Scottish Dance Theatre, Dreamers & Process Day, Dundee Rep, February 12
“Dreams have only one owner at a time. That’s why dreamers are lonely.” – Erma Bombeck
Anton Lachky’s Dreamers woke up last February in a Scottish Dance Theatre double bill with Jo Strømgren’s Winter, Again. Upon first viewing I struggled to see the fit as the pair were too similar — both showcasing lightness, comedy and a hyper-real quality. So I’ve come back to Dreamers to see how it has settled into the bodies of the dancers, into the company and how it sits with a new bedfellow, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Process Day.
Dreamers defines itself as “making sense from nonsense and exploring links between reality and surrealism” and over the course of 35 minutes it delivers its intention well. A police line-up forms the opening image where all nine performers face front and Aya Steigman erupts from the line, fizzes with skittish urgency and delivers a hiphop-laced solo that is startling in its ferocity. This is the opening minute and I wonder whether my eyes can contain or maintain the pace. The invisible energy passed between each of the solo performers is dialled down the further away from the original source we go until everyone has had a chance or two to show us their best moves.
Nothing lingers for too long and at the same time we’re not asked as an audience to invest much either; we see two or three playful examples of what the world might look like if the choreographic power is given over to Audrey Rogero and Francesco Ferrari. The strongest visual memory from my first Dreamers was the face-melting elasticity of Rogero and 12 months on, the malleability, facial contortions and impossibly extended neck stand out again as she out-Doyles Mrs Doyle. Slapstick, physical buffoonery and bodily control are re-employed again and again with Rogero manipulating the remainder of the company at her whim; spinning, flicking, and boot-camping them. As she discovers her power and ability to transform she gifts us one of the most infectious cackles heard on stage.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln
When Ferrari emerges from the pack to take control, he’s barking orders ferociously in an unknown language and basking in the power of controlling the others — apart from when Amy Hollinshead marches out of the line like a rebellious tin soldier, frustrating Ferrari even more.
The lightness and humour shines alongside the musical choices of Bach, Verdi, Chopin and Haydn. Dreamers is a white, crisp, and frothy demonstration of personality, wild abandon and fine dancing.
“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.” – Jean Genet
As night follows day, dark will follow light and Process Day now follows Dreamers.
Are we in Dundee or have we been transported to a Weimar Republic cabaret, a dark world filled with luscious, crepuscular creatures, a place where gender is dissolved and eyes linger on the smallest of details? Eyal and Behar, alongside Ori Lichtik (musician), Rebecca Hytting (assistant and co-costume designer) and Alon Cohen (lighting) create an unsettling environment that either repulses or embraces the eyes that rest on the stage.
Clad in black from foot to ribs and a neutral scrim from the chest upwards, the dancers exist in a quarter light giving the impression of a floating set of torsos and amplified arms which frame and isolate each other like a vogue ball. From the nine performers, Josh Wild (apprentice dancer from London Contemporary Dance School) is a choreographic leech, creeping onto other performers, intruding and creating a series of unwanted duets before blending back into the dark. The dancers seem almost extra human and there’s a striking motif of Matthew Robinson’s controlled head-butting of Jori Kerreman’s stomach – it fits perfectly in this world and is one of the many lingering frescoes which sit amongst the larger-scale ensemble moments.
“So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T. S. Eliot
Cohen’s lighting design aligns well with the choreographic intention; despite the lights being so dim I am noticing the slightest of movements: twitches, ankle rotations and shoulder snaps were pulling my eyes all over the stage as a thin film of haze weighs heavily on the stage.
Classical strings, abrasive bass and relentless synths offer a sonic realm that promotes difficulty. Choreographic difficulty is also on show as not all the dancers are comfortable with this hard, sinewy performance style. Eyal and Behar are a brave choice from Artistic Director Fleur Darkin as they’re asking the dancers a completely different set of choreographic questions from those of Damien Jalet’s Yama, Darkin’s own Miann or Strømgren’s Winter, Again.
“Androgyny is not trying to manage the relationship between the opposites; it is simply flowing between them.” – June Singer
I am sucked into the world of Process Day by the scenographic control that Eyal, Behar and their collaborators have over me. It is satisfying to spend 40 minutes with them in their world of heavy and dark; but if the company does with Process Day what they did with Yama — extending it from an original half bill to a full-length work — now that would be a 30th birthday present worth unwrapping.
(Dreamers and Process Day are on Scottish Dance Theatre’s double bill tonight and tomorrow at Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh)