Elsewhere on this site, choreographer, performer and academic Thania Acarón has outlined the genesis of her When In Roam project. Having been born and brought up in Puerto Rico, she has arrived in Wales via New York, Argentina and Scotland and has thus spent much time contemplating the concept of identity as it pertains to home and belonging, especially in an era where migration dominates public and political debate worldwide.
The 50-minute piece asks “What does home mean to you?”. Conceived in collaboration with Madrid-based Argentinian dancer and aerialist Juan Leiba, and Cardiff’s June Campbell-Davies, it arrived at No Fit State for a free, one-off performance, following a number of presentations in various international locations.
The show begins with the three performers miming the sloughing off of skin, reflecting the abandonment of old identities with relocation (I only got this from the post-show discussion, where another audience-member suggested that it resembled the biblical concept of shaking the dust from one’s feet on leaving one place for another).
They then start to manipulate one another’s bodies, bringing to life a light-hearted argument about the best way to pack one’s clothing prior to travel – flat, folded or rolled (when it was put to the vote, the audience overwhelmingly opted for the third option).
Ross Whyte’s clever electronic score then kicks in, simulating various modes of transport as the dancers drag one another around like luggage, gaze at electronic timetable displays, negotiate baggage carousels etc. As the piece moves into more contemplative territory, the choreography and movement, whether solo or synchronised, remain impressive, and as fluid as the subject-matter.
There is verbal testimony, too :- Acarón reflects on her two “selves”, in her old and new homelands; Campbell-Davies ponders her identity as the child of Grenadian immigrants, born in London, but having created a bilingual Welsh household; Whyte (on video) muses about his long-distance Skype relationship with his infant niece; Leiba talks about how his parents’ divorce when he was young shattered his concept of a comfortable home.
It is this story which provides the most poignant visual moment in the piece, as the helpless Leiba, suspended on ropes, is swung back and forth between his two bickering parents. Elsewhere, his aerialism is used humorously, when he plays a mischievous sprite, welcoming the fitfully sleeping Acarón to yet another new home.
Other visual motifs include the packed black rucksack, suspended in mid-air, representing the inevitability of moving on; and the small model house which descends from the ceiling – the performers sometimes carry it as a burden, or visibly struggle to escape its magnetic pull, or simply set it aside, out of sight.
When In Roam is inevitably episodic, and there are choreographic elements whose significance eludes me, as a non-dance-expert. As an exploration of an emotive subject, however, it is both playful and heartfelt, as well as being constantly diverting.