Byron Perry’s newest dance work, Double Think, plays on the idea of opposites, and the notion that they’re not always as opposite as they might appear. “I’m really interested in this idea of the illusion of opposition,” Perry says, telling me of the inspiration for the piece. “I’ve been reading about it, and essentially, the things that we refer to as opposites are usually a lot more similar than they are dissimilar. They fall at either end of a spectrum. In the show, I’m trying to investigate that the themes and concerns that fall around this idea, exploring them through the medium of dance.
The show features two dancers, one male and the other female, as a comment on the things we consider to be opposites. “It’s a man and a woman on stage, because that’s one of the most fundamental oppositions we know,” Perry says. “One’s tall, and the other’s short, because once again, we think of those things in opposition to each other.” Perry has tried to apply that concept of opposition to every aspect of the piece – at times, in between the choreographed moves, the dancers even oppose each other in improvised contests
This improvised component is key to the show, and each night, the performers are given a different prompt, around which to work. The improvised component is not limited to movements –Perry also has his performers play games with language. “I’ve asked them to try and outwit each other with absurd word games,” he says. “That’s an interesting part of the show, because the audience will understand that a game is being played out, and the stakes are high, even if they don’t understand what the game is.”
The performers in Double Think manipulate the sets and lighting on the fly, an idea Perry has played with in his last few works. “I like the idea that what you’re observing on stage is a closed system,” he says. “The show is low-tech, in that you see the performers on stage manipulating their own light sources, operating their own sets, and playing their own sounds.” Seeing these things, Perry insists, does not undo the magic of theatre – it heightens that magic. “It gives a glimpse into how the illusions happen,” he says, “and yet they stay illusions.”
Perry views his dancers as just one part of a much larger process. “I don’t feel the need to make my works all about people,” he explains. “I like objects and puppetry, I like exposing the function of the theatrical construct on stage. For me, dance and expression of dance, and what I draw from it, comes from objects moving on stage, just as much as from people. There’s inherent emotion, there are psychological triggers that can come from rhythm and timing and shape on stage. It doesn’t necessarily have to be people for me. This piece is more about that, in a way.”
Double Think is presented as part of a double bill with another of Perry’s pieces, Gogglebox. The two are very different in tone and content, but that’s exactly what he intended. “Double Think is such an abstract work that I wanted something short, sharp and entertaining to go alongside it,” he says. “I was reading that this year is the official end of analogue TV, which got me thinking. I made a short piece years ago that was a very cartoonish look at our relationship with TV.”
“The evening opens with Gogglebox, which is short, sharp, punchy and stupid,” he continues. “It’s a fun and surreal opening, and then there’s a quick break for a minute or two where we rearrange the set, and then it’s on to Double Think. It’s a great, comedic introduction to the more serious work that follows.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN