Created by acclaimed director and choreographer Guilherme Botelho and performed by his award-winning company Alias, Sideways Rain is an unbroken hour of mesmerising, cinematic sound and movement that sees sixteen dancers repeatedly cross the stage in countless different ways.
Skilful, powerful and athletic, the cast perform complex and impossible-seeming manoeuvres, crawling, sliding, somersaulting and tumbling their way round in endless circles. Though the stage is bare and the dancers are few in number, the show itself seems to span vast expanses of time and space, from the evolution of man to the hectic, relentless bustle of modern-day cities, all the while accompanied by a soundtrack which is by turns uplifting, nightmarish and hypnotic.
The dancers begin on all fours, scrabbling like insects or plodding and prowling slowly like large mammals. Gradually, they begin to rise and walk, and yet for most of the show, little changes: still they move aimlessly and repeatedly across the stage, always heading towards the inevitable as various “characters” appear and disappear, endlessly completing the little circuits of their lives.
Days, weeks and even years seem to pass before anyone pauses to consider their condition, and this happens just twice in the whole show. First, a couple stop and stare at each other as crowds rush past them, their eyes wistful and confused as they seem to trawl each others’ depths for meaning. When one then drops to the floor and rolls away, the remaining dancer is left alone, wandering the stage and curiously observing those around her, before she, too is finally pulled back into the indiscriminate tide. The second time, another dancer stops suddenly, as if shocked or startled, and proceeds to try to wake those around him out of their collective trance. Naturally he fails: those around him appear to share a sort of hive consciousness, whereby if one moves to avoid him, everyone on stage makes the same movement. Eventually, a push from behind shunts him back into the crowd.
These short interludes make us feel as though there should be some sort of climax – as though the all the incessant, dizzying and almost involuntary movement must stop somewhere. But a satisfying resolution is something we are never granted. In the end, the dancers return, disrobed and laid bare, to their creeping and crawling prehistoric state, suggesting, perhaps, that we have never really moved on at all.
Is it an incitement to stop and think about the world around us, to consider our place within it and to find our own meanings; or is it simply an expression of an absence of meaning and the futility of humanity’s drive towards change and progression? Guilherme Botelho doesn’t give us any easy answers….
Images by Jean-Yves Genoud.