Last week, a friend and dramaturg, Amrita Ramanan, recommended that I attend a production at Arts Emerson by the Belgian dance company, Charleroi Danses. The piece is called Kiss & Cry. Kiss & Cry is hard to categorize—it is not just theatre, not just film, and not just dance, but an intricate combination of the three not to mention, acted out almost entirely by hands (and one foot). Saturday night came around; I hopped on the T to the Cutler Majestic Theatre, bought my ticket, and settled into my balcony seat. The stage below was a confusing sight to behold. It was full of equipment—tables, miniature film sets, a train track, computers and various electronics, and cameras. Not to mention the giant screen that hung above. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by stimulus on stage, and still not quite sure what I was about to see, I sat back and took the advice that David Dower wrote into his “note to Kiss & Cry audiences” which was “Step one: Relax.”
The show began.
After the performers stood on stage, creating a soundscape with various objects and instruments, they took their places. My eyes were directed towards the screen. On it played what was being filmed live, below onstage, in one of the miniature film sets. The camera captured the actors, or in this case their hands, telling a story through dance. Each movement was precise, every twitch of a finger, or turn of a wrist meticulously planned. And suddenly, I was no longer watching hands—they became people.
Almost immediately, I felt tears welling up in my eyes…here we go.
A beautiful musical score accompanied the narration. The story was about a woman’s journey through life, and the five people she’d fallen in love with. In a larger way, the story asked, what happens to the people who disappear from our lives? What do we do with our memories of them?
While still fixed on the screen, I occasionally glanced down at the stage to watch the bodies making the film. It was no less beautiful. Although the camera only captured the actors’ hands, they were engaged with their entire bodies, locked into a beautifull dance.
The small set pieces, lighting, and sound design were equally as stunning, not to mention the cinematography.
In the final moment of the story, as the woman’s hand walked through the literal sands of her mind, another hand emerged from beneath a dune. Grabbing onto it, an entire man emerged from the sand, and the cameras for the first time, showed the full bodies of the actors. Seamlessly, the cameras stopped rolling, and all eyes were drawn back to the action on the stage. The story ended with the two full bodies of a man and woman, embracing.
The lights went out and came back up.
After a moment of awe (and more tears), nearly everyone in the theatre rose to their feet for a round of applause that went on longer than I’ve ever experienced.
I walked out of the theatre speechless.
I couldn’t look at my hands the same way again.
Every little, daily thing, suddenly had new meaning.
Eventually, the magic of the performance faded and hands became just hands again, but Kiss & Cry stayed fresh in my mind. Besides simply being beautiful, this fusion of theatre, dance, and film was enlightening for me as an artist. There are so many more ways to tell a story than I realize, or at least than I’ve ever had experience with. If the possibilities weren’t endless already, they’ve just become that much greater.