Hannah Buckley and Léa Tirabasso: Double Bill

Posted: June 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hannah Buckley and Léa Tirabasso: Double Bill

Hannah Buckley and Léa Tirabasso, Double Bill, The Place, June 3

Simon Palmer, Hannah Buckley and the Universe (photo: Amy Buckley / Emanuele Pecorari)

S/HE is a duet that reflects on the questions, ‘do men need feminism?’ and ‘does feminism need men?’. As a dancer and thus already on the fringes of what chauvinistic patriarchy might consider ‘male’, Simon Palmer may feel the first question is redundant and for Hannah Buckley, a witty and passionate advocate of dissolving such social imperatives as having children (see her Woman With Eggs), the second question is rhetorical. Neither question, however, addresses the more personal one of the common ground between the two sexes, which is what S/HE reveals and negotiates choreographically in terms of implicitly heterosexual relations. As the work begins, the common ground is the stage area covered in cards printed with a picture of the starry universe — about as vast a context as one could imagine. Palmer and Buckley in latex unisex overalls (courtesy of Lauren Reyhani) crawl around with eyes closed, feeling for the cards and constructing with them small houses with precarious balance. In the course of their blind activity they knock over as many card houses as they build. This is Buckley’s sense of humour sharpening our concentration as she makes her opening statement: we may be sharing common ground but all our efforts will collapse if we remain blind to the way in which we share. Thereafter Buckley uses a raft of texts, either spoken or recorded (the latter more audible), that set out the arguments for her position: from Gloria Steinem to Iris Marion Young, and from standup comedian Bill Burr to scripts by Buckley and Palmer. I find texts are more accessible in written form as they are not always compatible — especially in this kind of volume — with the spatial or physical appreciation of associated movement. I find myself dividing my attention from one to the other like adversaries in a game, but what Buckley and Palmer appear to illustrate in their performance together is the fragile reality of the stated principles of feminist theory. Neither Buckley nor Palmer seem particularly happy with the result, especially in a duet of intertwined, upended forms, when Palmer appears to suffocate Buckley between his legs. It is only when Buckley dances alone that she allows herself the detached pleasure of being SHE, when the dry wit and serious intent of the work break into a smile. Buckley states in the program note that ‘rather than providing answers, S/HE wants to give audiences space to imagine new possibilities for co-existing.’ There is no doubt about the sincerity of the work, but there is a mournful quality, a sadness in the performance that mitigates the potential of the proposal; the choreographic interaction does not appear to share the intellectual inspiration.

Léa Tirabasso’s TOYS (yes, both works this evening are in capitals) is more philosophical than it appears. In a dance work that treats the subject of hedonism, the moral underpinning is less visible than the celebration of the body, and with a cast as outrageously physical as Joss Carter, James Finnemore, Elsa Petit, Georges Maikel Pires Monteiro and Rosie Terry Toogood, the balance is predestined to excess. Tirabasso nevertheless reins it all in with a simple expedient in the form of a prologue and an epilogue that remind us of the moral implications of the work. At the very beginning we see Toogood in a circle of light, very much alone with her thoughts, and at the end, after all the choreographic debauchery, she returns to that ‘circle of public solitude’ to ponder her predicament. It is an eloquent image of the quote from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées that Tirabasso prints in the program: “However full of sadness a man may be, he is happy for the time, if you can prevail upon him to enter into some amusement.”

Even if the context of TOYS is contemporary, its spirit predates the influence of feminism by three centuries or so, and is thus a far cry — but a good programming distance — from S/HE. Both works return to a point of personal responsibility. Buckley and Palmer get to grips intellectually with gender equality even if the physical imagery channels a sense of personal isolation, while Tirabasso lets everything go in her exploration of hedonistic human relations to arrive at a point of personal awakening. As a statement of intent about human relations that proposes an egalitarian way forward, S/HE is the intellectual heavyweight while TOYS presents an exuberantly macho physical universe with a philosophical twist. For an evening of dance that sets out to ponder the human condition, it doesn’t get much richer than this.

Resolution! 2015 : Red Tape Dance, Hannah Buckley & Rachel Burn

Posted: February 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2015 : Red Tape Dance, Hannah Buckley & Rachel Burn

Resolution! 2015: RedTape Dance, Hannah Buckley & Rachel Burn, The Place, January 16

Hannah Buckley in Woman with Eggs (photo: Sara Teresa)

Hannah Buckley in Woman with Eggs (photo: Sara Teresa)

I’ll begin in the middle because Hannah Buckley’s Woman with Eggs — ‘a solo about women’s ability to be many things’ — is worth celebrating. It tackles what many women see as the social imperative of having children with a poignancy that is balanced by Buckley’s uncompromising argument for freedom from its tyranny.

