REVIEW: Zawirowania Dance Theatre’s Closeness

Playwright, theatre director, and performer Swar Thounaojam finds the Polish dance company’s trio work just bold and beautiful

Closeness starts promisingly by opening with the physical reality of two mature bodies—a man in his forties and a woman in her fifties, who are lovers. The male dancer is flabby and bald. The female dancer is wiry and badly dressed. Their bodies hold all the possibility of subverting the rather crude (some might call it refreshing) description of heterosexual romantic love given in the brochure. So it’s a shame when Closeness turns out to be only some sort of a clammy evocation of a TV soap-opera-type love triangle from, let’s say, The Bold and The Beautiful.

A man, Szymon Osinski, finds himself colliding into turbulent relationships with an older woman, Elwira Piorun, and a younger woman, Karolina Kroczak. These turbulences, according to the choreographer Tomas Nepsinsky, are images of ‘masculinity’ created by the female lovers for their common male lover. It’s a sly way of saying ‘two bitchy women screw up an unwitting man’.

The dance begins with Piorun slowly marching along the periphery of the performance space, with strips of light opening up her path towards Osinski. Their relationship is established through a duet where they writhe through each other with an intimacy that never appears again, and their lifting, falling, rolling, sliding, leaning, and touching are marked with aggression. Puzzling over the reason Piorun shows such desperate aggression, it takes me a while to realise that she’s carrying the choreographic message of the female lover creating the image of ‘masculinity’ for her male lover!

Poland’s Zawirownia Dance Theatre in Closeness at the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017 Darshan Manakkal
Poland’s Zawirownia Dance Theatre in Closeness at the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017 Darshan Manakkal

The second duet is between Osinski and Kroczak. A limp Osinski, exhausted apparently from his aggressive intimacy with Piorun, comes to lie atop the heaving young body of Kroczak. What follows is a schmaltzy narrative of how a gentle, empathetic young female lover breathes new life into the battered body of Osinski. All the contact movements of Kroczak nestling, propping, caressing Osinski underline this narrative. Upstage, an enraged Piorun paces up and down the fringe of the performance space— a space which has now taken the form of a steamy bedroom. Here, the TV soap opera love triangle is evoked and its tacky sensibility takes over the performance. 

There are interventions of a pop song and a dance club to ‘depict the distortion of relationships over time’. I quite like the parodic dance club moves of Osinski and Kroczak that Piorun outperforms when she gatecrashes their party with her expert flailing. Escalating this episode into excessive absurd dance club movements might have saved Closeness from being such a dreary piece of work. 

There are confrontations between the triangled lovers—a shouty monologue in Polish by Osinski, aimed at Piorun, for probably being a tough nut to crack and Piorun responding not by slapping but by pulling his cheeks. Maybe she’s infantilising him?

A combative contact trio then follows predictably. The result is unsurprising. The two women develop the only bonhomie possible when two people share a common lover but decide to be brash about the whole thing. Which means only one thing, that Osinski is left alone. 

The last segment of the performance is a solo by Osinski in which he simulates self-flagellation. It can mean many things. It can be a violent act of purging memories. A punishment for his indulgences. Or it can be just inarticulate rage over failed relationships. 

I return to the first possibility presented by Closeness with two mature bodies writhing through each other with aggressive intimacy. How, if stripped of the TV soap opera narrative, the love and relationships it wants to explore could have been liberated from the burden of dramatic meaning and something closer to their sensuous physical reality could have been achieved. Dance needn’t have become bad theatre to tell even a clichéd story of love and relationships.

Swar Thounaojam is a playwright, theatre director, and performer. She was a participant in the 2011 and 2013 editions of the Writing on Dance Laboratory.

TABLE of Contents
The Biennial Issue: Part 2

As the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017 comes to a close, participants in the Writing on Dance Laboratory show us the festival in their words and images.

