Resolution 2019: works by Lam, Rouzet and Martinez, and Vivas

Posted: February 21st, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Festival, Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution 2019: works by Lam, Rouzet and Martinez, and Vivas

Resolution 2019: works by Heather Lam, Rouzet and Martinez, and Mara Vivas, February 12

Resolution 2019_Vivas
Publicity images from Heather Lam, Rouzet and Martinez, and Mara Vivas

One can almost sense the curatorial hand putting these three works together on an apparent theme of insubstantiality. Hazel Lam ‘aims to highlight the power in gentleness’; Laura Rouzet and Alejandro Martinez set out to explore ‘genderless movement’ and Mara Vivas translates time into space. This is not so much a program of action but one of reflection where dance evolves from the physical to the metaphysical. In reality it is only Vivas who follows through by refusing to compromise.

It’s the set of Heather Lam’s Lighthouse that initiates us to the nature of the evening, a suspended forest of translucent soft pvc tubes arranged like the tentacles of underwater sculptures. Just upstage the seated figure of Lam sways in the tide to the chatter of the arriving audience until the lighting of Bert Van Dijck and Margot Jensens submerges us in this marine environment. Lam indulges in some innocent foreplay discovering the translucent tubes in which — a little disingenuously — she sets up some doubt as to the strength and reliability of the material. Only then does she give it her full weight and confidence as she climbs up, rolls down, and uses its pliability to create aerial shapes that offer a quiet meditation on the ability of the suspended body to express its equilibrium. Max Morris sets his score to the same register, creating with Lam what she sets out to achieve. And yet there is an underlying irony in the work that flaws its conception: Lam’s dependence for her ‘power of gentleness’ on a material that in the form of waste is suffocating our oceans and the balance of its ecosystem; there is a clash of ideas that are too mutually opposed to be overlooked. 

While the premise of Rouzet and Martinez swirls around its title, Ondule, only the opening matches its physicality. The couple is seen in a genderless mass eerily joined at the head in a costumed fringe so the two bodies behave as one. But the desire to extrapolate the idea into separate solos of popping, voguing and dancehall immediately exposes the gender patterns inherent in their respective movement; keeping their heads wrapped in material can’t hide what’s going on below. Rouzet’s costumes, set and projections are elaborate and Martinez is responsible for the lighting: they’re working hard and meticulously but the idea of genderless movement has escaped their scrutiny.  

Mara Vivas’ time/less is a courageous meditation on loss that carves absence out of the stage volume by translating time into space. The opening is sublime, with two women (Lynn Dichon and Tara Silverthorn) in Matthias Strahm’s burnt ochre dresses like classical sculptures in an asymmetrical relationship to one another, unable to move under the weight of grief. Where does movement come from, how does it manifest in the body and why? These are questions the two women seem to ponder for some time in silence; there are no shortcuts and Vivas is not interested in choreographic platitudes. The miracle is that we can’t decode a point of departure any more than we can see a fever passing; there is no intention, only an emotion that uncannily becomes motion. Silverthorn follows an invisible sinuous path in silent steps and as the dance develops the two women invoke each other and perhaps comfort each other in the sharing of the grief that has become the space between them. Silence becomes physical too, and just where we need some air Vivas introduces Filipe Sousa’s soundscape like a breath of light. If there is a weakness in time/less it’s that the solemnity that underpins its formality is sometimes undermined by the process of improvisation that helped create the work. The materials are all there and the landscape is carefully delineated but the fine line between the freedom to act out of inspiration and the constraints of formal expression are demanding — but not implacable — partners.

Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform

Posted: May 11th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform

Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform, Testbed 1 @ The Doodle Bar, Battersea, May 6

Konstantina Skalionta and Lucia Schweigert

Konstantina Skalionta and Lucia Schweigert (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

The Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform is ‘a new dance platform showcasing topical, physical and experimental dance works by emerging female choreographers.’ Its two producers are Konstantina Skalionta and Lucia Schweigert and this is their second event (a third is being planned for November). In a competitive cultural environment where initiatives seem to come to fruition or quietly die by virtue of their success or failure at the hands of Arts Council funding, it is heartening to find such entrepreneurs taking their dreams into their own hands and finding a way to make them work. There is no home theatre so the platform is conceived to take place in spaces not traditionally intended for dance. This one, part of Wandsworth Fringe 2015, is at Testbed1 @ The Doodle Bar in an old industrial building just behind the Royal College of Arts campus in Battersea. Three traps of black Marley on a concrete floor with vertically hung, coloured neon tubes mark the stage area but dancers are not confined to this. In other spaces of the building there are film projectors and fabric installations (by Bea Bonafini and Laura Elias) so the audience can mill around during the event.

