Resolution! 2014: Vais, Burn, Clark

Posted: February 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2014: Vais, Burn, Clark

Resolution! 2014, The Place, January 29

Rachel Burn, Threshold (photo: Ben Hopper)

Rachel Burn, Threshold (photo: Ben Hopper)

Culture Device Dance Project: I can’t explain and I won’t even try

An arm extends from the wings, a waking arm stretching out in the morning light, followed by the rest of John Livingston. He seems to be in close and intimate conversation with the light around him (provided by Maria Klochkova), his gestures close and passionate, catching the air in his fist and pulling it down, unrolling his arm and slowly revealing his face in his ‘circle of public solitude’. He revels in being upside down, his head as anchor and his leg pointing up in the air like an exclamation mark. As he gets up, Sarah Gordy enters with an altogether more dynamic phrase, gyrating like a gentle hoola-hoop. Livingston searches, pushes back, grasps at questions and twists his body as if squeezing out the answers. Gordy is already grounded, her legs bent deeply to the floor and her body freely laid out above, her arms circling as if to test the limits of her senses, making a wide sweep around Livingston. He expresses each gesture with timeless concentration, acting and reacting in a moving dialogue. When something doesn’t quite succeed, one can sense his determination to follow it through to its logical conclusion, like one straining to express his words and meaning clearly. At the end of this first section he falls and rises again while Gordy continues to orbit like a planet circling the internal combustion of its star.

The dreamlike drone of Stars of the Lid changes to a slow-drilling techno pulse by Emptyset. Both Livingston and Gordy are rooted to the ground, their gestures becoming more forceful. Livingston throws off his t-shirt while Gordy pushes and pulls at an imaginary boundary. The drama in Livingston’s dialogue notches up in intensity as if he’s turning the screw tighter; Gordy watches him with concern as she continues to orbit, picking up on the repetitive, mechanical nature of the music. There are magical moments when their two independent worlds unite for an instant in a complementary movement that jumps out of the soundscape like a spark but finally the symbiosis fails, their energy is depleted and they both collapse to the ground — only, one imagines, for the time it takes to gather up the resources to start again.

Culture Device Dance Project is a professional company for dancers with Down’s Syndrome using improvisation techniques and experimental electronic sounds to push boundaries. I can’t explain and I won’t even try was developed by artistic director Daniel Vais in collaboration with the dancers.

Rachel Burn, Threshold

I first saw Rachel Burn’s work at a Cloud Dance Sunday. It was Pull Through, Flick, which had a monastic, spiritual underpinning that is still present in Threshold but here Burn is inspired by Walt Whitman’s free-ranging lines in Leaves of Grass — particularly Song of Myself. When you travel from Pull Through, Flick to Threshold you realise how much the ‘self’ that Whitman writes about has imbued Burn’s ‘self’ to create a more confident and poetic universe as if she had developed his ‘loosen’d tongue’. Given that she created the work on the same three dancers — Lauren Bridle, Laura Erwin and Anna Pearce — the work also reflects their emotional and physical stretching. (Only three days before the Resolution! performance, Erwin broke three bones in her foot during rehearsal and was unable to perform, so we saw a stunningly composed — and sleepless — Burn herself as both muse and interpreter. Whitman’s line of the poem that is chalked on the floor could have been dedicated to Erwin: ‘Be of good cheer, we will not desert you’).

The work is episodic in the same way Whitman weaves one image or story into another, each linked to the others by his understanding of the essential unity of person and environment. Renu Hossain’s lovely score seems to be inspired by the same humanist spirituality, supporting the key elements of the sea, the earth and the air. In each of her performers, Burn brings out individual strengths to match: Pearce turns herself inside out in her solo, arriving at a oneness with her material that is timeless and it is lovely once again to watch Bridle whose ability to transcend form is ever present; she is like water to Pearce’s earth. As for Burn herself, when not joining in the trios she seems quite at home as the statuesque, white-robed goddess with the delicately supplicating arms.

There is so much to enjoy in this sculptural work that it deserves a more sensitive treatment in terms of light and shade. Verse is read while choreography is essentially a visual art and paintings may be an appropriate inspiration for this further refinement. Perhaps by the time Erwin’s foot is healed there will be time (and funding) to explore.

Rag Days: Scratch

Choreographer Timothy Clark and designer Emma Robinson close the evening with Scratch, a burlesque loosely fashioned on the antics of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their companion April O’Neil.  In the opening scene, the four comrades (Ben Jones, Hannah Rotchell, Henry Curtis and João Cidade) are drilled by O’Neil (Patricia Zafra) as overbearing, over-the-top martial arts instructor. They have names that sound like The Whip, Morphine, Blue Mix and Red Lance and together they form the intrepid band of Dance Rangers battling evil — in the form of a manic, radio-controlled model car in satanic colours that races around the stage causing havoc — for the good of humanity. Off duty, they tend to talk all at once, or riff a cappella on their names. Clark is never at a loss for comic invention and keeps the audience entertained (i.e. laughing) throughout. According to Rag Days’ facebook page, Clark formed his company with the noble purpose of ‘making accessible dance works for the purpose of entertainment’, so Scratch certainly succeeds even if there is very little dance — accessible or otherwise — in it. Dramatic confrontation with Evil is finally averted by an enterprising Dance Ranger switching off the car to a rousing round of congratulations and a lot of energetic posing and fists in the air. The audience can’t help but respond in kind.






