The beginning of What Is the Weight Of Your Desire?, by Czech company VerTe Dance, makes it clear to the audience that they’re walking into a rather typically odd fringe show.
Each member of the audience is asked to step on a scale under the vigilant gaze of one of the performers and as the spectators sit down they’re asked to push onto the scales so that the performer can see not only how heavy they are, but also how strong. Soon after, a second dancer runs on stage and takes off many layers of clothing while screaming a single, prolonged note.
The piece maintains a balance between stereotypically, almost clichéd alternative performance and beautifully executed choreography that explores power relations between men and women - especially when it comes to sex and desire.
The four female dancers glide on stage with such grace and apparent ease that all you want to do is be up there with them. These blissful moments are counterpointed by darker ones, such as a duet in which one dancer keeps pushing and pulling another who blabbers about brands of feminine products, or a solo piece in which a different dancer is wrapped in some stretched fabric and slowly strips down in a way that’s reminiscent of Miranda July’s work.
Unfortunately, such awe-inspiring moments are punctuated with acts in which the performers refer to or talk about plastic surgery and women’s bodies being perceived as sexual objects, which don’t add anything new or insightful to the debate. In fact, the type of feminism that is represented in this show reminds one of a rather old-fashioned and outdated school of thought. The issue with What Is the Weight of Your Desire? is that these antics feel quite rhetorical and lack substance.
The company is greatly talented and one could watch the ensemble dance for hours; in fact, the dancing in the show is stronger and more interesting than its addresses to the audience or its shouting or stripping acts. I can’t help feeling that the message of the show would come across more memorably if it was expressed only through the choreography.