Eleesha Drennan: Channel Rose

Posted: March 3rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Eleesha Drennan: Channel Rose

Eleesha Drennan, Channel Rose, The Place, February 28

Viivi Keskinen in Eleesha Drennan's Channel Rose (photo: ©Nicole Guarino Photography)

Viivi Keskinen in Eleesha Drennan’s Channel Rose (photo: ©Nicole Guarino Photography)

Eleesha Drennan’s Channel Rose (as in a TV station for Utopia-related content) is one of those rare physical statements with an intelligence that develops along a unique and mysterious path in which all the elements — the movement, the lighting and the live music — come together without faltering. Its completeness is the kind of unity characteristic of classical art: harmony of form and content. Drennan has dug deep into her choreographic heart to find a harmony that lies at the core of the disparate elements of her work; she calls it Utopia, but I think in looking for Utopia she has discovered something else: inspired creativity. “I am motivated to create a dialogue between thought and physical sensation”, she writes, but what if physical sensation — and dance in particular — is a way of thinking? Wouldn’t dialogue then give way to a physical stream of consciousness? It seems this is what Drennan has convincingly achieved; she forces us to think without words.

Although Channel Rose is predominantly abstract, there are material elements — a pile of sand, one red stiletto shoe, a fish bowl with water on a stand — that are sufficient to anchor a sense of narrative. At the beginning Drennan (who performs Annabeth Berkeley’s role this evening) sets the stage with a scenario that could go anywhere: to a variation of La Vie en Rose, Viivi Keskinen (‘a wild witch woman…struggling for control and power’) is building a wedding cake of a sandcastle next to the fish bowl; Kenny Wing Tao Ho (‘an ethereal wizard…who wants nothing more than to fly’) is lying on the floor exercising his wings and Drennan (‘a free-spirited gypsy woman’) is coming to terms with having lost one of her smart red stiletto shoes. Each of the dancers will interact with the water, the shoe or the sand — or all three — in the course of the work. Saxophonist Simon Haram stands modestly to one side in front of his music stand and percussionist Julian Warburton is the commander of an impressive array of instruments whose architecture is beautifully outlined by Guy Hoare’s lighting.

Keskinen destroys her sandcastle in a fit of pique, washing the sand off her hands in the fish bowl, and as the music starts – Fragment for solo saxophone by John Woolrich – she walks back towards Drennan but Drennan is hobbling gracefully forward to the front and Wing Tao Ho gets up to calm Keskinen, setting off a fit of trembling hands like a fringe of madness around her. She brushes him off and falls at Drennan’s feet, wrapping around her legs like an anchor while Wing Tao Ho tries to take off across the stage with the wind in his face and arms like propellers. Over the next 60 minutes this trio with their individual goals and strong, contrasting characters will remain true to themselves while playing off each other with endless variations. The performers (musicians included) are so caught up in the movement that it is impossible to watch them all and catch the ebb and flow of energy flowing through each, but wherever you focus there is something remarkable going on internally that is reflected in the face and gestures on the outside. Keskinen in particular has a rich supply of expression both in her face and body that constitutes a coherent trail of thought from beginning to end, from her possessed, finger-frenzied passages through the sly sense of wonder when she puts on the rose-tinted glasses to the climactic moment when she lifts Wing Tao Ho and spins him wildly before propelling him on his way.

Mark Bowden is responsible for the musical choices from John Woolrich, Andy Scott, Iannis Xenakis, Louiguy and Graham Fitkin, and provides three of his own, one for solo saxophone, one for solo percussion and one for saxophone and vibraphone. The quality of the works and the artistry with which Warburton and Haram play them create a dynamic structure for Channel Rose through which the dance flows and in which it sometimes gets thrillingly entwined. The influence works both ways: when Haram sits out the final Rebonds B for solo percussion he puts on the rose-tinted glasses to watch the dance.

There are only three costumes and Nia Thomson has entered into the imagination of the work to create three ‘characters’ that reflect their wearers and the way they move. They also respond beautifully to Hoare’s lighting which in turn sculpts the space around them and sets them free.

Channel Rose is a work that is governed by its search for freedom and finds it unexpectedly under its own feet. In the end the rose-tinted glasses are unnecessary; rather than being an ideal beyond our reach, Drennan shows us that Utopia is a reality to be discovered in our dancing bodies.

 

 

Eleesha Drennan is the recipient of the 2014 Sky Academy Arts Scholarship

The creative producer of Channel Rose is Tess Howell

 


Vuong 10

Posted: January 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vuong 10

Vuong 10, JW3, January 14

Kenny Wing Tao Ho and Maren Fidje Bjørneseth in Vuong 10 (photo ©Carole Edrich - ceimages.co.uk)

Kenny Wing Tao Ho and Maren Fidje Bjørneseth in Vuong 10 (photo ©Carole Edrich – ceimages.co.uk)

Vuong 10 is the creation of a core of choreographers and dancers who came together at King’s Place in 2013 on the occasion of the first evening of Randomworks curated by Wayne McGregor: Catarina Carvalho, Michael John Harper (both dancers with Wayne McGregor|Random Dance) and Nina Kov. They presented a short piece to music composed by Leafcutter John and violist Max Baillie called Vuong 10 and what we see this evening at JV3 is a development of that auspicious beginning with dancers Kenny Wing Tao Ho and Maren Fidje Bjørneseth. Of course in hindsight one could say that from this particular group something fascinating would surely evolve, but the process was probably not so clear (neither, if we discount the role of God, was the creation of the world). Seeing Vuong 10 on only its second outing (it premiered at Rich Mix in December) it is now evident that something rather remarkable did emerge from this collaboration, a kind of spark-made-flesh that thrills the imagination and challenges the ephemeral nature of dance. Given the primeval — rather than the proposed futuristic — content I feel the costumes by Bella Gonshorovitz are a little fussy; costumes that aim for a naked look can sometimes distract more than nakedness itself. The stage also appears too clean and the lighting by Karl Oskar Sørdall is constrained by this neutral staging, but there is no doubt about the movement language as interpreted by Bjørneseth and Wing Tao Ho: it has a visceral sense of entanglement and intrusion that is enthralling.

Vuong 10 is an intimate work both in subject matter — an exploration of the sense of touch at a time when it has been lost — and in its details: malleable facial gestures and frail, tendril-like fingernails like Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter. If you’re not up close you miss it. It is a work that is nevertheless complex in form, the overall arch of experience torn into fragments of intense physical exploration that may be movement or sound or both. As the publicity states, Vuong 10 is a contemporary music concert as well as a contemporary dance piece.

It is also a disquieting work, perhaps intentionally. From the very first image of the two dancers facing each other across the stage in silent, animated communication, we are not clear what relation they have. They could be Adam and Eve arguing or the last two beings left alive coming across one another by chance, trying to grapple with the unaccustomed act of meeting. Their physical vocabulary evolves in part from this contorted attempt at speech and in part from the windswept landscape of the score that acts as the exegetic soundtrack of their minds. Not knowing exactly how the task of creation was shared between the three choreographers, it is remarkable they found a coherent physical language to embody the score. Their courage to explore the musical language and the uncompromising presentation of their findings combine to make Vuong 10 an intoxicating, at times erotic experience, not least because Bjørneseth and Wing Tao Ho remove their own boundaries and inhibitions to express the rawness of the choreography. Wing Tao Ho’s solo, in particular, is the spark that lights the entire production. The conflagration from that spark would be, to put it mildly, mind-blowing. It doesn’t quite happen here, but Vuong 10 is pointing in a very exciting direction.