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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Dance Festival 2023: LOVE TRAIN2020

LOVETRAIN2020 by Emanuel Gat Dance Company. Image by Julia Gat


There was a 1980s before MTV took over with its money for nothing and its Tiffany’s for free. One that began in the early 80s as a backlash to the kicking and screaming of punk. Its club culture closer to disco in many ways, especially in terms of flamboyance in dressing up. Its love of plastic and electronics given expression in a new synth sound. Sometimes boppy, sometimes dark, sometimes head scratchingly weird. Like punk, the New Romantics were a short lived phenomena that quickly went mainstream and became pop. But for a time they was cooler than cool. Bands like Depeche Modes, Yazoo, OMD and Tears For Fears would help define the 80s. The music of Tears For Fears providing the backdrop for an 80s homage that is LOVETRAIN2020 by Emanuel Gat Dance Company, a work that hits and misses in equal measure.

20/20 vision is certainly a bonus as LOVETRAIN2020 is a visual feast steeped in 80s references. Tom Bradley’s costumes channelling an inner Vivienne Westwood. The whole looking like Adam and the Ants and the gang from Ultravox at a wrap party for a Derek Jarman movie in The Blitz. Steeped in dry ice and Emanuel Gat’s shadowed lights, which wouldn’t look out of place in the Vienna video. It’s all sumptuously gorgeous, Yet if choreographer Gat establishes connections with the fashions of the time, LOVETRAIN2020’s relation with music is often less evolved.

Twelve dancers, like a hive mind of Borgs, take to the stage and become one. Initially mesmerising, this multi-celled creature sweeps and dives, divides and returns, twitches, glitches and shudders, executing small recurring patterns. Meanwhile, a Tears For Fears playlist begins with songs from 1983’s The Hurting, only ever interrupted by silence. Two charts hits, Mad World and Pale Shelter signalling a change as the hive steps back to facility solos. The first with flips and wheeling holds its own, but still looks like a poor relation to the ensemble work. The second found wanting, redeemed by the return of the ensemble who bring the experience home. And so it goes, solos, duets, trios playing themselves out to the limits of song, their musical, rhythmic or thematic associations often hard to locate, most weaker than the cocktail that is the ensemble. Each like extracted ingredients from a Tequila Sunrise. Some the tequila, others the orange juice, some the ice cube.

Throughout, movement is defined by stutter rather than flow. Like red carpet models, movement pours into poses struck fleetingly, immediately followed by another, often settling into compositional tableaux. The whole defined by a process of stops rather than starts. Unlike the music which frequently soars above it all as a unified whole. Each dance a dice roll, some dexterous, some simple, some modestly interesting, some utterly gorgeous, some speaking with the music, some struggling to find a connection. By the time Sowing The Seeds of Love sends everyone home, you might not have enjoyed everything, and it might not be the 80s party you were hoping for, but there are moments in LOVETRAIN2020 that will most likely stay with you.

LOVETRAIN2020 by Emanuel Gat Dance Company ran at The Abbey Theatre as part of Dublin Dance Festival 2023.


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