Body Language review: An ambitious show that scratches our surfaces

Every person has a distinct way of moving as this cross-discipline show illustrates with a startling level detail

Body Language in action at the RHA

Body Language in action at the RHA

 

RHA Gallery, Dublin

****

Body language is prone to pseudo-science: simplistic decoding of gestures and posture to instruct how to sit during a job interview or to see if someone fancies you. More scientific analysis of how to read a body goes beyond static gestures, instead looking at integrated movement. Movement Pattern Analysis, pioneered by Warren Lamb, claims that every person has a distinct way of moving that can be analysed and can define a personality type and even predict future behaviour.

These studies started with a dancer – Rudolph Laban – and it is appropriate that a choreographer’s eye is behind Body Language, a month-long residency at the RHA Gallery that brings dance, visual art and music together in an exploration of body language. Coiscéim’s David Bolger has not just created a stunning visual setting, but through daily performances he slowly constructs a compulsive insight into how we unconsciously communicate through our bodies.

Each performance begins with an interview between a member of the public and visual artist Christopher Ash in the centre of the gallery under a huge suspended light-box. Out of earshot, Ash quietly asks for visual responses from the subject, capturing close-up images of their face and body with a camera, which are projected one-by-one around the four walls like a jumbled film reel. Bolger, and fellow dancers Justine Cooper, Ivonne Kalter, Jonathan Mitchell, Emma O’Kane and Jack Webb, then enter the space and choose the images’ gestural and emotional content as inspiration for movement.

Ash’s keen eye and quick finger catches remarkable images, but the performers transform the fixed gestures into sophisticated movement, offering another perspective on the subject. Michael Fleming’s ever-changing soundscore offers another layer of analysis, and during the residency musical contributions were also offered from clarinettist Deirdre O’Leary and the La La La Choir. Each self-contained performance was like a daily practice, growing in fluency with an increasing depth of knowledge embodied by the dancers.

Body Language was conceived over a number of years, evident in the level of detail and conceptual clarity. Blurring the lines between dancing and body language, it created both a fascinating exhibition and memorable performances.

Screenings of content from the interviews and filmed choreographic responses continues until December 10.

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