Organised chaos in Ugo Dehaes’ DMNT
DMNT is an intimate portrait that illustrates dementia and opens it up for discussion, in an abstract yet personal manner. But at the same time the chaos in the brain shown here remains slightly too well-controlled. DMNT is the new production by Ugo Dehaes, artistic head of the Belgian dance company Kwaad Bloed.
The opening section is moving, because it made me feel I was being invited into a personal story. Dehaes made DMNT because his father-in-law is suffering from dementia and he wanted, through movement, to examine his own feelings about this disease and bring them out into the open. I watched the performance at the Stadsschouwburg in Utrecht on Thursday 7 January.
Dehaes’ dance performance illustrates dementia
The three dancers move around while turning and sliding in all directions across the dance floor, while moving their arms chaotically above their heads. Occasionally one of them stands still. The dancers’ faces look vacant; there is no one at home. Their costumes add to this impression. The two female dancers, Kayoko Minami and Charlotte Vanden Eynde wear simple dresses in pale colours and Dehaes – who is also one of the dancers – wears trousers that look like linen. The costumes are colourless and inexpressive. As if the choreographer wanted to say that people with dementia no longer exist.
There is a moment when the dancers stand close together in contorted poses. Not looking at each other. In complete silence. One can feel the intangible nature of the disease.
‘Irritating sounds’ by Roeland Luyten
Such everyday sounds as the chirruping of birds, an aircraft taking off and the humming of a large electrical device are made abstract. At three points during the performance we hear a deafening sound – composed by Roeland Luyten – that feels like the madness in the mind of someone with dementia. I put my hands over my ears to protect them, briefly feeling myself being driven crazy.
Fragile end to DMNT
At the end of the performance Vanden Eynde stands at the front. She turns away from the audience. I wonder what goes through the mind of someone who suffers from dementia. The dancer’s lower leg makes spastic-looking knee-bends. This movement transforms into a gracious walk, where the dancer, on her toes, turns away from the audience and goes upstage. She subtly takes an occasional look behind her, as if wanting to say, ‘Look, I’m still here’. A moment of fragility.
The subtitle given to DMNT – ‘a dance performance about forgetting and being forgotten’ – is on the one hand fulfilled by showing chaos in the space and in the uncontrolled bodies. It is mainly the fragile moments at the beginning and end of the performance that contribute to this. On the other hand, the dancers control their movements so well that it sometimes loses its credibility. This may also have something to do with the fact that as a choreographer Dehaes appears to be occupied slightly too much with the other dancers. One notices a divide between the female dancers and Dehaes himself. The chaos is just a little too organised and well-controlled.
All in all DMNT is a moving performance and offers an insight into Dehaes’ personal story, with what are probably taboo-busting values.
DMNT is on at the Vlaams Cultuurhuis De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam from 16 to 20 February. For more information visit the Kwaad Bloed website.