Resolution! 2016, performances on February 9

Posted: February 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2016, performances on February 9

Resolution! 2016, Drishti Dance, Bridget Lappin, Laura Obiols

Anuradha Chaturvedi of Drishti Dance (photo: Sarah Jex)

Anuradha Chaturvedi of Drishti Dance (photo: Sarah Jex)

This evening of Resolution! begins with an exposition of Kathak by Drishti Dance, a trio of choreographer Anuradha Chaturvedi and dancers Meena Anand and Shyam Patel. Antaraal is a work that weaves choreography with music and verse in which all three elements span two cultures: Chaturvedi is based in Reading but brings her knowledge and mastery of Kathak from Lucknow in India; the score is shared between Oxford-based Malcolm Atkins and Lucknow-based Ustad Gulshan Bharati, while the verse is from Mohan Rana, a Hindi poet living in Bath. Antaraal is thus a meditation on the diaspora life, rooted in tradition while adapting to a new cultural context, a place where ‘movement is caught between two worlds, one dead and the other yet to be born.’ To my Western eye, however, the elements of gesture, rhythm and costume in Antaraal speak of an unequivocal, and very much living, Indian experience, so it is difficult to know what is ‘dead’ and what is ‘yet to be born.’ Perhaps in placing Kathak in the service of both Eastern and Western musical rhythms Chaturvedi is suggesting a journey between the two, somewhere between departure and arrival. But what my memory retains are the floating, sinuous gestures of the three dancers, their poise, the clarity of their facial expressions and the rhythmical hand and footwork responding both intimately and animatedly to the music.

There we have stopped, while the world stands still,
and the endless days that were following us, too have stopped.
There we stand, meeting after a long time,
in a conversation that catches an unfinished past.
Having moved far, been lived, told, and retold
our story is now hand in hand with emptiness,
and we’re left
pondering an elusive end.

  • Mohan Rana (translation: Mohan Rana & Georgina Tate)

Dressed in layers of black against a black backdrop on a black floor seems a paradoxical way of establishing the art of exposure but Bridget Lappin relishes the challenge, bringing her bright gaze to the darkness around her in The Art of Exposure. There is no credit for lighting but the timeless beginning — a very gradual sensitizing of our eyes to Lappin’s still, shadowy, spectral form — and her mysterious disappearance at the end are beautifully staged. Camouflage is central to the work, and Lappin refers in her program note to a 17th-century Ninja manual on the art of concealment, Shoninki, but she spends the entire performance shedding her camouflage just enough to establish it, teasing us with her ability to materialize out of the dark and leave an indelible image. She does this by taking on the disguise of first a ninja, then, by replacing her warrior mask with a touch of lipstick, a woman and finally (as in Young Galaxy’s track) ‘just a body’ — what she describes as ‘deceptions in an act of self-preservation against her environment.’ Her movements are at once assured and mysteriously quiet, clear and off-balance, her gestures fast and complex. In the half-light the outlines of her body are erased so all we see of her is bare hands and face, or, in the final stage, her bare back inside the v-shaped opening of her unitard. It is the art of exposure by stealth and suggestion and it is remarkably persuasive.

The final work, Laura Obiols’ Hourglass, is ‘a journey with Lilly to explore growing up in a society full of expectations and fear of taking risks, where time seems to be chasing you.’ Obiols pulls together elements of biography like a magician conjuring rabbits out of a hat: the talking shoes and boots setting up the family story at the beginning (set design by Michelle Bristow), Lilly’s transformation from young girl to a young woman and the appearance of characters one after the other from behind a sofa. We first see Lilly in the person of Betty Toogood Sayers sitting long-legged on the floor writing in a diary while her father, James Finnemore, is (so we learn from the voiceover) going through a bad phase. Lilly is unaware of his anxt-ridden, gravity-laden solo and runs to be picked up on his shoulders. By sleight of hand she grows into Léa Tirabasso but then things start to get fuzzy. Michael James Gilbert is someone she picks up (or he picks her up) at a club but it is not clear for whom he is performing. Rosie Terry makes an appearance as a friend and then Kieran Page dressed like Terry replaces her from behind the sofa to offer Lilly his hand. The three men in Lilly’s life bear an uncanny resemblance to each other, which is confusing; they are distinguished more by their respective dance genres than by their characters. Only Tirabasso remains her growing or shrinking self, and there is a tantalizing moment after the four adult characters manipulate her like a spinning compass when I thought for sure she would dance a trembling apotheosis but she is interrupted and never gets to express herself in maturity.

It is an analogy for Hourglass itself; with the exception of the two underused musicians — Nuria Sobrino on piano and Charlie Stock on viola — the talents of her cast and the input of her production team appear to have turned Obiols in different directions: beside some lovely symbolism and imagination there are elements of over-literal storytelling and patchwork dance: building blocks but not yet architecture.


