London Contemporary Dance School, Postgraduate to Professional

Posted: July 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on London Contemporary Dance School, Postgraduate to Professional

London Contemporary Dance School, Postgraduate to Professional, The Place, June 21

From London Contemporary Dance School's Postgraduate to Professional

Eleanor Sikorski in Comebacks I thought of later (photo: Marta Barina)

The London Contemporary Dance School’s evening of Postgraduate to Professional dance, now in its third year, offers choreography from a current postgraduate student (Marcus Foo), alumni (Feet off the Ground Dance, Helen Cox, and Eleanor Sikorski) and faculty (Mickael Marso Riviere). As an evening of dance it falls somewhere between a showcase for the school and a choreographic platform, but its predictably uneven quality makes it an unwieldy concept.

The first work, Éter, by Feet off the Ground Dance, an all-female group who describe their mission as ‘contact improvisation and partnering for performance’ is just that: contact improvisation and partnering for performance. But where is the performance? Beginnings, as Ben Duke (another graduate of London Contemporary Dance School) quips at the beginning of Paradise Lost as he searches for his place in the text, are vital for capturing the attention of the audience. But the opening minutes of Éter, in which two women inch slowly sideways, on hands and knees, forehead to forehead, along either side of a diagonal shaft of light has little to recommend it but the contact. The lighting is dim and pulsating and the live score is a low-level wash of sound that makes the sensory compass unable to find its bearings. Most significantly the performance appears to extend class-based contact improvisation exercises on to the stage without any spatial framework. The action of Éter develops with two other women, but without the objectivity that an audience brings, the whole never takes on a performative quality. It is significant that the program note lacks any identifying feature of the work.

Foo’s Automaton Animalia is another piece of choreography that starts in the mist and gets lost. The program note is telling: ‘If I look hard enough, if I could will my mind to look beyond the arch, I might still see it. Maybe it’s still there, just not really here anymore.’ There is an archway of crates we can see through a backlit haze, and five performers moving slowly, mysteriously as they dismantle it and reconfigure it. At least there is a visual focus, but the choreographic concept has no legs; it turns on itself with a score that fails to inspire it. Inspire is to ‘breathe in’ and education is to ‘lead out’, but here the breathing is restricted and the exit is obscured. Creation is the victim.

I wrote about Cox’s de/construct after I saw it at Roehampton University’s Footprint Dance Festival earlier this year. Interestingly her program note has changed focus. ‘Reflect on a time in your life when you were in a period of transition. It is sometimes said that this space in between is the most creative, but also the most vulnerable. Using the dancing body, I move through this space, deconstructing routines and listening to the infinite possibilities of what lies between.’ But this version doesn’t take into account the organic, tree-like hemp dress she wears at the beginning, which ties her to the landscape of her original conception. Once she sloughs it off she is wearing everyday clothes that are closer to the idea of a dancing body exploring the creative space. Somewhere in between the two is the true nature of Cox’s work.

Sikorski’s Comebacks I thought of later substitutes a quote from Shelley for a program note: “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” The register is slightly off, for Sikorski’s ‘songs’ are not so much sweet as bitingly funny and the sadness is in her derisive tales of sexual misadventure. Comebacks consists of spoken texts about grunting male chauvinism, minimal musical accompaniment on a portable keyboard, to Sikorski’s vitriolic physical responses to her tales. The poignancy of the performance is as much in the wit of Sikorski’s ribaldry as in her self-deprecatory realization of her inability to think up the comebacks at the moment they were needed. The great strength of Comebacks is in its mastery of the anecdotal form and its scathing celebration of male failings.

Riviere brings the evening to a close with his Éteins Pas, a reworked version of a 2009 piece he made at The Place during Choreodrome. It is inspired ‘by the idea of life after death, with many ideas coming from reading stories about out-of-body experiences.’ Riviere is bold at the beginning to remain supine and motionless for some time; all we hear is the air conditioning. Then he adds the smallest gestures of fingers and hands, ripples through his back to rise on to his knees and to stand, looking slightly sheepish as he looks at us for the first time as if saying, ‘I am not really supposed to be here.’ But having traced his revival with such sensibility, Riviere then subverts it with a display of breaking technique to a driving track by Armand Amar. It comes all too soon and all too easily; Éteins Pas in effect bridges two languages without acknowledging the bridge.

LCDS Undergraduate Show 2016

Posted: February 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LCDS Undergraduate Show 2016

London Contemporary Dance School, Undergraduate Show, The Place, February 3

LCDS undergraduates in Ori Flomin's Things Happen Just (photo: Alicia Clarke)

LCDS undergraduates in Ori Flomin’s Things Happen Just (photo: Alicia Clarke)

Undergraduate shows shift the way dance is usually presented. Choreographers come to set work on students and the school in effect becomes a temporary, and quite unique company. Tonight there are three commissioned works for ensembles but the opening pieces are choreographic miniatures by the students on the BA1 Composition course and the BA2 Music & Choreography course respectively.

