Review: Eyes Closed With Piñata

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Eyes-Closed-web1If nothing else, the Gipca Live Art Festival offers a platform for individual expression to challenge the views of others: to unsettle them and make them think.

In one of the key venues of the festival, Hiddingh Hall, Steven van Wyk and Thalia Laric’s Underground Dance Theatre presented ‘Eyes Closed With Piñata’, an installation performance during which the audience was able to walk around freely.

In this high ceilinged, wood-panelled, quiet and respectful space, the performers were displayed each standing on individual raised platforms in a frozen position, blindfolded and holding a baton. A man, a woman, a boy, a girl – each performer was different but unified by the fact that dangling in front of each was a piñata. The performer with the largest piñata held ropes to the rest thus controlling the installation and the centre point of the exhibition.

The relationship between sound and silence was key in this installation. On entering the hall, background elevator music could be heard, while at the foot of each frozen performer was a box with different sounds or music playing, creating a sense of chatter and noise. Gradually the music faded and the silence was filled with the performers nonchalantly coming to life.

As the youngest performer started swinging for her piñata, the mood developed into a playful and comical game of seeing how long it would take to break. This was in marked contrast to the older performers who swung their batons with a fierce determination.

What initially felt playful developed in intensity, as nervous audience members found themselves having to dodge the swinging batons. In the relative quiet of the room, the only sounds were the knocking of the piñatas and the audience response to what was happening.

All of the piñatas were filled with something different, and the sweets, bouncing balls, and beads created different textures when, at last, each piñata eventually broke, sending the elements inside flying against the walls and floor. As with any traditional piñata the audience scrambled for the contents, their excitement growing until, as the final piñata dropped, the lights abruptly went out, ending the installation.

‘Eyes Closed With Piñata’ proved an interesting and engaging piece of performance art by Underground Dance Theatre uncovering themes of uncertainty, exploration and fear, in sound and silence, stillness and movement.

Angeliki Theodorou

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Eyes Closed With Piñata forms part of the Gipca Live Art Festival which runs until 6 September 2014.

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