I am not sure at the beginning where she is going to take us; she is crouched with her back to the audience scratching around on the floor, her hair covering her face that is following intently the actions of her hands. But very quickly Buckley transforms all these elements into one of the most intelligent works I have seen at The Place. By accumulating gestures and revealing clues as to where she is going, Buckley builds up over the course of the work a layered argument so complete and irreverent that by the end we can’t help but stand smiling with her and marvel at her accomplishment.

The first spoken clue is a quote from an Inuit folk story, Kakuarshuk: ‘Long ago women got their children by digging around in the ground…’: immediately all that intense scrabbling assumes meaning and from this point each element of her performance — her costume (courtesy of Lauren Reyhani), her hair, her voice, her angular way of moving with turned-in stance and the articulation of her arms — now uncannily combine to inform her subject. Having related the Inuit tale about a barren woman’s quest to find a child she introduces extracts from two interviews, one with a seven-year-old girl and one with her grandmother aged 90: two amusing and refreshing perspectives on ‘women’s ability to be many things’. Buckley dances in her own idiosyncratic way to an Alex Drewchin cover of Kate Bush’s Babooshka, and then suddenly changes tack, dragging herself to a floor microphone to give away her next clue: a refreshingly honest view of children by artist Sophie Calle: ‘…I don’t like the terrorism of children. I don’t like the lack of freedom it gives to the parents…’ She lies still to let the sense of her monologue filter into our consciousness and then takes two gold-painted eggs from a bowl and begins to groove to Grimes’ appropriately titled track, Oblivion, letting the eggs balance precariously in her open palms until she ramps up the rhythmic pulse to the point the eggs spill on to the ground and break. She nonchalantly picks up two more and repeats her dance until the dozen or so eggs lie splattered on the ground around her, a breathtakingly trenchant image of a tyranny overturned with Buckley in the unassuming role of liberator.

Fabio Filipe and Maria Cassar in Red Tape Dance Company's Pensar é Destruir

Fabio Filipe and Maria Cassar in Red Tape Dance Company’s Pensar é Destruir

Red Tape Dance’s Pensar é Destruir (thinking is destruction) courts the philosophical using the power of masks: Fabio Felipe as a dog and Maria Cassar as a cat enact the lines of the poem by Fernando Pessoa that inspired the work:

“Living life with a façade of a cat or dog,
is the only way that regular man can live life
…with the satisfaction of a dog or cat.”

In their masks, Felipe and Cassar carry on an animalistic social dance with the cat appearing the stronger of the two and not in the least afraid of the dog. After sequences of walking patterns, swings and lifts, they end up falling against each other mask to mask for the longest time, their expressions fixed. Masks have a particular power and Felipe and Cassar exploit them well. It is only when they take them off that Pensar é Destruir loses its force, becoming two people with some interesting but not compelling partnering (but isn’t that the sense of the three lines from Pessoa?). Strange, isn’t it, the power the face can have in dance. The unmasked section is accompanied by a Bach concerto (as opposed to Oli Newman and Anstam in the first section) which plays a parallel, playful role to the choreography rather than a structural one. Then just as the partnering gets going in rolling lifts across each other’s backs, both the music and choreography abruptly fade out. There’s more to be achieved with this idea, and I hope Red Tape Dance continues to explore.

Alejandra Baño and cast in Rachel Burn's Happening (© Camilla Greenwell Photography)

Alejandra Baño and cast in Rachel Burn’s Happening (© Camilla Greenwell Photography)

The evening closes with Rachel Burn’s Happening, a piece inspired by the stories of twelve men and women that Burn has transformed into dance. The cast consists of only four women, so each interprets three stories across the two genders. Finding a common theme among the twelve stories is clearly one concern and finding a setting that can frame that theme is another; in fact the latter can only be explored following the success of the former. What Burn has done is the reverse: she has found a setting before finding the theme, and although her idea of transparent balloons tied with long strings to as many boots as there are story donors and performers may indeed be an intuitive response, it is not enough to make Happening coalesce. The other issue is that because there are only four in the cast, the work appears to consist of only four stories arranged as a collage. It is a shame, because the abstraction of the words into dance — the choreographic nucleus — is lovely and the performances by Helen Aschauer, Alejandra Baño, Marianna Mouaimi and Ana Mrdjanov emotionally strong. Perhaps adding a man or two to the cast would add more definition to the men’s voices, but finding the right form for all twelve stories remains Burn’s principal challenge.