Resolution 2019: works by Vain, Minogue-Stone and Ben & Fred

Posted: February 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Festival, Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution 2019: works by Vain, Minogue-Stone and Ben & Fred

Resolution 2019: Works by Vendetta Vain, Elliot Minogue-Stone and Ben & Fred, January 29

Isabella Arboleda Tovar and Pauline Thuriot in Sighs, Cries and Lies (photo: Joon-Kim Young)

This year The Place has partnered with, among others, Jackson’s Lane, to cross-fertilize choreography with circus arts at Resolution. It’s a welcome initiative that hopefully develops the gene pool of both choreographic and circus expression rather than simply expanding the catchment area for Resolution’s artists. 

Vee Smith, who performs under the name of Vendetta Vain, trained at the National Centre for Circus Arts and Butterface is her first circus solo work. She is not the first to perform naked on a trapeze (though perhaps the first to do so at Resolution), but she approaches her performance with as little coyness and pudeur as apology. The title of her work is a derogatory noun for ‘an attractive woman with an undesirable face’, which is clearly understood to mean an attractive female body with an undesirable face. Vain makes this point quite evident by hiding her face, for most of the performance, under a muslin concoction tied loosely at the neck to which she attaches false eyelashes and a rude approximation of lips. But while our focus in Butterface is on the body and what Vain does with it, it is on our minds that Vain has focused her argument; the two don’t always acknowledge each other in the formation of her ‘message’.

There are two sets of projected texts, one that is designed to ease Vain into the performance as she enters behind two large feathers, and the other conveys the sexual animosity and stereotyping of the female circus artist as she performs on the trapeze. Because our eyes are watching her rather than the texts on the back wall, there is an argument that Butterface would benefit from Vain speaking the second set of texts while performing. It would give the taping together of her legs, for example, an edge of satirical wit over the comic absurdity of her actions. Vain’s choice of songs (FlawlessPaper Bag and She) show a natural sense of self-deprecatory humour and her subversive intelligence will not suffer fools. It’s a potent mixture.    

Elliot Minogue-Stone is a graduate of the incommensurable Orley Quick and the Hairy Heroines, inviting us in Sighs, Cries and Lies to ‘delve into platitudes, taboos, tangibility, big questions and odd sensations’ with the same lack of disambiguation he once brought to discussing big dogs and screwdriver heads. He takes an important step from performer to choreographer by creating Sighs, Cries and Lies on Isabella Arboleda Tovar and Pauline Thuriot who translate his sense of the absurd into another key. At first it’s a very low key, as the two bounce on to the stage in red shorts, white tops and trainers, arms enigmatically raised in front of their faces. But as Tovar begins to deck the stage in a wealth of props from a bright red shopping basket, the key begins to modulate. Sighs, Cries and Lies is not a work that can be defined by its external shape but by the paths that run through its apparent chaos, a physical grammar of associations and collisions that offer a fractured landscape of vulnerability. You make of it what you will; its meaning coalesces around a free association of props, popular songs, wit and repartee that Tovar and Thuriot weave into an emotional pattern that ultimately holds them — and us — together. 

Ben & Fred’s The Juggling of Science brings together two jugglers, Frederike Gerstner and Ben Nicholson, in a light-hearted introduction to quantum physics. The recorded voice of Professor Circumference introduces his two understudies with the tone of Listen with Mother but the principles in ‘possibly the most fun science lecture you could hope to see’ are staged rather than heard. Gerstner is a scientist in a white lab coat at her desk waiting for Dr. Dextrose (Nicholson), to arrive. With their wit and an ability to illustrate complex scientific notions like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the construction of an atom, dark matter and neutrinos through juggling, Gerstner and Nicholson have created a gem of crossover stimulation. The problem is that the crossover bypasses almost completely the choreographic nature of Resolution’s program. In his collaborations with Seeta Patel and Alexander Whitley, Sean Gandini has shown how the disciplines of juggling and dance can learn from and stimulate each other, but The Juggling of Science frames itself resolutely and unapologetically within science; it’s not a question of the excellence of the work but of the programming choices of this ‘festival of new choreography’.

Natalie Reckert: Image

Posted: April 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Natalie Reckert: Image

Natalie Reckert, Image, Jacksons Lane, April 18

Natalie Reckert

Natalie Reckert

Natalie Reckert graduated from Circus Space in 2007 with hand balancing as a main discipline. Wanting to broaden her horizons, she spent a year at a dance school in her native Germany called Visions in Motion. Back in the UK she has performed with Stumble Dance Circus, The Sugar Beast Circus, The Generating Company and Collectif and Then (also on this Jacksons Lane Frantic Evening program with Acrojou). Image is, I believe, Reckert’s first attempt at creating a solo that brings together her skills and experience. ‘The desire to make a solo show came out of the research project Labor Cirque in Köln in 2013, an interdisciplinary attempt to understand the composition, dramaturgy and specific movement vocabulary of contemporary circus.’

Her skills in hand balancing are phenomenal and she is bubbling with ideas and ‘stability experiments’ to try out in front of us. At the very beginning she banishes us to the lobby with instructions to return after a minute. ‘It’s a social experiment,’ she says later. When we return she is standing on her hands and remains so until we are all seated and quiet (some time). Reckert has enough air in her lungs to maintain a monologue in whichever orientation she happens to be, and her monologue is carefully conceived to act as a rhythmic device for her performance. Phrases will repeat (‘My name is Natalie and I like doing handstands’) with engaging self-confidence and delivered with a devilishly dry sense of humour.

She has a predilection for stalking upside down amongst a dozen eggs with an accuracy of a mother hen (her agility has a birdlike quality) and to prove they are raw she deliberately falls on them one collapsing, messy handstand after another, like Michael Strecker sitting on the balloons in Tanztheater Wuppertal’s Auf dem Gebirge. But Pina Bausch framed Strecker’s actions in a surreal setting with a surreal costume and he is deadpan in his delivery. Also there is very little skill in popping a balloon by sitting on it. Reckert’s skill is evident in making the handstand and she is breaking the eggs to make a point. There is no point in Strecker’s act; that’s the point. Reckert also dances in Image, though she limits her movements to a gestural language that she performs upright and upside down to an electronic beat.

Now for an apparently controversial aspect. At the beginning of Image Reckert pulls from the wings a paper confection in the form of a flat-topped pyramid. When the time comes she drags it to centre stage and sets to ripping off the paper to reveal….a handstand table with its instantly recognizable invitation to perform a specific circus skill. Why is this controversial? She tells me afterwards that her fellow circus graduates are sharply divided as to whether to admit to the stage the props on which they learned their art or to leave them off (it would certainly be easier for Reckert to abandon the handstand table than for Collectif and Then to abandon their ropes or for Acrojou to abandon their German Wheel). Reckert decides to keep it in Image and performs some remarkable balances on it while keeping up her monologue or dancing her legs and a free arm with the coordination of a conductor, but whatever she does cannot hide the unmistakable circus signpost. It is as if she is still pulled between the desire to perform the skills she has learned so well and the desire to find a new form for her circus art.

Thinking of Bausch again, I wonder if before the form must come a creative, imaginative process to bring out unique elements within Reckert that will allow her physical skills to coalesce into an engaging, funny, visually coherent, skillful whole. She is quite capable of it; we all have many images, and this is only her first.