Astarti Athanasiadou: Doghand

Astarti's 20 minute presentation for Maelstrom Slow Dance - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, June 2017 was entitled


and performed with: Stefania Petroula; costumes: Panagiotis Panaiotakopoulos; Sound: Stefano Sgarbi


"Can you make dialogue with underhanded tactics that position the body in alienated submission?"

Two female performers, including the artist Astarti Athanasiadou appear on the stage. Costumed in athletic warrior-like apparel, they begin a complex and dynamic dance of communicative gestures. Creating a narrative of power and exchange without a word, the piece comes alive because of the energy of the dancers and their interaction with each other. The work is fully supported by sound by Stefano Sgarbi and costumes by Panagiotis Panaiotakopoulos. In a general sense, the body becomes a subject of dance through the interaction between the two performers. A large “x”-shape is spread across the floor of the stage. The rubber is thick and has an unmistakable scent.

Ray Brassier described the way the piece unfolded. He noticed the word “hand” in both the title and the question and offered the idea that the power dynamics in the piece seemed to be signaled by hand movements. He thought that Astarti’s intentions to emphasis different qualities of each dancer came through well. There seems to be a kind of encasement within a map, and then an electronic drone begins - eventually, the action reactions a pivotal moment onstage, where one figure seems to be subjugated. This amounts to what looks like a reversal, and then both figures come together. Brassier explains that from there, all the “subsequent movements no longer seem to be governed by this need to follow this power dynamic.[...they] seem to grapple together in a synchronized way, and an electro-dance rhythm becomes increasingly prevalent.” For him, this was the one moment in the piece where there was something conventional - expressed through the rhythm of the dancers - and it became unclear as to whether the dance signals were in syncopation or collaboration until both dances became locked in a reciprocal embrace. Brassier found the performance powerful, dramatic, and compelling and was especially captivated by the unfamiliar type of bodily movement.

Gabi Ngcobo was also struck by the performance, calling it “very powerful.” She said she enjoyed the costume choices, which she read as uniforms. She saw urban visibility codes within the “uniform” that were linked to ideas of submission and bondage. The simplicity of the stage was also loaded in codes, with the cross especially evocative of a crossroad or intersection. Recalling that the smell of rubber still lingers in the air, she talked about how “going to the moment where you dismantle this intersection gives us a projection of life after the end of the world.”  This powerful image of rubber on the body exposes a monumentality that cannot hold and “symbols that cannot be replaced by others, even though we want to replace them.” Ngcobo concluded by remarking that she would like to stay with the feeling the performance gave her.

Rachel O’Reilly felt so moved by it, that she felt a bit sick. For her, everything came together: the artificiality of the dancer body being pumped up and strapped in, the obviousness of certain resistances, and having to do this to each other, the rubber as a shoulder weight, the productive use of material turned into regal outfit of negativity that gets occupied by more than one dancer. This was about “becoming metaphor [through the] build up of the occupation of violence.” She complimented Astarti’s selection of sound and music and thought that the choreography was polished and reflected refined decisions. Furthermore, she was impressed by the criticality of the language used to compose work. As for Astarti’s question, she believed it was “answered affirmatively by all dance. The yes here is a critique that is extremely powerful.”

Bassam el Baroni began by saying that it strongly impressed him as well. “It blew my mind.” He thought it alluded to Johanna Siebt’s understanding of what dialogue is, “something that prepares for a shared understanding.” It also seemed to be about understanding constraints and this became clear through both the bootstrapping of the two individuals to each other and their power dynamics. El Baroni remarked that, “the malleable platform “x” shows the possibility of reconfiguring constraints. A very complex and scientifically understood notion of what dialogue is transformed into a compelling work.” He appreciated the “perfect” ending and the beautiful expression of the torment of trying to get to a shared understanding.