim of creating a platform to allow aspiring dancers to take their interests from a hobby to a more professional level.
Since then the veteran dancer-choreographer has accumulated a bouquet of admired pieces, including “The Dress,” “Un.Re(a)lating” and “L’Etreinte.”
As “Borderline” commences, the female dancers – Maya Nasr, Joanna Aoun and Cindy Germany – gaze straight ahead, expressionless, without blinking. Their arms move puppet-like, and they begin to slowly twirl, in the manner of ballerinas in a music box.
On cue, the male dancers – Chadi Aoun and Kim Baraka – awaken from their sleep-like inertia, climb down from their columns, remove their skirts and start scrutinizing the forms of the three female figures now still atop their plinths.
Taking the women by the legs, the men throw them over their shoulders as if they were mannequins. Placing them on the stage, the men twirl the women’s forms, stopping them whenever they move of their own accord.
Symbols of conformity, these columns provided a sort of formal counterpoint to each dancer’s individuality. As long as they were in proximity to the plinths, they shared a common choreography. One after another they express their differences in solo dance, and demand the other performers join them in this expression of uniqueness.
The choreography could be an aesthetic summation of mundane sexual politics.
The movement is strenuous and demanding upon the dancers, whose exertions are evident to the audience. Panting, gasping as they run, swirl and fall, Kano’s performers appeared to be pushing themselves to the edge of their endurance, as well as their talent.
Later in the show, the audience was treated to an exquisite demonstration of synchronicity and balance, as each of the onstage performers exerted themselves atop a column with acrobatic grace.
Like the score accompanying their choreography – which oscillates from experimental sounds to recognizable melodies – the dancers’ movement expressed passion and torture, sadness and enthusiasm. The emotion could not have been more clearly expressed had a narrator been put onstage to read the story beneath the movement.
Two well-lit, plant-adorned rooms sat on the stage wings like bastions of hope and freedom, or else a lost reality straddling the principal choreography. Each time the dancers entered one of these rooms, their movement was expressive of dynamism and humanity.
Later in the performance, the dancers drifted to a pair of glass sinks, one filled with water, the other with sand. Moving as if in a trance, or rehearsing a communal ritual, each dancer washed his or her hands and face.
Each spectator who experienced “Borderline” might have her personal interpretation of the show. One thing that all likely shared is astonishment at the grace and athleticism of which the human body is capable.
As the show unfolded, several “wows” could be heard to be uttered in the terraces of Theatre Monnot. There was utter silence between each movement in the performance. No audience member spoke. Not a single mobile phone rang.
Nada Kano’s “Borderline” is running at Monnot Theatre until May 11. For more information, please call 01-426-869.