Feelings from daily life transposed into dance: what Flemish choreographer Isabelle Beernaert declares to reveal in her new dance show Glass. Beernaert says she puts the heart, or the feeling, at the center of her choreographies, and Glass promises to show Beernaert’s views on the imperfections and the beauty of humankind. The imperfections, however, seem to have the upper hand in Glass: anger, grief and sorrow dominate this show.

Beernaert gained fame after winning the popular entertainment show The Ultimate Dance Battle. But she is also a graduate of the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp, and is a multidisciplinary choreographer who uses elements of various dance styles, such as modern jazz. On top of this, Beernaert experiments with other art forms such as architecture, fashion and film. In Glass, she combines dance with video projections.

Glass opens with a quote from the film The Hours. A voiceover tells us that “you cannot find peace by avoiding life”. Images from the film Koyaanisqatsi are projected on a background screen, showing big cities with people and traffic moving. The score perfectly fits the image: buzzing, fast music is heard and people rush on the stage, balancing their acts between classically pointed and angular movement. The hustle and bustle of the choreography comes back in the music and is supported by the background projection. This is the first impression we get of life: the chaos of living in the city. Moments later, we get a glimpse of the more intimate essence of life: A man and woman embrace on one side of the stage, while an angry man is yelling at the audience on the other side. Love and hate are place next to each other in this powerful moment in the show. 

But anger dominate the rest of the performance,  and is it particularly women who suffer from it. They are the ones who fall apart, cry and shake to classics by Philip Glass. Dimitra Kolokouri gives an intense performance of female despair: she wobbles and moves like a ragdoll, then throws herself to the wall, screaming. Kolokouri is clearly emotionally driven, but because her outburst comes very suddenly, almost out of nothing, it is hard for the spectator to identify with her. The abruptness of this dramatic scene makes it almost ridiculous instead of sensitive.

It is not just Kolokouri, but all women who are repeatedly tossed and turned by the men. They are the ones who suffer, and because they are repeatedly portrayed as such, they come across as weak and melodramatic. The drama is intensified by the choice of music. Glass stands for the composer of the majority of the music used: Philip Glass. Beernaert makes good use of his most famous (string) pieces. Whether it is the melody or the long bass notes in the score, one clearly recognizes the music in the movement of the dancers. But it lacks variation, which, combined with the one-sidedness of the themes Beernaert uses, sounds almost lofty in a cliché way. Which is a shame.

More emphasis on life's beauty, which is so essential, would have made the journey more comfortable.