There is a certain immutable emotion that resides in rhythmic silences. That which we cannot articulate, understand, imitate in words or conversational gestures dwells in the physical pulsations of our movements with our own bodies and those around us. Our relationships, our communicability is innately (though often subversively) dependent on these physical communications, these bodily extensions of our most internalized dialogues and thoughts, then become our predominant method of interaction. This, in addition to the show’s premise of “unbolting your chair and freeing your mind,” is what transforms the show from a beautifully orchestrated dance performance to a riveting, emotional excavation executed through interpretative choreography.
Staged in three acts—or in three periods, as Attack co-founder Peter Kope emphatically and giddily implored the audience conceive of the show’s structure—Unbolted is a, on a prima facie level, a fragmented narrative compartmentalized into the three linearly fluid, thematically aligned movements. Structurally, the purposeful interspersing of two intermissions is enormously beneficial to the show’s overall impact and consumption–and, indeed, Unbolted and the individual and collected performances exist to be consumed, indicated by the sumptuously open, inventively in-the-round seating arrangement. Each period is a microcosmic entity, in which the extraordinarily complex and painstakingly precise choreography escalates from evocative and expressive to rapturously frenetic. Stakes increase subtly yet feverishly—a counterintuitive simultaneity that is only achievable by the flawless precision and creativity of the choreography. Each intermission, then, functions as a caesura, a moment in which the audience is allowed to breathe and digest what they have just consumed.
And each moment to digest is crucial. While the first period is a mesmerizing slow burn, allowing the audience to acclimate to the ceaseless rhythmic narrative that is presented to them and adjust to the multifaceted complexities of viewing a dance performance in the round (or, rather, in the rectangle), it ends drastically, with Dane Tooney’s beautifully craven interpretative routine that employs an ever-extending ribbon that he zigzags achingly across the stage, calling upon some audience members to participate by holding. This first finale is riveting, Tooney’s fluidity impeccable, and the denouement begs the audience to consider what is unspoken, and what we achieve or strive to achieve through physicality that cannot simply be evoked with words.
Unbolted truly catapults into the emotionally overwhelming realm in the second period. Staged in a deceptively austere, tempered opening choreography in which the performers are seated, facing alternating directions, in a straight line. At first the movements are subtle—hands, arms, gazes interweave and interlock as if to convey or physicalize the pulsations of a heart, or the twitches of a gorgeous vertebra. This enthrallingly simple beginning swells with immutable and unspeakable emotional aching—again, with brilliant deception, as the period kicks off with jaunty, high-spirited musical accompaniment at first—and each dancer truly comes into their own in a staging of an exclusionary game that escalates to a mortal renunciation and the panicked turmoil of loss. Sarah Zielinski and Kaitlin Dann are at their most devastating and haunting—their individual moves and facial expressiveness stir something truly inchoate and heartbreaking that, coupled with the use of Adagio for Strings, reduced me (in the best way) to tears.
The third period of Unbolted culminates with the construction of the notoriously monstrous chair, and the reliance on props (specifically the maps that divided and unified the various performers throughout the show) is expert, allowing the dancers to highlight both their technical and performative acumen. What is more, there is a resounding sense of completion and journey that is brought to a head in the final piece—as an audience member, perpetually acclimating to the multidimensionality of the show and the hyper-emotionality throughout, the final period feels triumphant. The complicated fractiousness witnessed throughout—particularly between expert performers Anthony Williams and Ashley Williams in their show-long, complex relationship—seems, if not resolved, then even more meaningful in the show’s conclusion. Unbolted’s unexpected strength, too, lies in the performers’ astonishing abilities and communication of visceral feelings and their ability to outshine the concept of the show (and the 10 foot chair). The dancers of the company are phenomenal, and the future potential of Attack is unquestionable given the astronomical success of Unbolted.
Special thanks to Attack Theatre for complimentary press tickets. Unbolted has unfortunately already closed but you can find out more about Attack Theatre and what they’re up to by clicking here.