He finds himself in gesture. A means of translation, of communication with others.
The first thing often noticed about the choreography of Olivier Wevers, Whim W’Him’s founder and artistic director, is how he uses hands. Very far from just an incidental appendage or extension of a line, hands in his work are expressive of emotion, and ideas.
“I emphasize tracing in space, using the air around,” he says. “It is a sense of precision, strength, heaviness that’s appealing to me. Using the air. Intention not decoration.”
Olivier combines and emends techniques and forms of modern dance, ballet and many other sources, from the Baroque to hip hop. He likes to move away from the sometimes formulaic or pre-determined tropes of ballet. Always—in rehearsal with the dancers, in conversation, an interview or a post-performance Q&A—he emphasizes intention, what is being meant by this gesture in this context at this exact moment.
“There is something very beautiful about a hand just hanging…
…or showing structure.”
At times Olivier uses hands in a very naturalistic way, as a simple, inevitable-seeming manifestation of feeling.
At other times hands seem, in his work, to draw kinesthetic heiroglyphics in space, akin to mime—like skywriting in a language he is inventing in collaboration with his audience.
“Grabbing thoughts, the brain working…”
Olivier employs hands in rendering whimsical humor…
and serious drama…
And always he is aware of what is seen, striving for something visually new, distinctive, that will etch an image on our minds.
Although they heighten immeasurably the impact of a series of movements,
the impressions hands make and the nature of their contribution to a piece are remarkably hard to put into words. One can convey many things verbally about a dance company and its contributors, but it always feels like a bit of a fool’s errand to attempt to describe the dance itself. Nowhere is that truer than with regard to Olivier’s use of hands.
What I really wish I could do here is just to show you a few dozen images of his choreographed hands in all their multitudinous configurations (especially as photographed by Kim & Adam Bamberg and Molly Magee) and let you respond to them directly. Maybe we should put together a book of hands—and feet…
Next up: Olivier & the uses of feet