Dance is capable of conveying great subtlety, or apparently the strident, vigorous and sometimes hilarious political call to arms that is The Wedding. We start in a sort of dystopian antechamber, complete with a wardrobe full of wedding dresses. Potential new brides (of both sexes) arrive down a chute with their teddy bears. Then a noisy wedding party appear and absorb the bride into her new role in society, contractually married to the state, ready to work 9-5, drink and party hard, and then go to work again in their little grey cubicles.
Into this predictable routine some vivid life is injected in the form of a motley crew of refugees. They break the fourth wall, they interact with each other in a genuine and loving way, they try to get us to pay money to see them dance, or play cards. But while they're busy trying to break into society and adopt its ways, the honeymoon period is wearing off and some of the brides are becoming seriously disillusioned. Meanwhile faceless bureaucrats stuff themselves at a high gilded table that no-one else can reach.
So far, so frankly a bit weird. There's a very dreamlike quality to a lot of the performance, where scenes shift from one to another, you get impressions rather than clarity, and there are some strongly emotional scenes too. In one beautiful sequence we see a couple of workers talk, row, snuggle down, have work meetings, and sit together watching telly, in a constantly moving cycle. In the semi-dark, the objects, all white painted, float around them, propelled by the other dancers, so it becomes a snowstorm ballet for pillow, phone, necktie, TV remote and beer bottle. But the mood changes: we see one worker pushed so hard he takes his own life, another beat a vulnerable man with a baseball bat. Clearly something needs to break this society out of its destructive groove.
Gecko's 9 dancers hail from all over the world, and make impassioned speeches in different languages, all rendered perfectly understandable through context. It's no surprise that immigration and the mingling of different cultures should predominate as a theme, nor that immigration be so positively seen, bringing much-needed colour and humour to a grey world. But though this piece shows us much about what is currently wrong, it's not so clear as to how to fix things. Gecko seem to be advocating all-out revolution, a sort of European Spring.
If one doesn't want to be quite so radical, but is still fired up for change, Gecko have teamed up with Transition Network, to give a free three-hour workshop in each tour location. Judging by the riotous applause, and the number of people staying seated at the end of the performance, engaged in earnest and lively discussion, Oxford's workshop should be well attended. Earlier I was reading a quote from Lao Tzu, from 2500 years ago:
"Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield."
As one by one the dancers turn against their lives, the wave of change becomes a tsunami, the pressure of conformity evolves into a choice to dance and sing in harmony. Lao Tzu and Gecko would agree, there is strength in community, as well as in thinking for ourselves.