Resolution 2020: Dylan Poirot Canton, SBB Dance, The Follow Through Collective

Posted: January 25th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution 2020: Dylan Poirot Canton, SBB Dance, The Follow Through Collective

Resolution 2020: Dylan Poirot Canton, SBB Dance, Follow Through Collective, January 21

Resolution 2020, 14.06.17, Grenfell Tower
Tyler Jones-Holbon, Beth Veitch, Ashleigh Kinchin and Sasha Vallis in 14.06.17 (photo: Dougie Evans)

The starting points for this evening’s trio of works are fundamental to the health of a society: family, housing and environment; they collectively throw out questions on life and death while leaving the answers to float. Dylan Poirot Canton’s Father’s Flower is a psychological portrait of ‘what it means to live up to a father’, SBB Dance’s 14.06.17 explores the stories around the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and Follow Through Collective’s 1 Click Away examines packaging waste in our online economy. All the works have a keen emotional sensibility towards the subjects they confront, but ironically choreography sometimes gets in the way.

Of the three works, Canton’s is the most intimately geared to the body, through which he experiences and explores the complex relationship with his father; he merges choreography with film, timing his entrance to a grainy moving image of a distant memory. He also uses his voice, but the clarity of words is at times sublimated to the colour and texture of emotion; it’s both frustrating (not understanding what he is saying) and moving (in the way his emotional utterances merge with his movement). Nevertheless, there are a couple of audible maxims — ‘A winner never quits and a quitter never wins’, and ‘Don’t hit a man when he’s down’ — that serve as a gauge of tough love. Father’s Flower is improvised, and the intent of Canton’s portrayal is vivid enough to imbue his movement with a search for form rather than for resolution. 

In 14.06.17, Shaquille Brathwaite-Blaggrove quickly and effortlessly enters into the horror of the Grenfell Tower tragedy through haunting, in situ recordings of witnesses to the conflagration; his focus is on the absence of bodies, and any choreographic image is up against the unequivocal horror of this stark reality. One that succeeds is Sasha Vallis repeatedly miming the opening of a door; it’s a simple, everyday gesture, but superimposed on the sound of the Grenfell Tower flames it is an eloquent portent of disaster: inhabitants on the upper floors were told by the fire department to remain in their flats, and to keep the doors shut. Brathwaite-Blaggrove also delves into a caricature of then prime minister Theresa May’s reaction to the tragedy; it is crude but it works because there is an element of truth to its twisted satire and because dramatically it removes us from the scene to concentrate a justifiably angry focus on the government’s calculated inaction. Where Brathwaite-Blaggrove weakens his otherwise inspired treatment of the disaster is in the choreography for his quartet of dancers; it seems to come directly from the studio with little bearing on, or relation to, the depiction of tragedy.  

Last year at Resolution, Greta Gauhe presented Drowning, an imaginative polemic on marine pollution; this year she is back with another environmental rant, albeit light-hearted, on cardboard waste: 1 Click Away. The approach is to let the boxes do the talking, and Gauhe’s choreography for her four dancers is focused on enhancing their eloquence. But in making the inanimate boxes the principal characters, 1 Click Away inevitably implicates not only their warehouse sorters, packagers and dispatchers, but also the shoppers whose collective proclivity for online purchases has clicked up a proliferation of cardboard waste. 1 Click Away is not self-righteously didactic but Gauhe gently eases the audience into participation and self-awareness at the beginning of the work by asking them to pass boxes from the back of the auditorium down to the stage, where Marta Stepien unpacks them and discards the containers. The other three performers rush to organize the boxes into a giant wall of cardboard. All that Stepien retrieves from the boxes are four t-shirts printed with work-ethic mottos that the dancers put on; they are now Make History, Work Hard, and Have Fun. Gauhe’s t-shirt is imprinted with the Amazon smiley. All four disappear behind the carboard wall and burst through it, redistributing, rearranging and rebuilding the boxes, which is the active choreographic task of the entire work. An inspired piece of theatrical anarchy is to pile up a line of boxes to block the view of the front row of the audience.  

In its absurd and whimsical treatment of an environmental hazard, it is a shame 1 Click Away could not have been paired with Alka Nauman’s Be Fruitful & Multiply at Chisenhale in December; both works give the audience room to reflect on a topic that, thanks to the other Greta, is continually challenging us to rethink our environmental choices.


