Kicking over the couch

Private piece, no connection to BBC News

Written after watching La Contínua by the Mariantònia Oliver Company at the Teatre Principal in Palma de Mallorca on 20 November 2021

The Teatre Principal

Perhaps the way to think about good dance is that it touches your buttons. Great dance actually plays them, leaving you full of music.

In La Contínua (The Continuous), a piece now garlanded with delightful jokes, now wreathed in pathos, dance gives way to song – a switch that could easily jar with audiences in the hands of a lesser director than Mariantònia Oliver.

This three-hander works on at least two levels.

To fresh eyes, seeing it and the dancers for the first time, it draws a continuous line of life along which you are free to see advances and reverses, to go with emotions and go through the motions, to grow older and feel younger, to be close and to find perspective, to struggle and to celebrate, to crouch and to run. Anyone can engage with the action on the stage, played out between a giant screen and a couch.

Statue beside the Teatre Principal

But those aware of the piece’s history will know it was originally a solo work created and performed by Oliver in 2002. She has now transformed it into a work for herself and two others, Catalina Carrasco and Jaume Manresa. With this in mind, you could see it as three states of the same person or one person interacting with others or two persons taking the same path differently or even the reverie of someone at a loss, who has turned their back on the audience literally, and life figuratively, slumped on their couch, dwarved by a(nother) screen.

Whatever the intention, the piece has a pleasing, thrilling complexity, a struggle abstracted in dance and, it should also be said, Manresa’s driving music.

My “ticket stub”

That’s the same Manresa who came forward to meet the ecstatic audience on Saturday evening after the performance, up on the theatre’s more intimate fifth-floor stage. Grinning, he hoisted one of the little girls – the theatre was full of happy, perfectly behaved children and parents – on to his shoulder.

Heading for the exit, it felt like crossing an invisible continuous line of joy in performing arts, arts which felt at risk of disappearing during the time spent on the communal couch of the pandemic.

You can listen (in Catalan) to the company itself talking about La Contínua.

Just a final note: I discovered this production by checking What’s On guides while holidaying on Mallorca. What prompted me to buy the ticket, however, was enjoying a previous piece, nOu, on YouTube.