As soon as Edward Hookham and Conor Kerrigan begin their It’s Nice, Isn’t It? you feel in safe hands. And Hookham’s hands are large, an extension of long arms that he weaves in articulated patterns around his tall frame. It’s Nice, Isn’t It? is a structured improvisation in which Kerrigan wrily comments on Hookham’s improvisation then Hookham on Kerrigan’s. The two are quite different; Hookham has a languid lyricism while Kerrigan is more compact and forceful (‘aggressive’, suggests Hookham). Kerrigan’s desire to interfere with his friend’s improvisation ‘just to see what will happen’ seems in character. He bumps into him, destabilizes him; Hookham stays low, undeterred, and continues his soliloquy in a smaller space. Both performers come across as relaxed and in tune with each other, performing their material with natural ease. A pleasure to watch.

Not to be outdone by the men, Evelyn Hart and Charlotte McLean munch into cake? what cake? with relish for both the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s cello suite No. 1 in G and for their gestural play. They seem to find in the curves of their short unctuous phrases the curves in the music, and even the playful nibbling routine seems embodied in the score. Designed as ‘an exercise in being in conversation with the music’, it is only three minutes long but its irreverent humour and pluck reverberate long afterwards.

In another exercise, Let in Fall, Daniel de Luca and Bethany Edwards choose to juxtapose their movement to the music of Arvo Pärt’s Für Alina. The juxtaposition nevertheless retains a relationship with the score, a kind of love-hate relationship that juxtaposes less than it aggravates. It’s as if neither de Luca nor Edwards quite know what to do with the music, which sails on notwithstanding.

For Me, You & Us, choreographer Fin Walker reworks the third duet from her 5 2 10 (5 duets, 2 solos and 10 instruments) which she created with composer Ben Park when their company was resident at ROH2. Explaining how 2 became 14, Walker writes, ‘I have taken the concept, ideas, structure and intention and adapted it for this piece.’ The original seven dances were based on the seven chakras, and the third, located in the solar plexus, is the seat of taking action (or not). As Walker writes, ‘At times we are unable to step forward into life, other times we follow an unconscious “doing, doing, doing”.’ It is this contrast on which the choreography focuses. Initially dancers in a line alternate between gestures of still self-reflection and wave-form action but then the fire takes over and the line explodes into wild movement in which someone screams an angry Fuck You! and from which quartets and quintets detach in complex patterns marked with vocal instructions and contrasted stillness. It is not long before the fire burns out and the asymmetric groups reform in the calmness of the orderly opening line. But even if this final poise, reflected in Park’s music, is intended to convey a spiritual resolution, it is the reverberating influence of patterns and energy in Me, You & Us that overwhelm it.

Tom Roden’s Anya speaks and dances for itself. The story of Anya’s life is told from the historical perspective of an older woman through the eyes of her youth in the person of Eleonora Ramsby Herrera. Roden clearly admires Anya’s strength and social conscience (she could be someone he knew well) and invests the work with an appropriate warmth and energy that the entire cast soaks up, in particular Elena Zubeldia Perez who plays Anya’s little sister with a delightful sense of pathos and comic timing. Roden is the dance side of New Art Club, so there is both a choreographic line and a smile that run through the work. Each biographical story is magnified and coloured with songs, text and dance enhanced by Nicole Bowden’s warm-coloured costumes. Roden reveals a company that is unique, varied in size and shape but working together as a regular (as opposed to idealised) social group. Unfortunately such companies don’t exist, but perhaps they should.

The final work is a challenge in its abstraction, its rhythms and its complexity. Even the title, Things Happen Just, is enigmatic, like the earlier Let in Fall. Choreographer Ori Flomin cites the American artist Frank Stella as his inspiration, in particular his ‘layering colours, texture and shapes in a chaotic yet organized way.’ This is exactly how Things Happen Just comes across. If the costumes by Frances Morris provide the colour on which Kyle Olson layers the musical texture, Flomin does the rest. Choreographic meaning is abstracted and form is eviscerated in favour of high voltage dancing and dynamic juxtapositions. Storms evolve out of stillness and gravity is overcome with a thrust that has been lacking all evening. Emma Farnell-Watson stands out but the entire cast manages to create a sense of beauty at the heart of Flomin’s chaos.

