A train of wooden chairs chugs onto a white stage – apparently of its own accord. They’re the stars of this quirky dance piece for kids age 3 and up which proves the ample possibilities ordinary objects contain.
Dotted unevenly around the space—a nod to Pina Bausch’s Café Müller that might pass some toddlers by—are all sorts of chairs: big and small, fine and rugged, varnished and rough. Some have high backs, others low seats. A couple are cushioned. One beauty’s all white. Together—and, again, your kids might miss this—they’re living proof of Plato’s theory of forms: all imperfect individuals, all perfectly chair.
For dancers Miko Shimura and Colin Jolet, however, they become a playground – sometimes stepping stones across rivers, sometimes prisons to pen each other in. The two squish themselves onto one seat, tiptoeing and clambering around one another, finding moments of counterbalance to hang in the air, and others of collapse. Caroline Cornélis’s choreography, set to a soothing cello score, seeks out images of sturdiness and stability, reflections of chairs, as her dancers wobble on their heels and return to balance.
It’s a gorgeous, refined piece of dance-infused play that aims to get young imaginations firing. Four chairs become monsters, chomping shadow mouths. Others turn into a tree with chair legs for branches. It never panders to young audiences, nor remotely patronises, but at times one might question the purpose. Kids’ imaginations are already pretty active, and the beauty of Stoel—much like its Bausch references—will likely fly far over their heads.