Giulia Tacconi in Chance (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

Giulia Tacconi in Chance (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

I was only able to attend the dress rehearsal so I missed the full promenade performance by Giulia Tacconi called Chance in which she dances around, amongst and with audience members. ‘When our body scans and researches movement, the most interesting and satisfying moments are the moments of surprise when the body creates new actions, gestures and feelings. They are so-called ‘chances’… From what I understand in talking with Tacconi, the ‘surprise’ is in both the body of the dancer and of the audience member with whom she chooses to interact: improvised contact in which both dancer and audience emerge with new experiences. Sorry I missed it.

Mara Vivas in Trace (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

Mara Vivas in Trace (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

The first work on the program is a solo, Trace, conceived and danced by Mara Vivas and inspired by photographer Jon Crispin’s Willard Asylum Suitcase Project in which he has photographed suitcases stored in the Asylum long after the deaths of their owners. Photography is all about memory, a sliver of experience that remains alive for as long as the photograph lasts. In Crispin’s project he is not only recording the present but opening up the past. Vivas translates the suitcase into a freestanding dress (conceived by Matthias Strahm) in which she is both the contents and their stored memories. It is an idea that translates beautifully into dance and Vivas has the clarity of language to bring it to haunting reality. Her strong features remind me of photographs of Frida Kahlo and the intriguing black dress she wears has a bodice with vertical grillwork reminiscent of a cell door. Vivas traces memory, fixing her eyes on the past and using her arms as feelers around her, at one moment obsessively picking out details of her dress and at another searching space for a familiar compass sighting. She is both constrained by her dress and then excitedly dances it to a Hugo Diaz tango. There is a weight in her presence and a lightness in her sensibility as she sails out over the water, finally stepping out of her dress on to dry land and releasing the memories; she has gone but the dress and its traces remain.

Vasanthi Argouin, Francesca Sgolmin and Rosa Manzi Reid in Contemplating Distraction (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

Vasanthi Argouin, Francesca Sgolmin and Rosa Manzi Reid in Contemplating Distraction (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

Rosa Manzi Reid’s Contemplating Distraction ‘explores the close relationship between focus and distraction in improvisation.’ The three performers — Reid, Vasanthi Argouin and Francesca Sgolmin — form Rian Dance. Coincidentally, ‘rian’ is an Irish word that means ‘trace’ or a path made by the passage of movement. The three women enter one by one and sit quietly on chairs as if in a waiting room. The movement is minimal, starting with half a smile and a surreptitious gaze and accumulating with successively larger movements of hand and body set to a musical hum arranged by Jonjo Keefe. Contemplating Distraction has a clear grammar with points of emphasis and stasis that keep it moving along its path in a playful way until it wanders off beyond the iron columns and the lights. All that is missing is the alchemy of presence that invests each gesture with a meaning beyond its physical expression.

Agnese Lanza and Julie Havelund in Acts of Attending (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

Agnese Lanza and Julie Havelund in Acts of Attending (photo: Abigail Yue Wang)

In Acts of Attending Julie Havelund and Agnese Lanza draw inspiration from their audience through observation. As there were only two photographers and a ahandful of artists watching, their rehearsal may not be representative of their performance but they demonstrated the idea. ‘We take information from what we see, what we hear and what is around us and elaborate them through movement.’ Lanza holds a voice recorder as the two stand together on stage observing and recording the detailed movement and attributes of (in this case) the cameraman. They had previously recorded their observations of the space in which they will be performing and it is these two recordings that form the aural structure of their ‘elaboration.’ It is part of their Interpares Project which ‘allows a sense of “inter-pares” between ourselves and the shared space to emerge from the work.’ Spatial observation is one thing, spatial awareness another; it is these two elements that play with each other and sometimes in contradistinction during the performance. The use of Handel’s Lascia Ch’io Pianga suspends the space on another dimension but the choreography here remains grounded. Then we are back to the physical attributes of the cameraman that Lanza and Havelund enact from their recording before switching off the recorder and turning out the lights. Perhaps it is the quantitative rather than qualitative approach to their observation that restricts their response; something is holding them back, but it may again be the lack of a sufficient pool of human material.

Another coincidence of the platform is that one of the two films on show is about observation and movement. The Body Canvas, co-directed by Julie Schmidt Andreasen (who danced in Mara Vivas’ Triptych at Resolution! 2015) and Paul Vernon, makes a compelling visual link between the graphic artist’s eye and the dancer’s body: both are performing and the film is in turn a performance of their interaction, a depiction of the body drawn in space. The other film is Urban Constellations by Fenia Kotsopoulou in which dance and urban space are juxtaposed: wildness of movement against a concrete landscape, improvisation against choreographed architecture. The screen is divided by a line that descends slowly over the course of the four-minute film like an image being scanned; above is black and white that slowly displaces the colour. The Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform moves in the other direction, displacing the black and white of cultural expectations with the colour of creative realization. Bravo.


Resolution! 2015: New Tapestry, Mara Vivas, .2Dot

Posted: February 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2015: New Tapestry, Mara Vivas, .2Dot

Resolution! 2015, New Tapestry, Vivas, .2Dot, The Place, February 19

Hege Eriksdatter Østefjells in Potatoes & Sauce (photo: Andreas Bergmann)

Hege Eriksdatter Østefjells in Potatoes & Sauce (photo: Andreas Bergmann)

Resolution! is The Place’s annual festival of new works presented by a range of diverse emerging dance artists…For every evening of the festival there are three short pieces where you get to see a snapshot of brand new work.