LCDS Graduation performances at The Place

Posted: July 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LCDS Graduation performances at The Place

LCDS Graduation performances, The Place, July 7

Going for broke: Laura Lorenzi in Igor and Moreno's Wolves will be watching (photo: Stephen Berkeley-White)

Going for broke: Laura Lorenzi in Igor and Moreno’s Wolves will be watching (photo: Stephen Berkeley-White)

A graduate performance is a form of theatre that can easily lose its shape. Its purpose is to showcase students who have spent the last three years in the school acquiring technique, character and endurance and who are ready to leave the nest. But the choreographers chosen by the school to create vehicles for the graduating students may want to showcase their own work at the expense of highlighting particular qualities in the performers.

This was one of two evenings where all four commissions for graduates were shown together. The concept of Shay Kuebler’s render akin to ‘explore elements of the individual with the group’ promoted the group rather than the individual. The entire cast is costumed in black (by Lydia Cawson) which binds them together visually to the point the individual disappears. Perhaps that is the point, but it’s a shame to hide the talents of someone like Jordan Adjadi whose achievement is nevertheless to shine in a work that sheds no light on the dancers. Renaud Weiser is so caught up in his letters and video in A smile petal that the dancers remain subservient to the concept. Each dancer has a letter affixed to his or her skin; in a line, the dancers spell words or their own names. It might be a good ruse as an exercise at the beginning of the three-year course, but a shame at the end to ignore the movement qualities of dancers like Théo Pendle who is used only enough to show his potential. The final work, Told and Collapsed by Kerry Nichols, is inspired by the last moments of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg before their execution in 1953. It is more menacing in its eclectic score than in the choreography which defaults to a McGregor-like physicality that provides little for the dancers to tackle emotionally. Amongst its complex patterns of duets, however, Mari Ishida is revealed dancing in a way one longs to see in a performance.

At the beginning of the evening there are two miniatures. I imagine Richard Alston’s choreography is de rigeur in a graduation performance at The Place, but it is deceptively difficult to dance well and Hymnos, to the eponymous score by Peter Maxwell Davies, falls rather flat. There is little in Alston’s work beside rigorous musicality and form so it requires a maturity and technical mastery that quickly show up weaknesses in its interpreters if either the one or the other is missing. The second miniature is Twin High Maintenance Machine by Ellen Slatkin and Yue Tong Kwan choreographed to Experiences No. 2 by John Cage with words by e.e. cummings. Slatkin and Kwan are both choreographers and performers of the work, which is a brave choice but as performers they are not challenged by the gestural nature of their duet and as this is a graduation of dancers rather than a choreographic showcase, they fall between two stools.

The one work of the evening that showcases both the dancers and the choreographers is Igor and Moreno’s Wolves Will be Watching. The name and its concept are metaphors for the stage at which the dancers find themselves: naked in experience, open to opportunities and ready to meet the challenges of what lies ahead. At the beginning it is as if the dancers emerge from a state of grace, wandering on stage under subdued lighting to find their clothes in piles against the back wall. The sensuality of the scene takes the breath away and the time the dancers take to help each other into their clothes relaxes us before the outrageously bright lights (on the white stage) and the roaming chorus of screaming. Nothing quite introduces the eight dancers as forcefully as this and they do not hold back. Neither do Igor Urzelai and Moreno Solinas in their uncompromising onslaught on the senses — not least on the sense of humour — and they are helped in this by the visual éclat of the costumes by Sophie Bellin Hansen. Interestingly some of the influences for the work include the worlds of fashion and photography (in particular Guy Bourdin, David Lachapelle and Cindy Sherman) in which a performative element and a whacky imagination are fused. Perhaps there is a natural law at work here because this particular group performing Wolves will be watching includes a lot of the naturally colourful characters in the graduating year. In the course of the work each dancer is given the space to show his or her self and each is challenged by the creative process to establish a strong theatrical presence. They all succeed and one of the delightful surprises (there are many) is Amarnah Osajivbe-Amuludun’s beautiful singing voice. For the audience the work blows apart the formality of the graduation evening and gives us space to delight in all the elements and ideas the work brings to the stage. Igor and Moreno have given a gift to the dancers and through the dancers a gift to the audience.

If these graduate performances represent what the dancers have to show for their three years, they are, with a few exceptions, disappointing. I can’t help feeling the dancers have a lot more to give, that their potential is hardly mined. This phenomenon might well play into the hands of such heavy-hitting choreographers as Akram Khan, Hofesh Schechter and Lloyd Newson whose recent much publicized argument is that the standard of training in the major UK schools is not up to (international) par. Wouldn’t the challenge for this heavily subsidized trio be to devote some of their time to working with the future graduates of these major dance institutions to open their eyes (and bodies) to what might be demanded of them? In an artistic discipline that relies more on example than on rhetoric it would certainly stretch the graduates in the right direction.