What happens when you train for something your whole life, only to fail at the crucial moment? This question is the stimulus behind False Start, from acclaimed French-German theatre-maker Ingrid von Wantoch, now based in Brussels, who weaves music and bodies into tableaux vivants with her cast of Jeanne Dailler, Pierre Gervais, Ninon Perez, and Laurent Staudt.
A fascinating kaleidoscope of actions
What started as a five-minute display for runners at a marathon in 2018 has since evolved into a 55-minute show. Using elite sport as the means of opening up the realm of performance pressure, four actor/dancers limber up and take their places on the start line of an athletics track. Their dreams are in place, the adrenaline is pumping and their eyes are focussed as they wait for a single gunshot that could set them on the sprint to glory. As the bullet is released the sound ignites their movement, but it’s immediately followed by a second shot signifying a false start. By a fraction of a second, one athlete’s hopes are dashed and the others must reconfigure for another attempt.
False Start is a very specific and highly focused work. The eerie opening soundscape devised by Marc Appart creates a sense of foreboding, enhanced by Jan Maertens’ lighting design. Satu Peltoniemi’s costumes with the floor markings give a clear indication of the event, its location and who the characters are. For a modern dance piece it is unusually non-abstract. Instead, the choreography, in collaboration with Nadine Ganase, is explicit and filled with clarity as it explores the minutiae of the athlete’s movements, impressing them upon us in repeated motifs and floor patterns as variations up a theme. The effect is to create a fascinating kaleidoscope of actions, As the images change so does the music and the tension ebbs and flows, at times interspersed with comic poignancy.
Although rooted in the heartache and disappointment of a track event False Start is also a metaphor for life and as such takes on a depth beyond its surface portrayal.