• Chris O'Rourke

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones


any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. Image by Phile Deprez

****

Protest. The right to voice dissent. In Jan Marten's timely any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones seventeen dancers set about establishing a space where individuality can safely dissent within, against, or as part a larger collective. There's room for everyone. Well, almost everyone. In recent years protest has become globally problematic with trolling and threats on social media, military crackdowns, and disappearances. Protesting for the right to protest (even as its liberal left agenda protests others protesting from far right hate), any attempt… has its heart firmly in the right place.

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. Image by Phile Deprez


Like protest itself, it begins with one and ends with many. Movement married to remixed music become a Jaws styled score, driven by a Hitchcockian frenzy, establishing a tense rhythm to which movement is synchronised. Some movements look throwaway, others focused and infused, all executed with a restless impatience as solos, duets, and more, strut their moments before making way for the next routine. Patterns, once established, are endlessly repeated. A martial arts, Shaolin styled sweeping into stances embeds itself in several, alongside a rapid punching sequence, as personal and shared moments create a complex lexicon. As any attempt… is inclusive, different ages, shapes, talents and abilities all have their place. Even so, while the whole is greater than its individual parts, the eye can't help being drawn to some parts more frequently than others. Some seem to flap about the stage, others, like a duet between two women (one of the youngest with the smallest member of the troupe) prove stronger. Both performers snapping purposeful powerful rhythms, articulated exquisitely, for the duration of the production.

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. Image by Phile Deprez


While always impressive, synchronisity overplays its hand in a prolonged floor exercise that morphs into a military marching drill, interesting for a lot shorter than it imagined. Conducted in silence, apart from political soundbites being dropped via a monologue, the whole becomes a minor Edinburgh Tattoo without the bagpipes. Marten's is happy to allow for ambiguity here. The military might shut down protest, even as many protesting voices become an army. Following a prolonged costume change, the world is turned red as any attempt… races to a frenetic finale, with its own built-in encore, ending the night on the impassioned high of hope.

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones. Image by Phile Deprez

Despite suggesting a diversity of voices, thematically, any attempt… preaches to the converted. Offering an ideal, uniform world view where nice people are allowed protest safely against bad people. As opposed to this a world in which everybody thinks they're the good guy, where hate fuelled trolls with an F in spelling are given credibility, and where everyone's shouting and no one's listening. Even Marten's collage of individual voices sees few in conversation. Most appear to be talking to themselves. Yet a floor covered in dead bodies is an argument no one should have to make. And that's why any attempt… becomes profoundly important, rising above its Disney idealism. It dares to dream for a world beyond hate.

any attempt will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones by Jan Martens, presented by Dublin Dance Festival and The Abbey Theatre, runs at The Abbey Theatre till May 28.


For more information, visit Dublin Dance Festival 2022 or The Abbey Theatre.

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