TQW Magazin
Lisa Moravec on Ecto-Fictions by Ian Kaler / PARASOL

Dancing bodies, once more with animality


Dancing bodies, once more with animality

We are sitting in the black box of Hall G. A female voice from offstage fills the room.

“A horse is a flight animal.
Even a stallion, if he can,
will choose flight over confrontation.
Picture the most sensitive person you’ve ever known;
a horse is ten times more sensitive.”

We see two black screens.
Details of horses’ bodies are projected onto each.

The camera captures their furry heads, including their necks, turning from left to right. Ears rotate in all directions, droop and are pricked again. Animal behaviour, pure and simple.

A black box in the black box.
Makes sense. What do actual horses have to do with dance?

Attention strategies work with horses, too, but are not necessary. They are all naturally curious. They usually flee when they see things that seem threatening.
Horses don’t know about blinkers. It’s humans who put them on them.

Running away and fleeing are not part of Ian Kaler’s group performance Ecto-Fictions.
If anything, fleeing to the other, to others is. But with utter self-control.

If one of the performers moves their arm, the leg of another slides to the side. If one of the group shifts their weight from right to left, the entire choreography moves.
Bodily contact through touch. Direct and indirect. The applied bodily technique divides each movement into its individual parts. Psychosomatics constitutes the neural framework of this group performance.
The dancers move in concert with themselves and with the animal projections. They explore the lonely together and the common alone.
Where the nature of their relations still seems vague, the disembodied voice and the horses’ projections reappear from time to time. They establish a certain feeling.
“Clack, clack, clack, clack”, the woman says, “one step at a time.”

While the gently moving pictures show hairy horses’ bodies.
They indicate warmth.

Down to the smallest detail.

The performance draws on Kaler’s encounters with horses. His experiences of being with these animals have shaped his movement practice, his approach to dance.
The choreographic form takes place on a supersensory bodily level. Where words have no meaning. Embodiments and internalisations unconsciously come into play here.
Ecto-Fictions manifests itself by way of the performers’ individual body rhythms, through intersubjective dissolution and reunion.

It’s intercorporeal.
There is touching, too.

Towards the end, a rope is introduced into the performance. The object helps to illustrate somatic processes that are being experienced. A short tug-of-war scene is followed by another, featuring a high wooden wall, which is actually part of a horse-riding track barrier, at the right edge of the stage.

Being able to lean on someone, on something.
Giving support and getting it.
Apparently without tension.

The performers in Ecto-Fictions move to the point where their movements artificially dissolve. Physicality itself knows no boundaries.
A stage performance as the endgame. I read Ecto-Fictions as a subliminal love letter to the sensorial, to animality, to what people have in common with others, with horses.
Concrete words and patterns of movement come and go, internalised physical experiences and images linger. They exist beyond the blacked out black box.


Lisa Moravec writes, researches and teaches at the interface between performance and visual art. Her focus is on contemporary performance, (non)human actors, technology and critical theory from the 1960s onwards. She studied art and performance history and collaborates with artists in her writing and exhibition practice. She has been awarded a postgraduate scholarship at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and teaches at British and Austrian universities. Co-editor of Photography & Culture and Platform: A Journal for the Dramatic and Performing Arts. Publications in academic journals (Dance ChronicleJournal for Dramatic and Performance Criticism) and art magazines (PW-Magazine, Texte zur Kunst, Burlington Contemporary) as well as exhibition catalogues and artists’ publications.