Time is the pure (a priori) form of inner sense, i.e., our awareness of our own inner mental states. Time is the a priori formal condition of all appearances in general.

– Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

A shot from Burden Halved directed and choreographed by Kitty McNamee with artistic director and sculptor Lara Schnitger

Burden Halved is an extremely peculiar encounter between the laws and rules of the art of dance, cinematography and sculpture. The film impresses as much as with the clarity of its frames and simplicity of the dancers’ movements, as well as with the splendor of the objects they every now and then carry on their backs; it also impresses with the creaking and cutting soundscapes that accompany us through the filmstrip.

The screendance work creates a sense of delicacy, of fragility, of a reality that is close to us, but also of another reality, which, although past, is still here and alive, and defining the direction, rhythm, and form. Burden Halved can be defined as magical realism in a dance movie. Let’s start from the beginning.

Kitty McNamee, the film’s director and choreographer, attends an exhibition by visual artist Lara Schnitger and immediately imagines Lara’s sculptures in motion and on screen. Then the production takes its first steps on its research journey. Its starting point, the central nerve and the driving force for the entire team, turn out to be objects made of the lining of suitcases and sewn with wooden sticks. In the foundation of the artwork are locked precisely these codes of the departing, the motion from one latitude and longitude to another, of relocation – which is always detachment and interruption.

Linear and non-linear time intertwine in a coherent dance to create a new reality, a new meeting point – no matter the street and the city where the action takes place, no matter the day, the year, the season and the characters. It doesn’t matter what gender and profession the performers are; it doesn’t matter which building they enter and what is its purpose. It doesn’t matter what their relationships are or what clothes they are wearing. What matters is what their bodies paint as landscapes, what they carve as sculptures, what they choreograph in the space as phantasms, what they radiate and what message they pass on. But let’s go back.

We already mentioned that sculptures are at the centre point of the construction of the artwork. We also mentioned what material they are made of and what the first associations are that their use evokes in our minds. But what are they in reality and do they change their meaning, being placed on the human body? The screendance artwork challenges us to think along these directions, providing us with a rich palette of visual possibilities through shots in which we are able to see the bodies of performers without objects on them; the object itself, without being on someone’s body; bodies with objects on them – static or in motion. Through the brilliant arrangement of the montage we manage to see what’s in common in all pictures – they offer us equally strong sense of weight, load, and burden, whether the “architectural objects” are on a female or male body, whether they are present or absent in the frame, whether the movement is smooth or ecstatic.

And it is this “game” between the frames that manages to immerse us in a different reality, in which the socio-cultural context ceases to lead and determine our perceptions, and allows us to reflect on existential topics of existence, freedom, and choices.

— What do I always carry with me?

— Where do I end and where does “it” begin?

— How can I liberate myself from it?

— With whom could I share it? 

— Who can see it?

These and similar questions emerge gently and unobtrusively among the desolate landscapes of empty streets and crossroads inhabited by bodies of abstract shapes. These and similar questions arise from the background of these moving body sculptures in pale, earthy, warm colors, “possessing” this city and the people in it. Everything is somehow so close together, so coherent, complete and dense, that the viewer begins to feel a sense of merging, but not of mixing; of unity, but not of loss; of wholeness, but not of completeness; of suffering, but not of violence; of loneliness, but not of isolation; of sharing, but in half. Let’s stop here.

Let’s look deeper into the light that draws contours on the floor, into the light-door, into the ephemeral light-gates that n minutes, maybe hours, will melt, dissolve, disappear due to a randomly passing cirrus cloud, or because of the nuances foreshadowing the upcoming night. It’s there, in that room, in that studio, in that space, that the passing of weight from one body to another takes place. Voluntarily. With caution. With respect. It is there, in the midst of this sunlight, that the performer’s bodies bathe in muted intimacy, dance in a sacred collectivity. It’s beautiful. It’s somehow light. There, in that room, at the end of the screendance artwork, is the only moment when all bodies will visibly and simultaneously will remain without the “architectural objects” on themselves, and will move in sync, and then out of sync, and in the very end there will be only a single body left in this room, in this studio, in this space.

 Cuddled. Doing slow moves. Staying still for a moment. Then setting off again. Attempting to continue the move. Gently fighting.

And these last shots and chords will remind us that we are all alone and we are all together simultaneously and in parallel. That there is always a ray of light and hope. And thanks to its promise and to the Other’s presence in our lives who witnesses our existence, somehow the burden we carry is fragmented and becomes halved.

And now, let’s continue our own journey.

Translated by Miryana Mezeklieva

Svetlozara Hristova is a culturologist, art manager, artistic collaborator, author of articles in the field of contemporary dance and theatre, co-organizer of the Moving Body Festival and RADAR Festival Beyond Music, curator of the platform Book Journey.

Miryana Mezeklieva (1987) graduated in Cultural Studies at Sofia University Kliment Ohridski. Since 2008 until today she has been working as a translator of feature films and series for dubbing mainly for the channels of Nova Broadcasting Group.

This material was created within the project Translation on Air – a section dedicated to dance for the screen or screendance. Every month we invite professional and amateur audiences, tempted by this intriguing symbiosis between cinema and dance, to join our readings, conversations and discussions with active choreographers in the field from the country and abroad.

The project “Translation on Air” is implemented with the financial support of the National Fund “Culture” under the program “Audiences” 2020 and “One-Year Grant” 2021.

Videography and bibliographу:

Short film Burden Halved Trailer

Online conversation with Katy McNamee and Lara Schnitger

Sartre, J.-P., Existentialism is humanism, ed. LIK, 1995

Kant, I., Critique of Pure Reason, ed. BAS, 1967