Cloud Dance Sundays

Posted: June 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Cloud Dance Sundays

Cloud Dance Sundays, Lion & Unicorn, Kentish Town, May 19

Bravo to Chantal Guevara for getting Cloud Dance Sundays ( underway, aiming to provide ‘monthly evenings of good contemporary dance in the comfort of a cosy pub – a great way to end the week, with time for a drink or two downstairs before heading home.’ On this first outing:

Rachel Burn, Pull Through, Flick.

Anna Pearce and Lauren Bridle in Pull Through, Flick. Photo: Chantal Guevara

Anna Pearce and Lauren Bridle in Pull Through, Flick. Photo: Chantal Guevara

One can almost feel cold flagstones underfoot in the tiny Giant Olive theatre in Kentish Town’s Lion & Unicorn as a sweeping trio of pre-Raphaelite women enters with the somberness of a procession of nuns. Rachel Burn’s Pull Through, Flick builds up images of darkness, pain, and penitence as the women shed and share veils in communal bereavement. Hildegard von Bingen’s O Pastor Animarium sets the tone as the shape of Lauren Bridle, shrouded in a veil, moves in a grey ecclesiastical light, shuffling from one foot to the other as if loosening her roots. Laura Erwin takes the pose of a classical orator with one hand on stomach and the other at her throat, unable to breathe, unable to speak, a blur of pain as Bridle and Anna Pearce coil around each other and around the stage in mutual support. The tone of Pull Through, Flick is predominantly mournful and the score between the glorious von Bingen bookends does not relieve the gloom, but somewhere in the middle Bridle slips into a stormy, spiral solo that releases a sense of light as if she holds some ineffable secret. Her beautiful lines and circles last momentarily but when she rejoins Pearce and Erwin on their knees and the night of penitence, cleansing and submission descends again, the knowledge of that solo pulls me through. Not a flick exactly, and I’m not sure about the hope, but there was a moment of light.

John Ross, Man Down.

John Ross in Man Down. Photo: Chantal Guevara

John Ross in Man Down. Photo: Chantal Guevara

As John Ross kneels in a pool of light, the voice of Matthew Lackford reads the opening paragraph of a letter from the platoon commander of a soldier killed in Afghanistan to the soldier’s mother. Ross replays the soldier’s last moments in a series of abstract gestures — kneeling, crawling, urging, now standing, crumpling, turning — that he imbues with a maturity (gained perhaps through his research) that transforms these gestures into a commanding presence, a commanding officer: signaling, enjoying the danger, throwing himself out of harm’s way, then getting up and seeing it coming. Hit, he crumples, hands to ears, muffling the sounds of gunfire and perhaps hearing the urgent shouts of “Where, where, where?” but unable to respond. We are inside his head, aware of his mortality. Ross stands up looking back at where the fallen soldier lay. He is now the platoon commander, bravado gone, standing at ease with his troops, 19-year old boys any of whom could become, like their former colleague, a dead man. He looks away, tries to take it all in and throws up; he looks for memories, for friends, but finds only a nightmare of loss, throwing up again and violently throwing himself to the ground. Ross shows the reaction to the violent death of a comrade is more violent than the experience of death itself. Defeated by the loss, the violence, the brutality, the commander’s eyes — and Ross’s — seem to have seen what ours have not. He stands, takes off his top and turns his back, on which is written across his shoulder blade Bang! and a small hole just behind the heart: expressing the inexpressible. The performance is not only remarkable for its maturity and in avoiding any cloying sentimentality, but for the sound collage in which Ross has seamlessly layered a grungy, churned up track from Nine Inch Nails with his own thoughtful instrumentation and battleground sounds. A gem.

Tom Jackson Greaves, Vanity Fowl

Tom Jackson Greaves in Vanity Fowl. Photo: Chantal Guevara

Tom Jackson Greaves in Vanity Fowl. Photo: Chantal Guevara

Vanity Fowl follows an ordinary man, full of the usual insecurities that affect us all. A man who craves love, friendship and the need to belong…’ So begins the program note, with a title that could have come straight from early Matthew Bourne. In fact Tom Jackson Greaves has danced with New Adventures and Vanity Fowl was the runner up in the New Adventures Choreography Award last year, but although there is certainly something of Bourne in Vanity Fowl, Greaves has a sincerity and a self-deprecating sense of humour that sets him apart. His style does not wander far from his own physical capabilities, and its idiosyncrasy may prove to be limiting when he creates on other bodies, but here he is on his own territory creating on himself an imaginary rite of passage in three movements, which he labels Commonplace, Grace, and Disgrace. These designations are misleading: the trajectory is from gauche and stammering to rousingly articulate and back to self doubt and despair.

The context is set in a filmed introduction, a chic bar peopled with the stylish and the beautiful, where Greaves appears underdressed and out of character with everyone dancing around him. He catches the eye of an impossibly vain man who comes up to shake his hand and ridicule his appearance. This is the point at which Greaves comes on stage to prolong the handshake so we see only his reactions to the unseen man’s overarching snobbery and withering assessment. Greaves’ timing and squirming responses are very funny as he is skewered to the dance floor. The middle, transformative section begins with a Cinderella moment in his flat when he takes from his cupboard and puts on a handsome mirror jacket (courtesy of Theo Clinkard). His inhibitions fall away and he returns to the chic bar to dance his dreams. This is Greaves giving his all, and he does it effectively until the mirrored jacket falls apart, like the clock striking midnight. Self-doubt assails him once again as he props up his smiling face in his framed hands, removes his jacket and curls up on what is left of it in the dying light: not so much disgrace as sincerity about the superficial.