Resolution! 2016, performances on January 28

Posted: February 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2016, performances on January 28

Resolution! 2016, M Contemporary Dance, Konstantina Skalionta, Friction Dance

Konstantina Skalionta in Be My Home (photo: Jonathon Vines)

Konstantina Skalionta in Be My Home (photo: Jonathon Vines)

The Place’s Resolution! 2016 platform programs 78 works over three weeks, with three performances each night so the likelihood of finding a similar theme on a particular evening is small. But each of the three works this evening dealt with changing, clinging to or abandoning some form of clothing as symbols, respectively, of self-worth, home or humanity.

Entrances and exits are difficult to achieve without appearing to be a utilitarian means of getting performers on and off stage. Before the audience enters M Contemporary Dance Theatre solved the problem by burying its four young women (Maud Brambach, Tabatha Longdoz, Sara MacQueen and Chloe Zambon) under a significant heap of garments. In its lengthy stillness the heap takes on an ambiguity — whether it will act or be acted upon — until it starts to breath with the life underneath. Brambach’s Sous Influence is an underworld of identity in which underwear rather than the body is the structure on which the sartorial self-image of each woman is built. The influence of the title is the effect of consumer advertising on the notion of self-image. The work has no particular shape other than the putting on and taking off of clothes and the influence this has on the independent behaviour of each woman and on the relationship between them. It is a choreography of social commonplace with a chic sensuality, showing a disaffection with dance but a desire to transpose a contentious social issue on to the stage with raw physical energy. As Brambach notes, the women ‘do not act but present themselves as they are…They do not try to tell you something but to make you reflect.’ There is a little je m’en fous in this slice of life, modeled with broad strokes but lacking in the finer detail that would make it a really engaging portrait of a contemporary phenomenon. The text in French, for example, which is partly translated into English by MacQueen, is hard to reflect on because partially inaudible. Nevertheless Brambach, who is Belgian and graduated from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, has a strong voice and if she keeps going in this direction she will give form to something that has the force of Sous Influence with more clarity and shape.

Konstantina Skalionta’s covering is less clothing than a sculptural life belt (conceived and made by Laura Elias), a material shell she wears over a black unitard. We first see her reclining comfortably within it on a small island of salt. The shell is made of four padded, freeform, interlocking sections resembling the abdominal structure of an insect, that move freely up and down Skalionta’s body. From the moment she leaves her island ‘home’ she takes her shell on a journey around and across the barren black floor, her feet shuffling and skittering in a constant state of indecision as to whether to step out or remain attached. She forms and reforms the sections of shell around her, pulling them over her shoulders and head but never quite taking them off. It is a single poetic idea that Skalionta has the courage to maintain to the very end. Be My Home takes 20 minutes to perform and in its simplicity gains a timeless quality — reflected in Peter Broderick’s aptly named music Floating/Sinking — that extends beyond the prescribed limit for the performance. One senses Skalionta’s meditation on home could continue for a lot longer.

Hannah Wade’s concept for the dancers’ costumes in Friction Dance Theatre’s Smirk involves hiding the face in bandages and the body in two layers of stretched plastic covering. The eerie glow from the plastic and the eyeless, featureless heads make for strange beings that Ben Logan’s choreography turns into a band of prowling, infighting predators. Taking as its starting point the social phenomenon of deindividuation — a group mentality in which anonymity encourages anti-social behaviour — Smirk aims to reverse the trend. The problem is it’s all rather predictable, which translates as having few qualities beyond its description. The concept is an interesting social phenomenon and diverse in its manifestations but Logan and Wade smother it in a singular, ghoulish image. The five dancers (Suzannah Dessau, Jade Franklin, George Jennings, Jack Parry and Daisy Winstanley) group and regroup in jarring, fitful movements, crossing the stage in waves of post-apocalyptic distress from which a violent solo or duet emerges. Occasionally the dancers stare quietly into the audience with their blind eyes before returning to the fray until one of the girls signals a truce by taking off her outer carapace and undulates softly in the light and silence. She evidently influences the others and they spend the final section of Smirk struggling to strip away the layers of plastic wrap to reveal their naked torsos as a symbol of individual identity. Friction Dance Theatre is a new company and I believe Smirk is Logan’s first group work. He needs to dig deeper to find what it is he can offer that will make it stand out in a competitive choreographic world just as the dancers disassociate themselves from the group at the end of Smirk to assert their individuality.