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  • Chris O'Rourke

Dublin Dance Festival 2024: Carcaça

Carcaça by Marco da Silva Ferreira. Image, Freepass.


It’s a common audience complaint. Politicised productions promoting the current important message. Politicised programme notes promising much but delivering less. Productions where you want to say; “I know you’ve got a message. Just give me a pamphlet so I can read it on the way home. Meanwhile, artistically, what have you got?” Sometimes, not a lot. Or, in the case of Marco da Silva Ferreira’s durational Carcaça, not enough. And, also, too much. Like ankle rolls.

Ten dancers in black, stage right of a large, white floor mat, warm up as if for a rehearsal. A lone drummer, downstage right, taps out a rhythm. Presently a dancer takes to the stage. Drummer and dancer marginally, but distinctly out of sync. But as the dancer’s movements show greater rigour you start to doubt the drummer. His drummer-boy drum rolls evoking a parade ground. On which other dancers arrive creating a carnival-like marching routine with loose synchronicity. I say loose, some might say sloppy. As dancers negotiate travelling the edges of the space towards the back wall, expanding and contracting as a unit becomes a recurring device. Forming and reforming after whirling off into collaborative duets, trios or quartets. Rolling on the floor as one to downstage, the sense of a hive mind emerges. Not of one and the many, but of the many as one. Like a team. Or a mob.

Carcaça by Marco da Silva Ferreira. Image, Freepass.

Following one of several forgettable solos, whose chief function is to provide recovery interludes, a durational sequence commences. If modern is married to the traditional as advertised, allusions to Hip Hop battles prove thin on the ground. Some might say invisible. Initially engaging, the sequence soon resembles a durational aerobics class, or a Guinness Book of Records attempt at ankle rolling. Meanwhile, the insistent drumming, hinting of tribal percussions, makes it clear that there’s a thin line between trance-like, hypnotic rhythms and putting you to sleep. The metronomic patterning proving closer to the latter. The durational, repetitive rocking on ankles adding visual fuel to the dozing fire.

Till the message arrives to sing to the choir. A beer hall, Marxist shanty sung as dancers drag red tops, like Communist flags, across their faces. Becoming a collective mouth delivering a party political call-to-arms on behalf of the Anti-bourgeoisie Party. Their heavy handed lyrics projected as surtitles. Dull, trite, awash in populist anti-populism, you soon understand why they don’t give out pamphlets; they’d never make it past the first waste paper basket. Including the baskets of many in agreement with Carcaça’s anti-fascist, anti-capitalist sentiments. Following a clever visual that costs too much and delivers too little it all ends with a Céile of endless ankle rolls to a tune reminiscent of a Mexican organ grinder. The audience jump up with glee. Some asserting their wholehearted support for Carcaça’s political devotions. Some glad it’s all over. Most applauding the dancers durational vigour, hard work and commitment, even if some seemed more vigorous, hardworking and committed than others.

McLuhan claimed the medium is the message. In Carcaça, the message undermines the medium and sells both short. Flattering to deceive, preaching to the converted, Carcaça’s low level propaganda tactics employed for the highest of intentions leaves it artistically short-changed. A shame, given that its choreographic interplay occcassionally crafts visually impressive moments.

Carcaça by Marco da Silva Ferreira, presented by Dublin Dance Festival and the Abbey Theatre, a Big Pulse Dance Alliance Co-Production, runs at The Abbey Theatre until May 22.

For more information visit The Abbey Theatre or Dublin Dance Festival 2024


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