Kvartetto is an exploration of freedom within physicality, which the three performers conquer without question. Maria Lahti, Jarmo Patana and Sanna Tornikoski are said performers, who all share the classification of being intellectually disabled. Although this may seem like an obstacle for their movement it is actually the total opposite. With the guidance of choreographer Kati Raatikainen, this piece showcases intimacy, connection, and the inner urges to dance through the bodies of those who are often disregarded by the dance industry.
As the play begins we see four chairs, one in each corner of a grand, white stage. On them sit the performers and the mute DJ, who occasionally comes into the production for an extra hand, or purely to guide the music. As the performers start to move with headphones on their ears, we cannot help but feel left out. Like being left out of a silent disco, we witness the performers dive into music that we can only imagine. Their differing styles and pacing make me think maybe they are listening to differing tracks. But again, we will never know, and perhaps this is deliberate. The performers hold the power of ownership over the music and how they express themselves through it.
As we are then allowed to hear the music, we are let into the library of genres that each performer embodies differently. From classical to Whitney Houston, each song has a purpose within the flow of the piece and reveals each performer’s identity alongside it. With this, each passing glance to each other suggests their connection throughout, to the point of close synchronicity.
As well as the collective movement segments, the performers each take on a dance solo which hints at their personal experiences. For example, Tornikoski puts a long, floaty dress on over her dance clothes for her solo, which she uses to swish around the stage and adds a different level of movement to her piece. The meaning of this isn’t crystal clear, but through the movement alone we can see her desire to parade this feminine symbol and incorporate that into her improvisation on stage.
Furthermore, Lahti’s incorporation of the human mannequin within her solo is a gentle look into human intimacy between society bodily norms and those with disabilities. Lahti’s soft, slow tracings of the mannequin’s body with her fingers centres the piece in a longing connection to be loved and accepted. It is only when the other performers filter the stage with the mannequins’ legs and hands that we question the mannequin’s ‘normality’ at all. If anything, it seems as if the performers are mocking the normalised human body by waving them around the stage, using them for their own expression of movement.
Overall, this production questions what we know about dance and how we perceive it through different bodies. Each performers’ talent is undeniable through their command of the stage and ability to tell a story through movement, a skill that does not come easy to many.
Kvartetto is playing on the Summerhall website until the 29 August. For more information and tickets, see: Kvartetto – Summerhall, Edinburgh.