Review by Lucy-Ellen Bateman
To experience Sivan Rubinstein’s Dance No 2° whilst the COP26 summit was taking place in Glasgow felt poignant and Rubinstein’s reference to the 2° tipping point for global warming drew our attention to this. In anticipation I asked myself, what really is the artist’s role in these times, is it to shine a light on these issues? To make us more aware? I think there’s something deeper than this, and in watching Rubinstein’s piece, I became sure that there is.
Beginning with a single dancer, who’s presence grows slowly and delicately on stage, your attention is drawn to the branch that balances in an effortless fashion on her head. Initially, her body is what keeps the branch from falling, it’s relying on her for support, however it’s role changes. Not too much later the branch feels almost like a spear, then a lasso being swooshed in the air to create a mystical experience in which the audience become entranced by the noise that its movement creates. Already I’m thinking about balance, a sort of balance that exists in our connection to nature, it must be a reciprocated relationship, we need to give back to the planet in the same way it gives to us, just like the branch requires our support, but can equally be of use to us. Talking about our interactions with nature in this way already presupposes a human element to this relationship, this being something that sticks with me throughout. In what ways can we humanise our relationship to the planet? And can this help us to listen and learn better?
We then continue, going on a journey, through desert, sea, and ending in a protest. The other dancers emerging, crawling on their stomachs from the edges of the set. All this whilst we’re transported through both the changes in lighting, minimalist but effective, and the striking soundscape which accompanies the piece, conjuring the distinctness of atmosphere at each changing scene. The role of the dancers fluctuated, in the more turbulent scenes for example towards the end, there was a separation between them and their surroundings, a human aspect perhaps. At other times, they felt like an extension of the nature, creating the image of the sea, or the rolling sand in the desert, rather than inhabiting these images with an anthropocentric distance. A particularly poignant moment arose in between the scene changes in which the dancers stared intently at the audience. Initiating a deeper connection to the piece, rather than just being spectators, we were drawn in closer, playing a role ourselves. In those moments, it was impossible to look away, to release from this contact with the dancers.
The piece evoked in me a deep awareness of our relationship to nature, and to each other, in contrast with the crises and tipping points dealt with, I was left with a feeling of hope. Perhaps most significantly from a moment in which the branch, which has been almost like a fifth dancer, becomes lifted up tall, supported by the four dancers together, it morphs into a tree like figure, as if life was coming back into it. This acutely captured the hope, which Rubinstein rightly notes, is so inherent to activism. I left with a reminder that we’re not just spectators to the natural world around us, we shouldn’t enforce a distance here, we work, live, and breathe together with our planet.
Rubinstein reminded me that the role of the artist isn’t just about directing our attention to the issues in the world around us, they allow us to explore the nuances of these relationships, the complexities at the level with which we interact with the world can be broken down and explored through art. In relevance to the planet, it’s not just about abstract statistics, politicians, and people far away on the other side of the world…this is personal.
Lucy-Ellen Bateman is currently working towards a Masters degree in philosophy, having previously studied Philosophy and Mathematics. She comes from a family of artists and has inherited their love of art. She is also an avid musician, producing and performing anything from Rock to Spanish guitar.