Greta Gauhe and Alka Nauman at Chisenhale Dance Space

Posted: December 17th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Greta Gauhe and Alka Nauman at Chisenhale Dance Space

NOWhere & Be Fruitful and multiply at Chisenhale Dance Space, November 30

Alka Nauman, Be fruitful and multiply
Leilah Simone Williams, Keity Pook, Lucie Palazot and Shum Pui Yung in Alka Nauman’s Be fruitful and multiply (photo: Anna Jockymek)

As the first of two works on this evening’s program of new choreography by Greta Gauhe and Alka Nauman at Chisenhale Dance Space, Gauhe’s NOWhere is a timely examination of ‘issues of racial and sexual discrimination and harassment.’ Gauhe has taken an autobiographical approach to structure the personal narratives of her dancers from four different countries on two continents, who express their stories through spoken word and dance. Dance theatre is the performative equivalent of mixed media or collage in the visual arts where one medium is juxtaposed with another so as to bring out a new meaning or metaphor in the whole. What Lloyd Newson’s verbatim theatre or Luca Silvestrini’s confessional theatre — not to mention Pina Bausch’s tanztheater — have all shown is how spoken word and dance can strengthen each other to create dramatic, sometimes surreal scenarios that express ideas physically, visually, intellectually and emotionally. In NOWhere, however, the notion of juxtaposition is replaced by a convergence between dance and spoken word that unfortunately blunts the impact of both; the stories don’t stand out as much as they should, and the dance is lost in trying to frame them. Through this subtle transfer of focus, even the sinister signification of the naked light bulbs at the beginning becomes an artful approach to lighting by the end. Between the ‘hostile environment’ of the current government and the #MeToo campaign, stories of racial or sexual discrimination and harassment need to be called out with a force that arouses our sense of outrage and empathy; resistance to the established order is one of art’s primary functions. In its urgent call for action in the present time and place, NOWhere needs a stronger emphasis on the stories at its heart; they are too often inaudible through a problem either of acoustics, of weak diction, or of voices having to compete with Andy Trewren’s electronic keyboard accompaniment. 

It is difficult to know if Alka Nauman’s Be Fruitful and multiply is a polemic or a paean. Lying somewhere between the two, ‘the piece focuses on the ambiguous nature of plastic bags, on their elegance and ugliness…to reveal the absurdity of our attitude towards the environment.’ Nauman’s adoption of the absurd as a creative tool (it comes as no surprise that she cites the support of Eva Recacha) reveals its purpose in destabilising our response to the work, but the integrity of conception is such that this disruption is what makes it so effective. The stage is set with a tableau of four languidly posed women — Lucie Palazot, Keity Pook, Shum Pui Yung and Leilah Simone Williams — on one side in pastel t-shirts and pants and a pile of blue plastic bags on the other. Staring out over each other into the infinite distance, the four women inch their way in silence towards the pile with calculated reserve and control, creating bemused tension by maintaining the direction of movement while eliminating any sense of motive. When they reach the bags and start to explore their buoyant, pliant qualities in slow motion caress, the previous action is resolved but the future course of the work is once again in question. In Nauman’s absurdist construction, the negative environmental connotation of plastic bags loses its signification to one of aesthetics; the four women pose, balance and swing the bags like weightless jewellery on their arms and heads. They continue their reverie — with ever serene nonchalance — in padding their t-shirts with the bags, distorting their bodies to a bloated caricature, and later drawing them out as if by surgical procedure. By confounding reverence for the environment with devotion to one of its principal pollutants, Nauman satirizes our blindness to ecological destruction. The silence finally breaks with a recording of Antonio Vivaldi’s Sileant Zephyri that is itself a musical fragment mourning the death of Christ and its effect on nature. The four women, with their heads covered in plastic bags, are poised individually in a final tableau. As they each lip-synch the recitative (sung by counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky accompanied by Ensemble Artaserse), a sense of calm descends, with only Yung’s hands and fingers showing any vestige of life. 

‘Let the winds be hushed, 
let the fields freeze,
the flowers and leaves will not
be drenched with the water they love. 
With the river dead
even the moon and the sun 
will be deprived of their own light.’

(Translation from the Latin by Pietro Lignola) 


Resolution 2018: The Follow Through Collective, Counterpoint Dance Company, Mil Vukovic Smart

Posted: February 19th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution 2018: The Follow Through Collective, Counterpoint Dance Company, Mil Vukovic Smart

Resolution 2018: The Follow Through Collective, Counterpoint Dance Company and Mil Vukovic Smart.