I put the above introduction from The Place website as a starting point for this piece because I am confused about the nature of Resolution! It seems less a ‘festival of new works’ than a festival of choreographic ideas in search of a work. On the other hand there are some works — like Hannah Buckley’s Woman with Eggs and .2Dot’s I’m sorry you’re leaving — that are not ‘snapshots of brand new work’ but the brand new work itself. So does Resolution! encourage the making of new works or the experimentation with choreographic ideas and form? If the former, not all the works on show appear complete, and if the latter, what is the difference between Resolution! and The Place Prize competition which is currently calling for choreographic ideas to be developed into new work?

But back to this evening: the more I think about New Tapestry’s Potatoes & Sauce the more complex I realise it is. It begins by concentrating our attention on the tactile sensation of skin on plastic as Hege Eriksdatter Østefjells’ feet and hands explore a rectangle of plastic sheet taped to the floor like an elongated entrance mat. This relates not only to Østefjells’ subsequent aerial work for which she uses a cascade of plastic tubing but also to the first section of (rather indistinct) recorded fragments that originate in coma dreams. There is thus a double suspension in which the dreams float in the air while Østefjells’ body appears to float and swim in a vertical current. The score by Tim Hecker adds another level of mystery to the eerie weightlessness of the whole that plays a gentle dance on the imagination. It is only the manipulation (and sound) of the tubes as Østefjells prepares a body or foothold that reminds us of the mechanics of aerial work but Potatoes & Sauce (the title is somewhere in the coma dream, too) is a welcome exploration of an under-appreciated dimension for dance.

Elisabeth Schilling, Julie Schmidt, Fabiola Santana in Triptych (photo: Karolina Bajda)

Elisabeth Schilling, Julie Schmidt and Fabiola Santana in Triptych (photo: Karolina Bajda)

Mara Vivas’ Triptych uses memory rather than text as the driver and keeps the physical language unflinchingly minimal. The three women (Elisabeth Schilling, Julie Schmidt and Fabiola Santana) are standing in a single sidelight almost shoulder-to-shoulder with their backs to us as we return to our seats. An unintended consequence of the material and fit of the costumes (by Susanne Stangl) is that the nervous muscle activity of the women’s bodies as they wait to start sets up a trembling choreography of its own on the surface of the fabric (the slow gestural arm movements that begin this triptych of three graces seem huge by comparison). Not wanting to suggest any narrative or direction Vivas keeps our focus on the three bodies as one moving sculpture by keeping their gestures in a similar register but at the same time the three women are subtly playing with their spatial relation to one other; at first they remain united, but as the work progresses their gestures interact, touch, break off and follow individual paths. The gestural language is also related to time; it is as if Vivas has slowed down the heartbeat of the work to focus on the here and now but the women cannot keep from straying — be it to the past or the future — from the sculptural continuum. This is partly intentional and partly unintentional: the attention given to gesture does not always extend to the dancers’ eyes which at times are commenting on the performance rather than expressing the choreography. Nevertheless the choreographic idea remains valid and intact.

Angela Frampton, Roger Cox, Jill Connick and Gilly Hanna in I'M sorry you're leaving (photo: Karolina Bajda)

Angela Frampton, Roger Cox, Jill Connick and Gilly Hanna in I’m sorry you’re leaving (photo: Karolina Bajda)

I’m sorry you’re leaving by .2Dot (the duo of Antonio Branco and Riccardo Tarocco) is dance theatre with a rich — not to mention mature — imagination for four exceptional performers: Jill Connick, Roger Cox, Angela Frampton and Gilly Hanna. Based on their lives and stories, it builds on the celebration of the art of age that the Elixir Festival featured last year. The program note reads in part, ‘Real people, with real stories, doing real dances.’ The three ladies in I’m sorry you’re leaving hold nothing back in their embrace of their roles — even if they are telling their own stories — and I can’t help feeling they are giving a fuller account of themselves than they would off stage. As Hanna explains in her guide to introducing yourself, ‘Give an audience an insight into what excites you.’ Roger Cox is less demonstrative but his calm, sometimes diffident exterior and dry humour is a natural counterbalance to the ladies. The stories they each tell, both poignant and funny, have the immediacy of truth delivered in circumstances and (wonderful) costumes that are pure theatre, but their dances and songs are real: Connick’s tap routine, Hanna’s dance to Holding out for a hero, Frampton’s cover of Frank Sinatra’s Fly me to the moon and Cox’s tango with Hanna are highlights of a work that Branco and Tarocco have clearly had fun making. I’m sorry you’re leaving, too; it seems all too soon. Perhaps if the idea had come later you might have made the selection process for The Place Prize. What’s the difference again?