What happens to the thousands of people who go missing every year? And what happens to the people left behind? How can anyone accept they might never know what happened to their loved ones, how does anyone deal with the disappearance of a parent, a child, a sibling, a friend?
Rarely have I seen a piece of dance theatre that is both so delicate and so powerful at the same time.
These are the questions at the core of Missing, a ‘dance poem’ by Irish company CoisCéim Dance Theatre. Director and choreographer David Bolger was inspired by a missing person poster he saw on the street, fading over the months until it disappeared itself. Dancers Emma O’Kane and Tom Pritchard evoke beautifully the feelings of loss, mystery and anxiety that one can only imagine the relatives of missing people feel.
They skilfully bring the audience into their world at the beginning of the show. While dancing, they take turns in describing people who went missing on the same day as the performance. It quickly becomes clear that they are describing members of the audience. Besides being singularly chilling, this instantly bridges the distance between the audience and the world evoked on stage – a world made of waiting, hope, and suspension.
The chemistry between O’Kane and Pritchard enriches their beautiful dancing: they literally and symbolically support each other, lift each other up or pull each other down. Their solos complement each other, and their duets are so harmonious that the audience can’t but be in awe of such grace. Everything in this show is delicate and melancholic, from the choreography to the score to the few chosen props that make some sequences all the more memorable – such as the candle O’Kane lights and then dances to. Even the combination of dancing and talking is perfectly balanced. Missing is never rhetorical, or didactic, or finger-pointing. It asks the audience questions, and it treats the feelings of those left to wait for their loved one’s return with extreme respect.
Rarely have I seen a piece of dance theatre that is both so delicate and so powerful at the same time. Bolger, O’Kane and Pritchard reach out directly to the hearts of the audience, shake them and leave them just a little changed.