Zawirowania Dance Theatre’s Closeness
Swar Thounaojam

Playwright, theatre director, and performer Swar Thounaojam finds the Polish dance company’s trio work just bold and beautiful

The Time, The Times: A Dual Perspective
Dayita Nereyeth and Ian Abbott

Dayita Nereyeth and Ian Abbott take a collaborative stab at Time Takes The Times Time Takes choreographed by Guy Nader | Maria Campos to offer a fuller perspective on the work

Vacant Chairs Weigh Heavy With The Memories Of Everyone Who Has Sat On Them
Parvathi Ramanathan

Dancer and writer Parvathi Ramanathan reads through Fabien Prioville’s La Suite

Show Us Some Moves: Small and Silly Dances
Dayita Nereyeth

Dancer and writer Dayita Nereyeth gets the festival team dancing

do you believe what you hear? do you hear what you believe?
Ian Abbott

Dance writer and producer Ian Abbott chronicles the origin and execution of an interview with ‘silence designer’ Marcel Zaes

Review: Ronita Mookerji's Who?
Dayita Nereyeth

Dancer and writer Dayita Nereyeth reflects on this Bangalore choreographer and dancer’s latest work-in-progress solo

What Do We See And Feel While Watching Dance?
Himalaya Gohel

Dance researcher and PhD student Himalaya Gohel examines two works at the Biennial to talk of the audience’s role in the reception of each of them

When Does A Dance Piece End?
Sheetala Bhat

Actor and writer Sheetala Bhat analyses the relationship between performer, audience, and time through Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-size

ShowReel : Bhinna Vinyasa
Darshan Manakkal

Bangalore’s Attakkalari Repertory Company presented Bhinna Vinyasa, choreographed by Jayachandran Palazhy, on Day 4 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Time Takes The Time Time Takes
Darshan Manakkal

Spanish choreographers MC Guy Nader and Maria Campos presented Time Takes The Time Time Takes on Day 5 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Liquido
Darshan Manakkal

Italian choreographer-dancer Luisa Cortesi and music artist Gianluca Petrella presented Liquido on Day 6 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : Closeness
Darshan Manakkal

Poland’s Zawirowania Dance Theatre presented Closeness, choreographed by Tomas Nepsinsky, on Day 6 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017

ShowReel : La Suite
Darshan Manakkal

German choreographer Fabien Prioville presented La Suite on Day 7 of the Attakkalari India Biennial 2017


To pick up and run with a magazine that has had another life is never easy. There are those conflicting desires to find close continuity and to just scrap it all and start anew. Ligament 2016-17 reemerges from a half-way point. We want to build on the investigations and insights of the magazine’s past contributors and also find ways to say what they perhaps had wanted to say but could not, or forgot to, in that moment.

Ligament was founded to facilitate the articulation of an evolving language that encompasses the impulses of contemporary dance. The idea of “contemporary” is inherently bound to time, to a sense of history, rather multiple histories unfolding. In its 2016-17 iteration, we hope that Ligament can grapple with the idea of how dance might hold a place in-step with the patterns of active and forming histories, rather than remaining a canonised and pondered response to a bygone world. We’d like to embrace the immediacy of “contemporary”, and invite contributions from dancers, choreographers, arts practitioners, scholars, audience members, readers. In this way, we hope to reach for the intimacies, resistances, and fragilities that permeate the developing field of South Asian contemporary dance.

Articulating a medium as visceral, visual, and ephemeral as dance requires making connections to methods of thought and critique that lie outside evaluative language. So for Ligament 2016-17 we welcome, of course, the critical essay, but also audio, photographs, ekphrastic poems, interviews, and hybrid media of various kinds that might speak to us about dance, carefully and proximately. Like the anatomical connective tissue for which it is named, Ligament, we hope, can help us locate dance in tandem with the many bodies that produce and encapsulate it.

To those who find themselves here for the first time, welcome. And those whom we have met before, we are glad you are back.

—Poorna Swami, Editor

Get in touch with us at ligament@attakkalari.org