Borderline is a 70-minute piece that brings together contemporary dance, hip-hop, Greek theatre and martial arts to talk about how boundaries shape human relations, and whether (and how) these can change and transform over time.

© Agathe Poupeney
© Agathe Poupeney

The piece begins with the struggle of the company’s female dancers – Honji Wang and Johanna Faye – who hopelessly try to reach a skeleton cube located diagonally across (from them) on the other side of the stage. Attached by cables controlled by the Berlin-born rigger Kai Geadtke – a central character in the piece – they fail to achieve their goal despite their vigorous sprints, desperate leaps and obstinate steps. Forget what you learned in school about how rewarding hard work is; you can only go as far as the rigger (God? The State?) allows. It is the tension between the quest for individual freedom and the constraints imposed by the social system we live in that ties the choreographies of Borderline together.

The audience later has the chance to see Wang and Faye together once more, this time in a strong and very expressive duel performed on stilettos. Combining contemporary dance, b-boying (or b-girling) and some awkward positions – the dancers march with their hips thrusting forward while their knees are bent – the bang-bang duet was one of the most acclaimed moments of the evening. The (im)possibility of living together and the danger of indifference inspire another duet, Bowls of Rice, performed with vocals in French, English, German and “hip hop ish” by Louis Becker and Mustapha Saïd Lehlouh.

Calligraphy describes, from the perspective of a vocational school teacher, the abuse of power by police forces during an exercise to prevent drug use and traffic in southwest France in 2008. B-boying to the sound of the teacher’s controversial testimony, the choreography captures the details of the operation, and the feeling of powerlessness experienced by the students.

The meaning of democracy is also questioned in the piece. Sébastien Ramirez and the skeleton cube interact to the sound of his father’s own thought about people’s right to demonstrate and govern. Controlled in a more or less rigid way by the rigger, man and structure find moments of transitory balance, which inevitably end with the structure imposing itself over the individual. The apparent contradiction between the finale’s lyrical and strong movements adds an ethereal (maybe mystical) note to the performance, and opens the possibility of humans breaking free from the structures seen throughout the show. Borderline is a sincere, entertaining, somehow uncomfortable and successful attempt to discuss the place of individuals in our society, well worth seeing, even by those who do not care about politics. 

****1