Gianluca Vincentini, Wild Card

Posted: November 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gianluca Vincentini, Wild Card

Gianluca Vincentini, Wild Card, Lilian Baylis Studio, November 23

Gianluca Vincentini Wild Card

Amarnah Ufuoma Amuludun and Stefania Pinato in Encounter One (photo: Danilo Moroni)

For his Wild Card program at Lilian Baylis Studio, Gianluca Vincentini presents dance makers based in the north of England: Carlos Pons Guerra, Crystal Zillwood and Jamaal Burkmar. Having been artistic director of VERVE (the postgraduate company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance) for five years, Vincentini knows these dancers and choreographers well. Prior to the main program, he presents his own company, Möbius Dance, in a short film, Encounter One, with Amarnah Ufuoma Amuludun and Stefania Pinato, followed by a structured improvisation to guitar accompaniment by Otis Jones with the same two dancers among the pre-show audience in Fox Garden Court. According to its website, Möbius Dance has two dancers (Amuludun and Pinato) and four collaborators, all of whom are presented or represented in the film. The program note for Encounter One — ‘Can I allow myself to let boundary lines blur while being within myself and accept compromises as part of co-existence’ — is so fluid and open-ended that the presence of two bodies moving in space is enough to fulfil its premise, and they do. But for those who enjoy a little more meat, Pons Guerra’s O Maria on the main stage hits the spot.

Written for two women, a man and a ham, it is played by two women, a man and a ham but gender correspondence is not on the menu. Concepción (Marivi Da Silva) and Armando (Azzurra Ardovini) are at home one evening, though all we see is the domineering Concepción sitting at the dinner table in a dress as black as her eyes with the wrapped or bandaged figure of Armando at her feet. There’s another wrapped figure (Phil Sanger) lying a little distance from the table, and a wrapped ham on the table. Clearly Ryan Dawson Laight has had as much fun with the costumes as Barnaby Booth with the lighting. The relationship between Concepción and Armando is described as ‘an unhappy marriage’ but this is an understatement; the ties that bind have turned to rope and bondage. In a beatific vision, Sanger’s arising — or arousal — as anything-but-the-virgin Mary is the catalyst that releases poor Armando from his wrapping to reveal his true gender and entangles Mary with the leg of ham. The program note for O Maria serves notice of nudity and sexual references but the satirical treatment of suffocating religious hypocrisy in 1950’s Seville is positively seditious.

Evolutio is one of three solos Zillwood will include in her creation, Spiral. In it she examines evolution with a little scientific guidance and abundant inspiration. She enters the stage out of darkness, from a distance too far to comprehend. Her postures on that first diagonal towards the light suggest the successive stages of human evolution but in reverse order, finishing on her haunches before repeating the sequence; at the third attempt she evolves into a dancer. Zillwood moves quietly and lightly along her exploratory journey, dancing a language that derives from classical technique but which breaks into a series of organic images derived from the natural world: from invertebrate motion to a human embryo, from a bird in flight to an anthropoid marveling at the stars. Her final pose is balancing on her coccyx, floating in the vastness of evolutionary history. She sketches these images fluently and fluidly against the musical phrases of a haunting arrangement by Nigel Kennedy of a Polish folk song, Ederlezi, that she has digitally altered and extended to fit the dynamic range of her choreography. There is nothing of the anthropological museum in Evolutio; it reveals itself like the spark of an idea with an intelligence that matches Zillwood’s musicality.

Jamaal Burkmar presents The Calm, one of three works he created for the New Adventures Choreographer Award showcase he won in 2016. Inspired ‘by family, home and music’, The Calm is a quartet of solos to a quintet of funky, soulful songs. Burkmar focuses first on the songs, playing Angie Stone’s Makings of You in the dark, and a second, D’angelo’s Send It On, as the four dancers — Burkmar, Lucia Chocarro, Tom Davis Dunn and Kasichana Okene-Jameson — lie in a stylised heap on the floor. As a choreographic device the heap is clichéd and artificial; no effort is made to suggest how the dancers arrive in that place, nor in the heap, nor how they relate to each other. Nor does the rest of The Calm offer any further clarification, but focuses instead on the individual choreographic responses to the music. Here Burkmar and his dancers are far more interesting, especially Okene-Jameson who blasts into her theatrical space with a freedom and invention that is all her own; if the others make it happen, she lets it happen. She also uses the direction of her head and eyes as she dances, which takes her expression to a level that is as generous as it is self-reinforcing. The Calm, however, ends on a note that is as anti-climactic as it is predictable, with the music fading and the lights dying slowly on a heap of dancers.


