Photo: Etienne Perra

Currency Festival review

Presented by The Place and Crying Out Loud, Currency is an annual festival that blurs the boundaries between dance, performance art and contemporary circus. It showcases work on the edge of what you would normally see, connects artists from across Europe and encourages conversations. The 2014 festival took place between 5-15 November.

This article, entitled Levity and Your Other Part is a personal reflection on the festival written by Darinka Pilári, a Hungarian journalist and graduate of the Unpack the Arts scheme for journalists.

Levity and Your Other Part

We enter a theatre space and hungrily search for amazement and surprise. Of course there is expectation and desire, well mixed before arriving in the auditorium. But often, contemporary art only satisfies the thirsty soul’s attention if it serves the creation of a new perspective; a new way of looking. So, that’s it, no turning back if we have chosen to experience the Currency festival presented by Crying Out Loud and The Place. We have to be aware that the eight pieces, four blind dates, surely the Hunt & Darton Café and even the Currency Conversations will require interrogation. Maybe there will be no amusement but obscurity, from which the balance between performer and viewer might be restored.

Blind dating? Ironically yes. But here two blind dates are layered on top of each other: a circus artist meets a choreographer, the artists meet the audience. No one knows what will be the outcome of these pairings. Alice Allart, Patricia Okenwa, Laila Diallo, Matilda Leyser, Ben Duke, Vicki Amedume, Mamoru Iriguchi, Tim Lenkiewicz: names of artists, who were willing to give up their traditional roles and are here to be seen in an everyday situation, like one in which you share memories of first meetings. How strange, when we catch ourselves thinking after a ‘blind date’: I didn’t like that, I liked that. Often this polarised way of judging excludes the possibility to experience new things.

A rare ambiance when Clément Dazin is on stage. I recall the whole history of famous performers who not only had a strong theatrical presence but instinctively knew how to operate the sensitive relationship with an audience. This fragile collaboration in the present moment became steady and infinite in Bruit de Couloir. As darkness and light alter to a cumulative rhythm, I was drawn inside the human body, and travelled beyond the visual: images, expressions with juggling, a smile, little movements recognised only by the unconscious. I was connected with the performer. Empathy came into play, and through Dazin’s body I sense the weight of losing a life. No spoken language is needed for me to understand, or to access what he is communicating. It’s only through interrogating the experience that I strive to find meaning with language. However, don’t trust your thoughts more than you would your eyes.

As for the dessert of the night, Dig My Jockey – live version by Anna Maria Häkkinen & Jarkko Partanen – kept something very fleshy. Four performers (Samuli Laine and Jussi Matikainen alongside the creators) first stayed behind the scenes to leave the audience with noises and sounds of a sexual act (or very similar). After the lights go on, the mood for a simply dressed ride out is established. The various erotic movements are spiced with equestrian fetish symbols like whips and bit gags. It exists, obviously, and so? Although the performance, which they call ‘source based contemporary dance’, might push its message into the viewer’s face about personal sexual extremes, there is a subtext layer as well. Their precise and collected acting can easily carry the imagination along. The ability of assimilation holds the underlying message that the aptitude is in every human nature. And yet, I missed their personal reflection on the topic.

Associative acts, open-ended images come one after another, and I am able to construct a narrative, my own narrative, as if I was reading a book and providing self-constructed images as illustrations. This is how generous I found Cridacompany’s Mañana es Mañana. Exceptionally within the festival, it was based upon some traditional elements of entertainment. But the smiles and laughs were only indicative, discreet, and clever. Because of this it made me reconsider my instant reactions: what is my part in this narrative?

What does music mean for the moving body? We are not aware of our movements, we bring along this physical knowledge without being able to describe it. So when I see Sònia Sánchez in El Pliegue I sense the intensity of her re-invented flamenco. Even the weight of her is manifested through her steps. But it’s only after I analysed her actions, thought about them, that I can speak about it. Neither contemporary dance nor circus are easy to access with a language that’s main intention is to archive the present moment. It seems that ‘contemporary’ offers another way of speaking, one which takes its richness and freedom from authenticity; sometimes revealing a lost voice through language of movement.


The buoyant sensation of the self, which is supported if not created by various movements, is deeply rooted in the body-image we have of ourselves. Looking at the programme for Currency one can ‘wear’ various bodies capable of practicing flamenco, juggling, headstands on hard and soft surfaces, bending, falling, jumping etc. What does it all look like in the mirror? It might look almost invisible as in the case of Julia Christ (Se perdre fait partie du jeu) or too visible as in Agata Maszkiewicz’s Polska. Both telling personal stories embedded in a specific cultural and social context. But sometimes the time given during a performance was not enough to learn about these bodies speaking through movement, objects and images.

I listened to David Glowacki, a chemical physicist, a few weeks ago speaking about how chemists and biochemists often utilise dance and choreographic analogies when describing dynamic phenomena. Something like “the molecular dance floor” is not an unusual expression at all. Words such as dance or circus are expanding or shrinking depending on the motivation behind. The terms may also blur when the focus is on the compounds of an art form rather than the art form itself. I believe in many cases this is what is allowed within contemporary work. To be able to move on the threshold. But understanding the aim of a piece is very taxing, and I have to be honest and say that it feels like a deep sigh when I’m allowed to rely only on perception beyond my five senses. On the part of me that is able to read and interpret without words.

Darinka Pilári

Currency Festival is presented by The Place and Crying Out Loud in partnership with the European Commission Representation in the UK and supported by EUNIC London with the help of the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, the Goethe-Institut London, the Finnish Embassy, the Embassy of Spain, the Instituto Cervantes in London, the Balassi Institute Hungarian-Cultural Centre London, the Polish Cultural Institute in London, Institut Ramon Llull – Catalan Language and Culture, the Czech Centre London, Aerowaves and Modul-dance.