At least three times over the course of Atomic 3001 I found myself contemplating whether choreographer and performer Leslie Mannès was somehow creating the techno beat that her body was reacting to. I had to physically shake myself to clear the illusion, at least temporarily. The beat – by techno artist Sitoid – and Mannès’ movements were equally relentless and engrossing.
Mannès co-exists with the beat, each driving the other.
Atomic 3001 is a Belgian dance piece, described as “a futuristic ritual” and “a quest for our primitive drive towards survival.” Performed solo in a monochrome red costume by Mannès, the feeling produced is that she co-exists with the beat, each driving the other. There is no question of why – it is the way things must be. As the forty minute piece continues, Mannès movements evolve from the purely isolated and mechanistic to more recognisably human dancing. This evolution comes in phases, defined by short breaks in the constancy of the movement and by Vincent Lemaître’s brilliant lighting design. With a relatively limited festival rig, Lemaître shapes and defines our view of Mannès and the tone of each moment with masterful precision. Mannès is exactly as visible as she needs to be - confined to a single spot in the center of the stage with her face in shadow - until the last section, when she is finally given the freedom of the stage to move around in.
It is in this latter part of the piece when Atomic 3001 transforms from an unquestionable onslaught of sound and movement into something that resembles – on an instinctual, emotional level – the tribal dance referenced in the publicity materials. This is not a journey from tribal dance to techno, but rather the opposite: from the broken down, isolated movements driven by pure techno beats to a more holistic human expression of movement.
Atomic 3001 does a phenomenal job of clearly communicating, and independently inspiring, the ideas that it purports to explore. If you are a fan of contemporary dance, it cannot be missed. If you aren’t, here is a wonderful window into the power of that art form.