Dance Roads 2016

Posted: June 23rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Festival, Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dance Roads 2016

Dance Roads 2016, Seligman Theatre, Chapter, Cardiff, June 8

Lucie Augeai and David Gernez in Nœuds at Dance Roads

Lucie Augeai and David Gernez in Nœuds

Dance Roads is an international touring initiative that supports choreographic development and provides artists with international exposure and networking opportunities on a biennial basis. The network is made up of organisations from five countries: The Netherlands, Wales, France, Italy and Roumania and is jointly coordinated. This performance at Chapter marks the final leg of the touring program.

Jasper van Luijk’s Yonder, danced by Jefta Tanate, is the most formally crafted of the five works on the evening’s program, a play of chiaroscuro in which Tanate moves naked through a field of lights. The stage resembles a photographic studio in which van Luijk has set up lights at various heights and angles. The choreographer cedes his place behind the camera to the audience and allows us to watch as Tanate manipulates the lights during his performative journey. There are thus two sources of movement, human and mechanical, interacting at different rhythms through the action of a single entity. When he is not swinging lights or swinging on them, Tanate moves with an almost automated articulation, his facial expression belying no emotion, nor betraying any narrative for his actions. This existential quality relates to what the program note for Yonder describes as ‘a search for the beginning and the end of time with the lifecycle of one man.’ I’m not sure many in the audience would pick up that notion while watching — I certainly didn’t — but there is a sense of time passing on a journey from darkness to light, from frenzied turning to stillness, from a sublime moment of elevation to a jarring fall to earth. What links these episodes is van Luijk’s paean to the male body that Tanate, without any apparent strain or self-consciousness, dances on the edge of his senses.

The poet Dylan Thomas lived constantly on the edge of his senses; Gwyn Emberton takes on the imagery of his poem Fern Hill in a short solo called Of the Earth, where I came from, originally choreographed on his own body but here danced by Albert Garcia. Emberton chooses not to set movement to Thomas’s words but with composer Benjamin Talbott delves into the sense of exploration in the poet’s memories of spending youthful days on his aunt’s farm. It starts with an image reminiscent of a portrait by Rollie McKenna of Thomas entwined in the branches of a tree: Garcia is in a headstand in shadows cast by tied, gnarled brushwood. Both poem and choreography are suffused with regret for the process of ageing but by setting his choreography on a younger body, Emberton sets up a tension between youth and age. Like the poetry, Of the Earth, where I came from has no rest as one image of the body switches suddenly or slowly, unfolding, unfurling and upending with a muscular fluidity that is nevertheless ageless.

In Noeuds (knots), Lucie Augeai and David Gernez (Compagnie Adéquate) perform a playful take on family relations (they are married) in a bright gestural duet that has elements of theatre, circus, mime, and dance. Their use of baroque music (Marin Marais) gives lively accents to their dialogue that allows the gestural forms, which look at first like conducting, to become the principal channel of expression. Noeuds does not, as its name suggests, describe an easy relationship. Augeai holds her breath with bulging cheeks while Gernez bares his teeth; he holds her tightly while she tries to escape. The initial pleasure builds to confrontation but Augeai does not submit; she gives as much as she gets. She has a way of using her eyes with the tilt of her head that conveys clarity of intention; the register is as high as laughter and as low as aggression. Gernez is her foil, against whom Augeai plays to comic and dramatic effect. He is driven to a final solo of male frustration after which Augeai diffuses it with her weaving pattern. The knots are subtly disentangled and they walk off together.

Claudia Catarzi’s Qui, Ora (here, now) is a minimal work that comes at the end of the middle section after two other works, so not an ideal place for audience concentration, which it needs. Qui, Ora is a choreographic response to immediate physical factors: space, a costume, the audience and sound. It has the feeling of an improvisation, stark in form with playful elements. If you put on a stiff and raspy-sounding coat, then your movements will necessarily emphasise its qualities; Catarzi dances the coat with birdlike attention and a dry sense of humour, sloughing it off at the point it appears to be dancing her. She responds to the space around her (and to a Johnny Cash song) with movements that are angular and loosely anarchic; it is like a play by Samuel Beckett with moments of dry wit, an element of the absurd and moments of pure poetic flow.

Cristina Lilienfeld’s work, Layers, is a meditation on skin and what it reveals of our inner emotional life. She uses her own skin as a material on which to receive our thoughts and feelings, and with which she projects a sensorial appreciation of the unfettered body. Disarmingly generous, she nevertheless protects the intimacy of her personal space in the very act of sharing it, playing with the tension between looking and being looked at and never failing to meet our gaze head on. In the opening section she reinforces the skin’s opacity by rolling and slithering her almost naked body on a mix of sand and flour to the sounds of rain and thunder and masks her face in her long, thick hair. It is a state of emotional turbulence in which she appears to be testing our gaze. “You are under my skin. You are in my heart,” she tells us, and invites us to write whatever comes to mind on her skin with her eyeliner pencils: artist and audience sharing the same material. “Thank you,” she responds, peeling off layers of skin-like patches from her body as she retreats. She reappears carrying a bowl of water. If the first part of Layers is a ritual covering of her skin, the second is a ritual cleansing. In between these two states, where Lilienfeld is naturally expressive, there are moments of ‘dancing’ which immediately signal something inherited or taken for granted. But there are also moments when she creates something mesmerising out of her unadulterated presence. In being naked — a metaphor for both freedom and vulnerability — the removal of physical and psychological layers creates in her an exuberance that makes emotion visible.