Terri Biard, Kashish Gaba, Mil Vukovic Smart & Luigi Ambrosio in HILT (photo: Donna Ford)

The purpose of Resolution is to allow choreographers to try out their ideas on a public platform (though its artist-led marketing strategy means audiences are heavily weighted with friends and family). Research and exploration are welcomed as in The Follow Through Collective’s Drowning, which ‘evolved around the subject of marine pollution’. For an ambitious project combining the forces of six musicians, six dancers and the work of visual artist Clara Boulard, Drowning has a single message and a single central image that fit the nature of the work as environmental polemic and proactive appeal. On the corner of the stage is a selection of plastic bottles wrapped for some reason in paper as a reference to the ‘over 51 trillion micro plastic particles’ in which our oceans are drowning. Choreographer Greta Gauhe has harnessed an array of visual and acoustic elements in Drowning to evoke a sense of underwater marine life, from the eddies and currents of the dancers’ movement to the ripples of water on Boulard’s filmed images matching the arms of the dancers. The balance between the island of chamber musicians and the ocean of dancers is more ambiguous, and adding the sound of surf to the chamber strings is aural tautology, but all this becomes secondary to the appearance of a clear plastic bubble with Gauhe trapped inside trying desperately to beat her way out. The suffocating imagery goes to the heart of marine pollution and is thus the true starting point of the work.

From a collection of plastic bottles to a pile of assorted shoes: Simona Scotto’s Journeys of Internal Migration uses shoes as the underlying signifier of migration and identity. In a seamlessly intergenerational cast, performers in bare feet initially gather round the pile of shoes as if around a campfire, reaching in to take out their shoes as stories. Individuals take on the character of their footwear by dancing out their ambulatory and olfactory tales to recorded voice-overs — Bruce Currie the smells and Andy Newman his Doc Martins — and in doing so reveal a breadth of human emotion that belongs to embodied experience. Francis Knight cuts through any pretense of dance by expressing compellingly the value of gesture along with Annabel Knobbs, while Oemi Soeyono dances a delicate, pensive duet with her shoes on her hands. These transactions of sensibilities, generational differences and sexual orientation are some of the personal elements Scotto playfully weaves into her treatment of both internal and external forms of migration. From play arises the sense of humour that pervades the work and draws the audience into the action — particularly in the section of gestural dances to recorded instructions and in the unison patterns that career in new directions like dowsing explorations. Yet underneath the ludic quality lies an altruistic desire to make of migrations not an endless path but a rich and flexible community. Scotto’s achievement is enhanced by the colours of her costumes, the selection of René Aubry’s music and Marine Le Houezec’s carefully focused lighting.

After the ritual tipping out of the audience into the bar, we return to a bare stage and the disembodied voice of former Rambert ballerina Beryl Goldwyn talking to Claire Izzard about dancing the role of Giselle. In a monochrome colour scheme Terri Biard walks in and stands with her back to us; Kashish Gaba strolls in, then Luigi Ambrosio wearing a kilt. When Mil Vukovic Smart joins the group with bare legs in black trunks we are acutely aware of a disconnect with the romantic ballet. Or is there? When the four turn to each other in silence with signs and gestures of alienation — Ambrosio is eloquently withdrawn — it is clear Vukovic Smart’s HILT (with dramaturgical support from Paul Hughes) is not simply inspired by the Mad Scene from Giselle but seeks to recreate the interior landscape of Giselle’s mind that JulZin’s sampled, reverberating extracts from Adam’s original score so eerily suggest. Independent of the ballet’s narrative (that Goldwin has already re-told), Vukovic Smart drills down into the depths of derangement to concentrate on what it might look like just below the surface of the tutus and pointe shoes. In stark red light the four dancers reference a classical ballet class in a key of concentrated distraction to Muse’s rock version of Feeling Good and Biard essays some of Giselle’s choreographic phrases to JulZin’s samples. Elsewhere there are arms like wilted flowers, silent screams, searing suspicion, brooding, gliding monologues, and a febrile energy that overflows in slides, jumps and turns. Biard finally succumbs and is laid to rest, leaving Goldwyn’s voice to remind us of life on the performative surface. In the boldness of its conception and in its sympathetic yet graphic imagination, Vukovic Smart is on to something here, and if HILT isn’t quite fully formed it is tantalizingly close.