Is maybe

Rotating stages and uncomfortable (looking) positions make for a giddy experience in the new production by Jared Gradinger and Angela Schubot at HAU 1.

Image for Is maybe
Photo by Florian Braun

An exploration of what happens when two dancers stop “I-ing” and begin to truly meld, is maybe feels at times like a lesson in club-hopping, at moments like clothed sex and at others a bit like “The Human Centipede”.

The piece begins with Angela Schubot and Jared Gradinger (who also choreographed the show) facing each other, gyrating to a slow and steady hymn that hovers somewhere between techno and monastic chants. The audience sits around the pair on the HAU 1 stage, and as the stage begins to rotate, the pair takes on new, connected shapes – covering each other’s faces with their hands, lifting each other up, and forming tango shapes that transform into something roughly coital.

At its best, is maybe makes public the uncomfortable and unexpected proximity between sex, violence and a good cuddle. In one moment Schubot’s hand reaches deep into Gradinger’s throat. What begins as a motherly feeding gesture turns to gagging and then melts into enslavement as Schubot drags Gradinger by his mouth around the stage. The pair achieve a range of jarring shapes – including one where their heads meet and their bodies form a unified arch – that really do blur lines between individual and pair.

But the sometimes ponderously-paced piece suffers in moments from its utter lack of humor. Shortly after the mouth-hand routine, the duo begins to gag and mimic vomiting. It’s a jarring moment, and kind of a grossly funny one, but it’s carried out with something resembling all-out terror in the pair.

At times the show, which explores so many unusual facets of two bodies working together, seems to forget that the results can be awkward and amusing just as readily as ominous and foreboding.

Despite is maybe’s relentless solemnity, though, there’s a cathartic quality to it. As your neighbors in the audience cross their legs, blush, breathe heavily, it’s hard not to feel a strange giddiness at sitting together, watching the enticing, sometimes eerie, often awkward things these bodies can do.