Dance Roads, as its name suggests, is a network of roads that is funded by the EU to convey choreographic expression from one country to another. While it is a pleasure to watch works that originate elsewhere, at the performative level the model offers neither integration nor differentiation between cultures, for the audience or for the dancers. What makes van Luijk’s work so different from that of Compagnie Adéquate, for example? What would happen if Catarzi were to create a work on Lilienfeld, or Lilienfeld on Tanate? It might be interesting to explore such questions in future collaborations so that the creative spirit finds new roads to follow.


It is ironic that this article on Dance Roads should be published on the eve of the EU referendum in which a majority of UK voters decided to leave the EU. The result may well mean Wales will no longer be eligible for the Dance Roads network. 

Dance Roads

Posted: May 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dance Roads

Dance Roads at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, May 25.

Dance Roads is an international touring initiative that supports choreographic development and provides artists with international exposure and networking opportunities on a biennial basis. The network is made up of organisations from five countries: Canada, Italy, France, Wales and the Netherlands and is jointly coordinated. Each country selects a single dance work, or excerpts from a longer work, to make up a program of five chosen choreographers, which then tours to each contributing country. The choreographers this year are Tanja Råman (Wales), Babacar Cissé (France), Maria Kefirvoa (Canada), Daniele Ninarello (Italy) and Arno Schuitmaker (Holland). The producing partners are Coreo Cymru/Chapter, Glob Théâtre, Tangente, Mosaico Danza and Generale Oost. 

Tanja Råman: Unattaching

Tanja Råman is standing in the half-light with her back to us. Iain Payne is facing us on the other side of the stage. Both have bare torsos, with floor-length, high-waisted skirts. The projection (by John Collingswood) on the back screen shows sequences of the same dance; giant partners to the figures on stage whose bodies are flecked in the projected light. There is an element of ritual in the dance, a contrast of male and female archetypes that also reveals a psychological drama of two individuals in the process of separation. There are two ominous gestures, one of tumbling hands from the head to toe, the other of an arm thrusting and turning. Råman’s eyes dominate in their outward expression, while Payne looks inside. His suffering is expressed in a solo of extreme tension that ends by restricting all movement to a spasm while a close-up image of his sorrowful, defeated expression is projected on the screen. After this internal cataclysmic event his breathing can be heard again above the silence. Now it is Råman who steps out of the shadows, soft and gentle, healing. She walks around Payne, arms wrapping around her waist and above her head, never quite touching him. They repeat earlier sequences together, then turn to face each other. She walks towards him, but he turns away, shielding himself. They stand next to each other, looking out, like the Saint-Exupéry image of a husband and wife sitting next to each other looking in the same direction, but he cannot maintain his gaze. He circles her; they look at each other once again before he pulls away. She stands with legs wide apart, her arms wrapped behind her back, from which one hand snaps free: tension and release. She finishes alone in lowering light, arms circling around her torso. When she extends her arms her hands remain curled up, unrequited, unfulfilled: part of the process of unattaching.

Babacar Cissé: Le syndrome de l’exilé

This performance consists of three extracts from a longer work whose title suggests a flavor of existentialism before we start. We see a chair and a small coat stand in a square of light at the back corner of the stage, the only furniture in a tiny room. Cissé has just got up and is folding his laundry. He stretches, then checks his hair, looking at us as if in the mirror. We hear the sounds of traffic, and of a ticking clock. More stretching develops into a movement phrase, as Cissé pokes his head and hips into motion. He puts on his trousers and shirt, his body continuing to move in spite of itself, animated, articulate, as if someone inside is moving him. There is a brilliant moment of mime as he nonchalantly explores the edge of his space with his hands. He picks up a letter and reads it, then reaches for a dress on the coat rack, a lifeless dress full of memories. A soul song begins as he puts on his shoes and jumper. He places the dress longingly on the chair and serenades it with remarkable internal rhythm, taking up the dress and dancing with it, one arm holding the sleeve, the other around its limp back. There is no sense of sentimentality here, but an expression of something more animal. Nijinsky’s faune comes to mind. He sits down and the music stops. He is shaking, and falls to the floor. He turns on the radio for distraction, changes the stations and hears a fragment of a talk about Nirvana, the thoughts of Aristotle, of a search for happiness. This leads into the second excerpt, where the small rectangle of light opens up to the entire stage. A clever back projection of Cissé walking and dancing in silhouette becomes a second person, then his own shadow on the screen is a third, all on a journey together. Continuing to interact with his projected image, Cissé dances a beautiful internalized solo (to Apocalyptica’s Ruska) with incredible agility and balance, demonstrating something I have never seen before: the ability of form itself to express emotion. Nijinsky aimed for this in his choreography and evidently expressed it in his dancing. Cissé is totally immersed in the movement, with no attempt to signal what is happening apart from articulating the intrinsic form. It is a sublime level of communication.

