Within this Dust consists of five performances and opens with ‘Embers’. Muted light centres upon pieces of white paper piled high in the middle of the stage. The audience may be unaware at this point that Marta Masiero is hidden behind this mound of scraps. Until, that is, she begins to sway slowly. We hear crunching and swishing noises as she moves, loud in the silence of the small theatre. Only two hands are visible, cradling the crumpled bits of paper. Marta begins to let go of the scraps, slowly, unwillingly; she says goodbye to each one as she would to a lover, rubbing and caressing each with her face and hands, not wanting to let go as they fall from her grasp. Her performance is measured and heightens the audience’s anticipation. The piece comes into its own when Marta buries herself deep into the pile before her and begins to turn and writhe in the scraps, whilst clouds of dust puff into the air and rise like apparitions in time with her movements. Reviewers have called “Embers” heart-breaking; I was sceptical beforehand but I did feel an unexpected surge of emotion that beauty could be found in such a tragic event.
Choreographed and devised by Thomas Small, Within this Dust is inspired by the ‘Falling Man’ photograph captured by Richard Drew, and explores the events surrounding 9/11. Drawing on such a powerful image for its inspiration, this performance interrogates how we view and represent tragic and traumatic events such as the collapse of the Twin Towers. ‘Embers’ reflects on the notion that there might be beauty in mortality , offering death’s bitter pill in a way that one does not focus upon the act of the terrorists but rather on the victims; there is much sorrow in Masiero’s movement, she repeatedly holds out her hand is if to grasp something that is not there.
‘S/HE’ sees Masiero joined by another dancer, Tom Pritchard, in a performance which sees the two mirror each other’s movements, playfully at first and then mournfully, as they come together and pull apart. They writhe, twist, and turn next to one another and then on top of each other, with a series of graceful and impressive lifts; they then move into more contortionist poses as they struggle to stay together, pulling and pushing against one another. Pritchard is much taller than his partner ; Masiero is small and nimble in contrast to Pritchard’s noticeably strong presence but their purposefully awkward movements build to elegant and emotional turns and embraces that rouse and stir the audience.
The show ends with ‘Falling Man’, a fitting conclusion to a series of performances exploring trauma and representation. Pritchard returns for this final solo piece with his back to the crowd and begins to flail his arms wildly across the stage, re-enacting the uncontrollable movements of those that fell or jumped from the towers. As he dances, flitting between beautiful and agonising poses, he quotes from Tom Junod’s article on ‘Falling Man’ photograph by Richard Drew, written for Esquire in 2003. The words are poignant; he shouts and screams the lines, continuously moving, losing his breath at times so that the dialogue is often unfinished or unheard. Language seems to be an unsatisfactory tool for what this piece is trying to evoke.
Within this Dust is a journey through some pretty tough and awkward terrain, but one worth taking. Thomas Small’s work explores the nature of representation and reflects on that which we choose to disavow in our experience. Masiero and Pritchard’s performances are both raw and beautiful but unapologetically so and both do justice to Small’s vision. Within this Dust works to keep alive the memory of those often forgotten hundreds who fell or jumped to their death on 9/11.