Eva Recacha: Aftermath at Lilian Baylis Studio

Posted: December 2nd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Eva Recacha: Aftermath at Lilian Baylis Studio

Eva Recacha: Aftermath at Lilian Baylis Studio, October 25

Eva Recacha

Eleanor Sikorski and Charlotte McLean in Aftermath (photo: Jackie Shemesh)

How do you choreograph ennui? Eva Recacha has tackled it in her latest work, Aftermath, which was commissioned by Sadler’s Wells as part of its 20th anniversary, and received its world première at Lilian Baylis Studio. As a state of mind, ennui is not about what ishappening but about what isn’t, which had become a central concern of Recacha after becoming a mother and experiencing the ‘social isolation that can accompany this new role.’ Dancers have to move in order to think and prolonged inaction is akin to a slowing down of creative brain activity. Recacha has called Aftermath an ‘ode to pointlessness’ but this is perhaps as much a self-deprecatory acknowledgement of her starved creativity as it is a challenge to define her subject. In a post-show talk she described her transition from choreographer to mother as one in which she had no time for creative work and no sense of when that time might become available; beyond the celebration and excitement of motherhood it was for her a period of tedium that caused a feeling of inadequacy. Aftermath derives its keen sense of the absurd from trying to put a finger on the malaise she felt.

The opening is set somewhere in the stillness of the mind, in the heart of tedium itself. Kaspersophie’s set design is clearly not a domestic scene; it’s more like a clinical laboratory for the study of tedium with white walls, a couple of chairs (one upturned), a pile of toilet rolls, and red arrows on the floor to stimulate some kind of direction. The two patients are Charlotte Mclean, who lies prone and lifeless like an accident victim and Eleanor Sikorski, who although alive and sitting on a chair staring at the audience, lacks evident motivation. Time passes in a series of blackouts (part of Jackie Shemesh’s clinical grammar of lighting) and the only sound is piped birdsong (part of Alberto Ruiz Soler’s musical motivation). Recacha must have been aware that as long as there is life there is still energy, however small. It comes from Sikorski’s voice and while the message is bland — a series of statistics about ambition — there is something in its sardonic delivery that wakes up Mclean. It’s as if Sikorski is the idling conscience and Mclean its flattened ego. Once a connection has been made, however, the level of energy ramps up with the conscience changing from ignition to vituperative encouragement (“Stick to it, for fuck’s sake!”) until Mclean breaks out in an unintelligible rant.

Having established this desolate territory of the mind, Recacha is ready to recognize its positive value and sets out to challenge its engulfing presence with a generous dose of humour; Aftermath is thus both an uplifting narrative of internal psychological combat and its end product. Her highlighting of the toilet roll as variously a sculpture, a projectile, and a banner is an apposite metaphor.

Sikorski’s conscience is a fickle figure at best, pulling back her encouragement when Mclean’s creative energy is beginning to flow again, disdainfully tapping her green nails on the white chair beneath her pink dress until Mclean calms down (we learn later from Sikorski that the colour pink makes people calmer). But to function she also needs Mclean; it’s a love-hate relationship that sees their mutual dependency assuaged and exacerbated in oscillating fashion. It’s perfect casting with Sikorski as the acerbic, calculating wit and Mclean as the mercurial creative force; their two trajectories start on a fragile thread and fuse together to the point of familiarity and mutual admiration.

With its cross between The Private Life Of The Brain and Monty Python, Aftermath is as much an exploration of ennui as a picture of the divergent elements of artistic endeavour. For a choreographer who has experienced motherhood, perhaps the two are conjoined.The press release for Aftermath explains that ‘during the making of the show, Recacha carried out an outreach program for mothers and their small children, immersing herself again in that period of early childcare and its impact on the mother’s sense of identity and agency.’ While it must have taken Recacha back to the sense of tedium that inspired Aftermath, the Sadler’s Wells commission has given her an opportunity to move forward into the studio and to find within her own experience material for a work that in its level of craft, its wit and absurdity, shows no sign of creative lethargy.

LCDS Undergraduate Show 2016

Posted: February 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LCDS Undergraduate Show 2016

London Contemporary Dance School, Undergraduate Show, The Place, February 3

LCDS undergraduates in Ori Flomin's Things Happen Just (photo: Alicia Clarke)

LCDS undergraduates in Ori Flomin’s Things Happen Just (photo: Alicia Clarke)

Undergraduate shows shift the way dance is usually presented. Choreographers come to set work on students and the school in effect becomes a temporary, and quite unique company. Tonight there are three commissioned works for ensembles but the opening pieces are choreographic miniatures by the students on the BA1 Composition course and the BA2 Music & Choreography course respectively.

