Can we scream in the undertow? Navigating the waves in Hannah Ma’s 'ONDA'

Nearing the end of week two of the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Festival, Hannahmadance (Luxemburg, Germany) performs a research-based work surrounding “the relationship of humans and nature against the background of anthropocentrism.” The work, choreographed by Hannah Ma in artistic collaboration with Sebastian M. Purfürst, explores the multi-dimensional concept of waves. Waves are naturally occurring in many facets of the world, whether it be water, air, sound or within the human body. A concept that Ma mentions as integral to the work is swarm intelligence: “What drives us subconsciously and where we are interconnected….”

Waves are cyclical and never-ending, much like human connection to the earth and beyond.
Five dancers enter the stage wearing black sweatpants, hoodies, socks and masks; an ode to the COVID-19 pandemic and its unspoken uniform of loungewear as the world remained inside their homes. Removing their socks and masks, four dancers begin to move like seaweed or a school of fish. Their bodies rolling and articulating intricately and fluidly, eventually in unison. Focus is pulled to one remaining dancer downstage, standing still, until they adorn themselves with a long and full string of pearls. The pearls move with the dancer like tentacles on a sea creature. Another dancer breaks apart from the group, running and jumping into the downstage dancer’s arms. Like waves of water, the dancers begin to ebb and flow, shifting between crashing and rolling into one another. Couples of dancers begin a running pattern, mimicking the wave cycle. Each wave has a crest and a trough in an unending cycle of movement. This concept continues throughout the duration of the work.

The dancers continue to move with a sense of groundedness and weight, which is representative of the weight of water or air on the body or another object. Formations and movement patterns are visual representations of whirlpools, tides and undertows. These water formations mimic life’s conditions. The highs and lows of life and the human experience are felt with the dancers’ visceral expressions of movement, initiated from deep within the body. Dancers reveal sparkly costuming underneath their black sweatsuits, alluding to another side of life which we all grapple with: an outer image. Outer image may reflect inner authenticity or may be an attempt to challenge our inner world. Human struggle is inevitable, and we yearn for connection with one another in hopes of feeling less alone and more grounded. This poses a question: Can we scream in the undertow? Can we truly express our inner thoughts and landscape exactly how our minds express to us? How do we connect our own inner wavelengths to relate to those around us? Can our actions be a part of one largescale wave, the human experience?


The JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience continues with daily shows online through Sept. 5. For more information and to access the performances, visit

2021 Critical Dance Writing Fellow Carmen Gorsuch is a Senior BFA Dance Major at Ball State University where she trains in ballet, modern, jazz, tap, musical theatre, hip hop, and West African dance forms. She has performed works by Martha Graham, Sidra Bell, Audra Sokol, Susan Koper, Melanie Swihart, among others. Carmen has performed in the Martha Graham University Partners Showcase at The Joyce Theater (2019) and in numerous performances at Ball State University. She has most recently presented her own choreography in Ball State’s Traversing: A Collection of Movement Projects. Carmen is currently a grant writing intern with Screen Dance International as well as a research and writing assistant at Ball State University. Carmen is curious about how the intersections of writing and dance can transversely inform one another. She aims to perform in the concert setting post-graduation as well as pursue dance writing and research.