My friend Ian Abbott has also written about Carlos Pons Guerra’s De Nada Dance in a triple bill at mac last year. 

DeNada Dance Theatre, Ham and Passion

Posted: March 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on DeNada Dance Theatre, Ham and Passion

DeNada Dance Theatre, Ham and Passion, mac, Birmingham, February 25


Phil Sanger as the Virgin Mary in Ham and Passion (photo: Joe ‘Boneshaker’ Armitage)

I saw ham.
I saw passion.
I saw Ham and Passion.

Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many colours or notes, there are only so many flavours — it’s how you combine them that sets you apart. It’s an expression of the land where you are and the culture of that place. – Wolfgang Puck

Carlos Pons Guerra has created theatrical tapas, interweaving three courses with the same ingredients of power, identity and gender whilst managing to concoct distinct and contrasting choreography with a jus of Spain poured over the top. The etymology of ‘ham’ is an overacting inferior performer derived from the late 19th century and linked to the old minstrel song The Hamfat Man from 1863. Amateurs and actors on a low income were forced to employ cheaper substances like ham rind or pig grease to apply their make-up rather than the professionals’ use of sophisticated oils.

As an adventure in extravagant kitsch, Ham and Passion allows us to wallow and question our preconceptions of gender and sexuality by ramping up the absurdity quotient over the course of the evening. From the tender cries of the downtown pearl, Anna La Passionara, to the wanton urges of the Virgin Mary, Pons Guerra firmly directs our gaze on this world, and there’s very little ham fat on show.

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their [ham and] passion. – Martha Graham

Passionara is a three-legged duet between a drag artiste and the titular motionless ham; playing out as a back stage pre-show mini-drama, Phil Sanger prepares to grace the stage, transforming into a bedazzling mirrorball with a dress and knife that winks, flashes and absorbs the light. Sanger is exceptional in finding the maudlin physical nuances amongst the swell of sentimental Spanish songs; combined with a heavily stylised lighting design from Barnaby Booth, we’re presented with the possibilities of how much (or how little) a performer chooses to reveal himself.

Young Man! (inspired by Jean Cocteau’s libretto for Roland Petit’s ballet Le Jeune Homme et la mort) exhibits an enticing duel between Azzurra Ardovini and Marivi Da Silva in the sexual frenzy of post-Franco Spain. The kitchen table and food again provide the scenic anchor as Ardovini and Da Silva oscillate roles between matador and bull, man and woman, full body munching, and ham masturbation while a surrealist stereo soundtrack audibly pans around the stage created an aurally nauseous experience before they march us towards a heroin injecting crescendo.

 To say that gender is performative is a little different because for something to be performative means that it produces a series of effects. We act and walk and speak and talk in ways that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman.– Judith Butler

It is in the trio (quartet if you count the ham) of O Maria where we reach ‘Peak Ham’ as Catholicism’s very own Virgin Mary (played to sublime comic effect by Sanger) reveals her chastity belt is a little looser than history has lead us to believe. In a heady dessert of fleshy temptation and wild, abandoned hair whipped together by a dominatrix, Da Silva and Ardovini are the perfect physical foil to the simpering Virgin Mary. Gender has been tossed out of the window and what remains is power, temptation and the residue of a fixed identity. O Maria is the newest work in the evening and with the Virgin Mary Pons Guerra has created a character with a wealth of narrative possibilities to develop and explore in the future.

With an interval between each of the three courses my viewing rhythm was disturbed and so was unable to truly sink into Pons Guerra’s Spanish ham opera. Despite the finely crafted environment and extensive programme notes, I felt there was little ambiguity on display and no room for me to manoeuvre emotionally. I wanted my brain to do more; to fill a gap, discover a missing connection — but this fully-formed world asked very little of me. DeNada Dance Theatre’s Ham and Passion coalesces around the kitchen table and the presence of food in a riotous portrait of Spanish life. Pons Guerra has brought a fine set of ingredients for his guests but must be careful of potential choreographic gavage.