As soon as Edward Hookham and Conor Kerrigan begin their It’s Nice, Isn’t It? you feel in safe hands. And Hookham’s hands are large, an extension of long arms that he weaves in articulated patterns around his tall frame. It’s Nice, Isn’t It? is a structured improvisation in which Kerrigan wrily comments on Hookham’s improvisation then Hookham on Kerrigan’s. The two are quite different; Hookham has a languid lyricism while Kerrigan is more compact and forceful (‘aggressive’, suggests Hookham). Kerrigan’s desire to interfere with his friend’s improvisation ‘just to see what will happen’ seems in character. He bumps into him, destabilizes him; Hookham stays low, undeterred, and continues his soliloquy in a smaller space. Both performers come across as relaxed and in tune with each other, performing their material with natural ease. A pleasure to watch.

Not to be outdone by the men, Evelyn Hart and Charlotte McLean munch into cake? what cake? with relish for both the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s cello suite No. 1 in G and for their gestural play. They seem to find in the curves of their short unctuous phrases the curves in the music, and even the playful nibbling routine seems embodied in the score. Designed as ‘an exercise in being in conversation with the music’, it is only three minutes long but its irreverent humour and pluck reverberate long afterwards.

In another exercise, Let in Fall, Daniel de Luca and Bethany Edwards choose to juxtapose their movement to the music of Arvo Pärt’s Für Alina. The juxtaposition nevertheless retains a relationship with the score, a kind of love-hate relationship that juxtaposes less than it aggravates. It’s as if neither de Luca nor Edwards quite know what to do with the music, which sails on notwithstanding.

For Me, You & Us, choreographer Fin Walker reworks the third duet from her 5 2 10 (5 duets, 2 solos and 10 instruments) which she created with composer Ben Park when their company was resident at ROH2. Explaining how 2 became 14, Walker writes, ‘I have taken the concept, ideas, structure and intention and adapted it for this piece.’ The original seven dances were based on the seven chakras, and the third, located in the solar plexus, is the seat of taking action (or not). As Walker writes, ‘At times we are unable to step forward into life, other times we follow an unconscious “doing, doing, doing”.’ It is this contrast on which the choreography focuses. Initially dancers in a line alternate between gestures of still self-reflection and wave-form action but then the fire takes over and the line explodes into wild movement in which someone screams an angry Fuck You! and from which quartets and quintets detach in complex patterns marked with vocal instructions and contrasted stillness. It is not long before the fire burns out and the asymmetric groups reform in the calmness of the orderly opening line. But even if this final poise, reflected in Park’s music, is intended to convey a spiritual resolution, it is the reverberating influence of patterns and energy in Me, You & Us that overwhelm it.

Tom Roden’s Anya speaks and dances for itself. The story of Anya’s life is told from the historical perspective of an older woman through the eyes of her youth in the person of Eleonora Ramsby Herrera. Roden clearly admires Anya’s strength and social conscience (she could be someone he knew well) and invests the work with an appropriate warmth and energy that the entire cast soaks up, in particular Elena Zubeldia Perez who plays Anya’s little sister with a delightful sense of pathos and comic timing. Roden is the dance side of New Art Club, so there is both a choreographic line and a smile that run through the work. Each biographical story is magnified and coloured with songs, text and dance enhanced by Nicole Bowden’s warm-coloured costumes. Roden reveals a company that is unique, varied in size and shape but working together as a regular (as opposed to idealised) social group. Unfortunately such companies don’t exist, but perhaps they should.

The final work is a challenge in its abstraction, its rhythms and its complexity. Even the title, Things Happen Just, is enigmatic, like the earlier Let in Fall. Choreographer Ori Flomin cites the American artist Frank Stella as his inspiration, in particular his ‘layering colours, texture and shapes in a chaotic yet organized way.’ This is exactly how Things Happen Just comes across. If the costumes by Frances Morris provide the colour on which Kyle Olson layers the musical texture, Flomin does the rest. Choreographic meaning is abstracted and form is eviscerated in favour of high voltage dancing and dynamic juxtapositions. Storms evolve out of stillness and gravity is overcome with a thrust that has been lacking all evening. Emma Farnell-Watson stands out but the entire cast manages to create a sense of beauty at the heart of Flomin’s chaos.