Part 3 opens with a back projection of him swimming in a large teacup of water, like a fish in a bowl. He tries to swim over the rim to freedom. On the stage he pours water on to the stage, and as he finally dives over the rim on the screen, he dives onto the stage and slides to the other side. He lies there, twitching with life. He glides and turns on the floor in silence. He tries to stand, but somersaults to the floor in a heartbeat, slips and turns with the grace and agility of a cat. He turns multiple times on his back then tries again to stand. Finally, as the lights go down, we see he has found his balance.

Maria Kefirvoa: Corps. Relations

Maria Kerfirvoa calls this a ‘duet between my head and my body’. The duet starts with Kerfirvoa’s head on the monitor screen saying with excruciating clarity, “My body is absent. I imagine my body here on the left of the screen; I imagine its left hand caressing my right cheek.” Kerfirvoa’s body arrives to the right of the screen holding a large bowl of water: not what the head had in mind. The body has hiccups and takes the water cure three times, the third time lying on the floor with her head immersed in the bowl. It does the trick. With beautiful, long, elegant limbs, Kerfirvoa’s body is expressive, while the head is calculating, almost not belonging to the same body. The dance has little to do with the talking, setting up an interesting tension between the mental and physical. Ideas and statements from the head are rational, but the body’s dancing is impulsive, excited, explosive. The head puts on some music, which the body hears until the head calmly plugs in earphones that cut off the sound. Who’s in control? The body puts tape around its ankles and hips to remonstrate against the unfeeling, insensitive head. The music comes on again: techno rock morphing into exuberant Klezmer. The body jumps to the rhythm, a rapturous expression on its face, but it doesn’t last long. The music changes; head and body are not in harmony; the emotional body is enraged. It brings out a chopping board with a potato and a butcher’s knife and strikes the potato with such pique that pieces fly off the board: a potato tantrum. We laugh at the comic dysfunction between head and body. The head opens its mouth and the body throws chunks of potato at it on the screen, missing nearly all of them. Unnerved and exhausted by this lack of communion, the body expires, while the head disappears from the screen, only to return seconds later from immersing its head in a bowl of water. The body’s message has finally got through.

Daniele Ninarello: Bianconido

Daniele Ninarello has a fine face, and lucid dark eyes with which he looks at us fixedly in these opening sequences of minimal movement, gently bobbing with his fists clenched, like a shadow boxer warming up, or reclining on the floor as if undulating on the ocean floor. Back on his feet, he repeats movement phrases, faster, more off balance and with cyclonic energy. At one moment I see the fleeting image of a Francis Bacon figure: the detail of a face and a blurred body with thrashing limbs. The storm passes and he is now relaxed and thoughtful. There is clarity in Ninarello’s white images. When he walks forward with an imaginary twig between his fists, like a bird carrying in its beak a twig for its nest, he is expressing his existential desire for a home, a place of rest, of equilibrium. There is pathos in his body as he constructs meaning through his physical language, a subtle poetry of space. Another storm is brewing; his body twists, turns, falls, gets up, falling and catching himself in a constant supple dynamic. Standing or sitting, his hands don’t touch the ground on the way down or the way up. Under intense pressure, he throws himself at his imaginary obstacle, then rolls away, exhausted, balancing on his sacrum, arms and legs like tendrils in the tide. A gentle song, I Want You, by Lotte Kestner plays, balm to the soul. He puts on a blindfold to see better, walking backwards slowly towards the audience. With minimal moves, feeling the strength inside, he barely reaches a formal resolution before he claps, and it is over. He takes off the blindfold in the dark.

Arno Schuitmaker: The Fifteen Project.

This is another work that is longer than the material presented here. Two boys wander on to the stage, with a smile in their eyes and hands in their pockets, as if they have just wandered in off the street. In silence, Manel Salas begins with a gesture, one finger, and develops it into a complex pattern of movements of the fingers pointing inwards and around, pulling the body in a natural torsion, and then stretching far into the distance. It is an accretion of gestures and movement phrases that he and Iker Arrue whip through together until one of them interrupts the rhythm then it picks up again, like a mathematical puzzle. An open hand gesture, as if to say, ‘there’s nothing here’, momentarily wipes off the slate at the end of a phrase until the movement takes off again at mesmerizing speed, until it finally comes to a point of inertia. In the second section, they turn to face each other and fall forwards, catching each other’s weight. This starts off a journey around the space in which they are never out of physical contact, in a codependent testing of gravity with a nonchalant sense of risk-taking and precision. The third contest, to a pulsing, syncopated score by Wim Selles, is another game that starts a pattern, breaks it, and refinds it: Salas starts a movement phrase while Arrue walks around him, until they reverse their roles. As the frenzy increases so this charismatic pair accent the movement with their breathing. It is a game unleashed in space, but somewhere there is always a control, and as simply as it starts, it comes to an end, with the same nonchalant smile as at the beginning.