It wasn’t easy growing up gay in a small town in Hertfordshire. Naturally school was the worst where showing the remotest sign of being different was a cause for torment. I remember distinctly when during one chemistry lesson a classmate denounced my bag that sported a Union Jack saying “You shouldn’t be wearing that. Hitler had the right idea with the gas chambers; killing all the gays”. Surrounded by such hatred it is any wonder I made it through my early schooling. Where hateful words fell upon me I resolved to remove myself further inwards, my voice lost against the opposition. I found comfort in showing my difference through clothes, dying my hair, piercing my ears and making sure I kept my distance. I found my way to survive.
Watching Igor and Moreno’s A Room for All Our Tomorrows all these memories came painfully flooding back to me. It wasn’t written into their dancing scores, or suggested in their actions it was just, as Megan Vaughan has already commented, a feeling emulating from gestures and interpretations. Here were two gay men, a couple as it happens, dressed in their tailored suits, dancing, swirling, in cannon, in time, in what felt like a pushing back of the boundaries of repression.
Contemporary dance is a funny thing. Much like my recent reading on contemporary art is it often conceptual in nature. It calls to you through images and movements that can be read a thousand different ways. I don’t know what Igor and Moreno were making with A Room for All Our Tomorrows but I do know what it meant to me.
Sitting on a coach for a school trip and being tormented by the other boys, flinging magazines of topless men at me “you’ll enjoy this Jake”. Shouting in the street to my mum that I’m gay. Coming out everyday when I introduce my boyfriend into a conversation. Coming out forever just because it is different to everything else around me. Being defined by my sexuality and the actions I take within that. Knowing that I can never have a conventional family structure and knowing that perhaps somewhere deep down I’ve let down my family. All of this is what Igor and Moreno have created for me.
They burst onto the stage in a swirl of pink, squawking with hoarse voices that clamour in the space making me want to cover my ears and shout “stop, just shut up”. It doesn’t matter that their dancing is slightly out of sync and they follow each other through this space in tender, abstract ways. It matters that they won’t shut up screeching. They explore the space with their bodies towards a table with two chairs and a coffee machine that smells so good even though I don’t drink coffee. They explore their voices in this space, in their bodies against each other. They counteract, they respond, using sound impulse to create a cacophony of sound that makes me want to throw up. Then it stops, but the sound is now internal, it flickers and rises slowly, in harmony. It is wonderfully pure like the first drops of water out of a bottle, it slides across us and we appreciate it greatly.
Later Igor and Moreno sing, they have the sort of voices that work in perfect harmony that you can’t help but to be drawn into their mournful song. The depth and range of emotions that this singular piece provokes within me is astounding. I’m reminded of the times I used to stay after school in the music rooms listening to a friend several years above me, also gay, play the piano and sing. In this shared space I felt safe, secure. Even in the boundaries of the school which caused me so much pain I had found sanctuary within it. We’d chat for what felt like hours and even though I wasn’t singing we harmonised in our shared understanding of what it took to be gay in this frustrating town of intolerance.
When you’re a minority you have to find your ways for having your voice heard. You have to build a coat of armour to stand up against all the singular hatred that will come crashing your way, no matter how small – a look of disgust at holding a partner’s hands – or big – being held by my throat in a night club because I was being too effeminate in this straight world.
All of this is what I saw within A Room for All Our Tomorrows. Rising through repression, finding your voice and those that share it. Finding sadness, hope and longing all at once. A dance piece by two artists I greatly admire stirred so much sadness within me, but then comes the ending. Seth Rook Williams’ blazing lighting design, which is just gorgeous throughout, sculpts the space into windows with glowing warmth. Igor and Moreno take their positions, sat with their backs to us, staring off into the distance after a sort of kiss/embrace/conjoining by their mouths and there’s so much hope. Like an Edward Hopper painting, the space is held with an soothing electric tension that makes me think that no matter what people say or who any of us really are, we are survive. We find the right people to build our community and we stand by them as we go blazing into the world. Strong, firm.