GOlive in Oxford

Posted: July 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on GOlive in Oxford

GOlive, Burton Taylor studio, Oxford Playhouse, July 18

Susan Kempster in My Own Private Movie (photo: Maurizio Malangone)

Susan Kempster in My Own Private Movie (photo: Maurizio Malangone)

Critic turned critic-entrepreneur Donald Hutera is creating and curating opportunities for dancers to perform who might otherwise have few occasions to show their work. Oxford is a first for GOlive and there is a further outing at the Chesil Theatre in Winchester on July 24. The venues are small — the original GOlive venue at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town holds 60 people and the Burton-Taylor studio seats 50 — but their intimacy works well for the small-scale works Hutera is presenting. One of the advantages of this proximity is the value given to the subtleties of communication; there are elements of this evening’s program that provide a master class in the art of integrating the head and eyes in the moving body, a vital aspect that is all too often overlooked in dance training.

When Anuradha Chaturvedi performs her solo, Quicksilver, to a score by Jeremy Thurlow, her dancing is not only attuned rhythmically to the music but has a refreshing clarity of expression because her eyes, head and hands are in constant communication with the rest of her body. She gives the impression of being centred and focused from within and there is a direct line of communication from inside to the audience. I am reminded of something Henri Cartier-Bresson said about a photographic image: it is formed of a line between they eye, the heart, and the head. In a photographic image that line stops at the plane of the image; in dance it is carried through the entire body. In the duet Chaturvedi dances with Meena Selva Anand, Silent Melody, to music by Bikram Ghosh, the same elements are present but there is an added complexity — and beauty — in that the two dancers are communicating with each other at the same time they are communicating with us. It is mesmerizing.

Marie-Louise Crawley performs as part of Avid for Ovid, an umbrella title for a new ensemble of Oxford area dance and music artists who bring ideas and methods from Roman pantomime to the telling of ancient myths. When she wears a neutral mask for her solo, Myrrha, she makes her body express what the face cannot but her head with its smooth, china-white exterior is also expressive because it is precisely tuned with the rest of the body. Crawley spent six years performing with Ariane Mnouchkine in her Théâtre du Soleil so she knows the rigour of and the responsibility for working with the mask. It is fascinating to see how the very lack of innate expression in the mask — its animal-like emotionless state — contrasts with the body’s emotional turmoil. Through Crawley’s articulate arms and expressive plastic shapes we can feel her inner workings of fear and despair in the telling of her incestuous story. Her hands on her womb become a leitmotif of birth and of the unrelenting hand of fate.

Susie Crow, a stalwart of the Oxford dance scene, is also instrumental in Avid for Ovid; her personification of Tisiphone is an instructive contrast to Crawley because while she has no mask she finds a stillness in her face as if it is one. Crow, who danced with the Royal Ballet, has a naturally classical line and she constructs her solo on the spiral that is as present in the classical fifth position as it is all the way up the body into the head and shoulders. Crow mastered this form some time ago and relishes in the freedom it gives her to move. Tisiphone is a fury in classical legend and although Crow herself hardly fits the description, her movement conjures up Tisiphone’s fiery character in the forceful sweep of her choreography. Malcolm Atkins’ lovely score for both pieces colours the dramatic elements in a way that informs the movement without dictating to it. Unfortunately I missed the third Avid for Ovid segment by Segolene Tarte, who performed Lyacaon the night before.

The strength of Sue Lewis’s female trio, Fascination, is in the physical drive of Catrin Lewis, Effie McGuire and Natasha Wade but is undermined by its weakness in communication. Perhaps Fascination suffers from its juxtaposition to the four previous works because it is immediately apparent that the movement of the dancers’ eyes and heads is focused inwards (if anywhere), which places the audience in a similar relation to a viewer in an art gallery. Interestingly, Fascination is based on the recurring pattern of three women in Picasso’s paintings but the spatial tension that keeps his women on the canvas does not hold the choreography together on the stage. The elements Lewis has taken from these paintings and woven into her choreography express a purely physical realm — even Adrian Corker’s music seems to flow by on another plane — that has lost something in translation.

The evening begins with Susan Kempster’s My Own Private Movie, a conceptual work about personal communication in a wired environment saturated with iPods, iPhones and social media. At the start of the performance, Kempster hands each member of the audience a mini iPod with a pre-recorded track of music, text and, for some, instructions. She apologizes in advance that some of the iPods may not work, in which case there is nothing to be done but listen to the performance in silence. Ironically Kempster’s own iPod malfunctions at the moment she signals all of us to turn on the device, which seems to feed into the theme perfectly. Those members of the audience who receive instructions descend to the stage, change places, turn and wait, listening for the next instruction. Their vacant expression is indicative of inner process, and Kempster’s idea is to show us the contrast between that inner process and being fully in the external reality. Because she is the only one without an iPod, her role is rather more poetic than it might have been as she stops to listen for signs of life, for a sense of community with her wired cast; she is the only one who is free to act. It shows in the eyes and head.