Russell Maliphant Company, maliphantworks2 at Coronet Print Room

Posted: March 19th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Russell Maliphant Company, maliphantworks2 at Coronet Print Room

Russell Maliphant Company, maliphantworks2, Coronet Print Room, March 13

Russell Maliphant

Russell Maliphant and Dana Fouras in Duet (photo: Tom Bowles)

Russell Maliphant’s week at the Coronet Print Room in Notting Hill is a very intimate affair, to which the chic délabré intimacy of the former Coronet theatre is ideally suited. It is one of those theatres whose atmosphere critic Cyril Beaumont described as having a ‘warmth and friendliness that gives the spectator the feeling of being a member of a pleasant club’ and there is a sense of the membership of this particular club coming to pay homage to one of their own. It is not exactly a full evening — the first intermission is longer than the first two works — and it’s a performance of re-immersion into a body of work that has a very recognizable form of craftsmanship in which the influence of sculpture is evident in the plasticity of the dance movement. There is no indication in the program when these works were created, but it doesn’t really matter; however new Maliphant’s works may be there is always an element of the retrospective in their presentation. His synonymous association with the lighting designer Michael Hulls serves to reinforce this familiarity; it is a given that all four stage works are choreographed and directed by Maliphant and all lighting designs are by Hulls.

Maliphant creates material forms with the body that Hulls transforms in light. Their opus is at its best an exquisite aesthetic experience — as those who saw their collaboration on Afterlight with Daniel Proietto as Nijinsky might attest — but too often lacks the inspiration to rise above precious familiarity. Of the four works on the program this evening, the visual and emotional gauge is more aligned with familiarity than with the exquisite. In the duet with Dana Fouras and Grace Jabbari, Two Times Two, the sculptural forms are reminiscent of Maliphant’s Rodin Project: classical marble figures moving in a kinetic dream. Andy Cowton’s score and Hulls’ lighting subject the forms to a process of dematerialization until the final slicing arm gestures diminish to beautiful swathes of light. Critical Mass performed by Maliphant and Mbi is a meditation on balance and posture as they are redefined by tension and suspension. There is dexterity of movement as the centres of the dancers’ and that of the composition shift and hold still, building a critical mass through repetition. Hulls’ lighting here is subtle, but in Dickson Mbi’s solo section of his duet with Jabbari, Still, he is trapped in Jan Urbanowski’s animation that with Hulls’ lighting covers him in a moving barcode on a gloomy ground. When Mbi dances it is worth watching; to superimpose a light project that all but obscures his movement and reduces it to a mere plastic aesthetic is to take advantage of the choreography, and to do it in a way that is unsettling on the eyes is tiresomely self-indulgent.

The final work, Duet, is a world premiere in which Maliphant dances with his wife and collaborator, Fouras; it is the first time in fifteen years that London audiences have the opportunity to see them dance together and it is a moment worth celebrating. There is a genuine sentimentality here that is in the vein of a recording of Caruso singing Una Furtiva Lagrima that emerges from Fouras’s sound score. Interestingly, Hulls keeps a respectful distance in lighting Duet which allows a very personal narrative of two lovers to emanate from the choreography. It is a polished performance of natural elegance and carries an emotional implication that is not lost on the audience.

What to make of the fifth work on the program, Other? It is a ten-minute video installation that is played on a loop in the theatre’s smaller studio that shows Maliphant and Fouras, on their respective sides of a split screen, embroiled in the turbulent surf off the Atlantic coast of West Cork, gesturing wildly and powerlessly in their evening dress against its incoming force. It is not clear if the installation was made specifically for this week’s program or was edited from original material to bolster the length of the evening. It is ‘made from footage originally conceived, directed and shot by Tim Etchells and Hugo Glendinning’, with a sound score by Fouras. Other could well illustrate the condition of the artist flailing against the forces of contemporary society in which impotence becomes the subject of a work of art, except that without a context the very artfulness of its solipsistic concept turns the work in on itself and robs it of any wider significance.


Holly Blakey: Some Greater Class

Posted: September 18th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Holly Blakey: Some Greater Class

Holly Blakey, Some Greater Class, Hales Gallery, August 21

Holly Blakey's Some Greater Class at Hales Gallery (photo © Hales Gallery London)

Holly Blakey’s Some Greater Class at Hales Gallery (photo © Hales Gallery London)

The convergence of art gallery and dance performance is an interesting one, especially when the dance is presented as an exhibit. At the invitation of Hales Gallery, choreographer and director Holly Blakey brings her experience of performance art and music videos to the gallery space in the form of Some Greater Class. Dance in this kind of setting is not new but Blakey’s presence here goes beyond the performance itself. One of the preoccupations of Some Greater Class focuses on the relationship between High Art and pop culture, or rather on the perceived value systems and expectations of the two. By transposing on to a formal gallery setting a popular commercial dance form based on the pop music video and with DJs Gwilym Gold and Darkstar on hand to provide the music, Blakey invites our attention to shift from subjective association to objective appreciation.

Against a wall of Hales Gallery the narrow temporary stage with potted plants at either end acts as a frame for the dance, more like the frame of a painting than a theatrical proscenium. Blakey’s dance is contained mostly within the frame using the columns of the gallery as additional props. She nevertheless plays with this formal display, having one of the dancers step off the stage at one point to continue his dance among the galleried throng and occasionally sitting her dancers on the front of the stage, observing members of the audience observing them. The fourth wall is thus perforated but not entirely removed; the onlooker, by close proximity to the action, also participates. The audience is seated close to the stage as at a fashion show and the six dancers (Luke Crook, Chester Hayes, Grace Jabbari, Naomi Weijand, Busola Peters and Ted Rogers) take their places at the beginning like models on a catwalk. The costumes by Blakey and Hannah Hopkins are a layered patchwork of skin-coloured trappings over bare skin or body tights, a commercially sensual image that hides as much as it purports to reveal.

Blakey’s mediation between pop culture and High Art is a provocative blurring of the edges of both art form and perception but it comes with its own artistic risk. Some Greater Class does not simply place a pop music video in a highbrow establishment to test perceptions; Blakey has distilled elements of commercial dance into an expressive choreographic form that points to but does not mimic the original. It is as if she has gone some way to bridging the perceived gap in values before presenting her thesis. But on reflection it is the interplay of ideas that comes across more compellingly than the performance. Some Greater Class delivers a quality of movement that is intimate bordering on narcissistic with a heady mixture of gestures from bodybuilding, martial arts, yoga as well as stylized sexual play. At the end the six characters take stock of their exertions with a blank stare that speaks of euphoria or exhaustion or both; Some Greater Class functions according to its own hedonistic rules and fades out, presumably to start again at the next opportunity. In bringing the characters and the movement (and the DJs) to a gallery, Blakey succeeds in framing Some Greater Class as an artifact but does not translate it fully to the stage; it thus sits ambivalently between the two. It reminds me of the ubiquitous selfie: a camera (and a universe) turned on itself in which the viewer and the viewed are one and the same. It is a picture with significance for the participants and for those related to them but it lacks the detachment that marks a work of art.