"What do you do to start something? You take it, you turn it around, then you take it, you take it somewhere..."
Two girls and a boy, a drum kit, two microphones, a single blue cheerleader pom-pom, several bottles of water, a few chairs, an iPod with four songs and a sheet of paper with 33 instructions taped to the floor. That's all they had for Take It Home, part of the BAC Burst Festival.
The trio These Horses went through the list with only those props; they have made live work in the UK and Germany since 2003. They do this:
Our current explorations involve dancing, live music, photography and drums – questioning our expectations of ‘liveness’ through improvisation, accident and loud noise. We aim to make performances that are accessible, immediate and unexpected; temporary comings-together of people, circumstances and ideas.
We laughed, we gasped, we scratched our heads in bafflement, we tapped our feet to the music and occasionally looked at our watches; the evening was a giggly mix of nonsensical limb-shaking, loud bursts of well-loved bass-heavy dance music from the recent past, drum solos with lots of jumping and many re-enactments of the famous chair / water / splashing about dance from Flashdance.
The instructions were arbitrary and odd: "Work it out" led to an energetic, 1980s influenced aerobics workout, "use your head" led to an amusing and possibly painful burst of headswinging dance, and the recurring instruction "Take it somewhere" led to the best developments in the evening. Previous actions were replayed, built up, bulked out and extended and we saw the adventure, the willingness to experiment with starting something then taking it somewhere, even if it meant looking like an idiot, swinging a blue pom-pom around, chucking it out of the window and performing rather desperate 1980s style dance moves in a pool of spilt water from the previous instructions.
Their responses to the instructions were faux-serious and eager to please. Each action concluded with a nod and a little 'was that okay?' look to the audience; even when we spontaneously applauded a particularly impressive action, it wasn't acknowledged and we were left to wonder who they were then trying to please and why. What was all this effort for? Who was it for?
Their determination and commitment to following the instructions was at odds with the stories they occasionally told, stories about musicians losing themselves in their performance. It was like watching a carefully constructed experiment to try to understand what happens when you lose yourself in the music, the rhythm, the moment. It was their experiment and we were watching them do it. We got an idea of what was being explored - but we were really only there to see the how, not the why.
These Horses started something, they turned it around, they took it and they took it somewhere. We went with them most of the way; we took it home, with a smile.
The Burst Festival concludes this weekend with the beatbox Shlomo Weekender, Reantasy in Blue - a double-bill of visual performance and the curious How To Disappear. For more information, go to the BAC website here.