Dance International Glasgow: Crowd @ Tramway

Gisèle Vienne's dance piece is meticulously crafted, but the concept is tired

Review by Eliza Gearty | 21 Oct 2019
  • Crowd @ Tramway, Glasgow

Being in the audience for Crowd, Franco-Austrian choreographer and artist Gisèle Vienne's piece that premiered in Scotland as part of this year's DiG festival, gave this reviewer a certain amount of déjà vu. It's not unlike another dance show that was performed at Tramway recently – Gary Clarke's Wasteland, which put a spotlight on the rave scene of the 1990s. Both shows feature derelict, industrial-like landscapes; a pulsating, techno soundtrack; heavy drug use (in the case of Crowd, it's very much implied); and a cast of young characters, clad in rave-gear that wouldn't look out of place at any festival today, committed to the sole purpose of getting as fucked-up as they possibly can.

But while Wasteland clearly rooted all of this hedonism in the socio-political context of the time – Thatcher's Britain, ravaged by unemployment, providing very little hope or direction for its younger generation – Crowd doesn't offer any similar specifics. It could be anywhere; any club, any festival field, any house party. It could be set today or twenty years ago. The partying is rootless and nihilistic. The crowd arrive, dance, get increasingly wasted, and then leave.

This lends the production a strange sort of hollowness. Perhaps that was Vienne's intention; there is something hypnotic and intruiging about watching these bodies weave in and out of engagements with one another, free from narrative or any form of solid characterisation, mirroring the careless abandon of a messy, anonymous night out. The choreography, too, achieves its desired effect. The use of slow motion and abrupt, compulsive movement perfectly captures the sensations induced by intoxication, familiar to anyone who's experienced dancing until the sun comes up. The dancers are fantastic – energetic, charismatic and compelling. 

Despite these positive elements, the concept itself seems a little tired. There isn't much that is new or interesting about a show that depicts teenagers getting increasingly drunk and high, even if its focus is admittedly on creating careful snapshots of physicality, rather than communicating an overarching theme.

While it purposefully lacks any sort of message, the reckless nihilism that Vienne seeks to communicate in Crowd is apparent. The closest the production gets to a climactic moment is a midlly shocking, sexually invasive scene about halfway through; after this, the dancers continue to party, unaware or simply untroubled.

In 2019, this seems a little out of touch. The topics of drug-taking, promiscious sexual encounters and amoral behaviour among young people have been so heftily mined by artists that by now they're no longer provocative – they're even, when drawn out across a 90-minute duration, slightly boring. In today's world, where entire social movements are being led by teenagers, Crowd would have been a more interesting show if Vienne had given a little more depth and humanity to her nameless ravers. 

Dance International Glasgow continues at Tramway and venues across Glasgow, until 26 Oct