Arts Dance with Me Review Theatre

Review: Come On In by Faye Driscoll (Esplanade’s da:ns focus 2023)

ASMR meets meditation in this private dance between yourself and Faye Driscoll.

In her exploration of connection and the relationship between audience and performer, American choreographer Faye Driscoll has conceptualised Come On In, a dance-installation work that eschews traditional dance conventions. Rather than watching a performer enact a series of choreographic movements, the audience becomes the performer, taking instruction from Driscoll as she leads us in a sort of guided meditation process.

Come On In not only rejects the traditional style of performance – the space has also been designed to facilitate this unique artistic presentation. Rather than a clear divide between ‘performance space’ and ‘seating’, audience members are invited to get comfortable at various listening stations, each one comprising of a white mattress of differing sizes and heights, arranged around the Esplanade Annexe Studio. Behind, a large screen ebbs with soft light, like a makeshift aurora borealis, while a low drone of white noise plays in the background. Everything has been set up for maximum relaxation, as we go from bed to bed, and listen to what Driscoll has to say to us.

Across each station, the instructions are cyclical and repetitive, each one a slight variation on the other. We are instructed to get comfortable, and across various stations, we find ourselves experimenting with different positions, from lying on our backs, to sitting with legs hanging off the side. Through the headphones, Driscoll’s voice is instructive, yet evocative in the words she chooses – we are tasked to feel the palms of our hands and our feet, stretching out to surreal, impossible places, backwards through time. Even in our comfort, we are constantly reminded of our mortal bodies, every orifice and private bits given mention, and as visceral as that can be, it helps us become reacquainted and familiarised with these often shunned body parts, and realise their presence, that they are very much a part of us.

Each station lasts only about 6-8minutes, but always feels like a total and complete experience, lasting exactly as long as it needs to. We are always lulled into the strange reality Driscoll puts us in, never soporific but in fact, refreshing. There are times it feels like we become children again, stretching out and reaching out for unknowable, impossible targets, and learning to orientate ourselves to our bodies. Perhaps that all ties back to how each audio piece is part of Driscoll’s Guided Choreographies for the Living and the Dead series – a means to come alive again through such guidance, to learn to love our bodies and appreciate it, warts and all. And watching the other participants around, you feel like a part of something greater, realising your unique, special place in the universe alongside these other living people around you (perhaps even on the same bed).

At the end of every track, Driscoll says those same words – ‘come on, come on, come on in’, like a final spell to break us out of our reverie. It is an invitation not just to join her in this ceremony of rediscovery, but to come back into our own minds and bodies, to carry on that process as we complete one station after another. Whichever order you listen to them in, whether you choose to do them in rapid succession, or take a break between each set, what we end up with is a newfound respect for and awareness of our bodies and perhaps, existence itself. ‘Come on in’, Driscoll says. ‘Yes, I am here,’ your body can’t help but respond.

Photo Credit: Jootz See

Come On In ran from 5th to 7th May 2023 at the Esplanade Annexe Studio. More information available here

da:ns focus events run from 14th to 16th Apr 2023, 5th to 7th May 2023, 13th to 15th Oct 2023, 1st to 3rd Dec 2023 and Mar 2024. More information available here

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