In a white boxed room a wall flickers with continuous static as an audience gathers to witness Ousia, choreographed by Darren Johnston and presented by Array. What unfolds is a beautifully meditative and trance-inducing part-dance, part-installation with an outstanding technical design that sees a figure morphing from the static wall.

It is hard to judge what exactly it is about Ousia that had me captivated because it is remarkably simple in terms of the movement, overlapped with a complex lighting and projection design. The narrative form is hard to uncover from Johnston’s choreography as a solitary figure dances in pools of light that last no longer than a few seconds at a time. This makes up the best part of the performance, until a mirroring figure emerges out of the static to reflect this lone dancer. Who is this figure? What is their relationship? A lost lover? Nothing is made clear, leaving the imagination of its audience to decide.

I guess it is the simplicity of the piece, the eastern music and spectacular lighting effects that really captivates you. The work is gentle in presentation, and while the strobe lighting might prove challenging upon the eye, it is worth it to experience the visual imagery that Johnston creates. It is in the way the figure emerges out of the static screen, how the face is concealed behind an expressionless mask and how the figure tenderly dances repeated gestures never going beyond the boundaries of light.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, Ousia will be sure to divide the audience, especially those seeking a form of movement that goes beyond simplicity. For me though, it is the striking imagery, visual illusion and enchanting music that draw me willingly into this strange dance-instillation.

Ousia was performed at the Arnolofini as part of Mayfest. For more shows during the festival see the website here.