Posted: December 20th, 2016 | Author: Ian Abbott | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Angharad Davies, Grant Anderson, Kirsty Arnold, Laura Dannequin, Morrighan MacGillivray, MYSTERYSKIN, Roberta Jean, Tramway | Comments Off on MYSTERYSKIN, Brocade
MYSTERYSKIN, Brocade, Tramway, Glasgow, December 2, 2016
MYSTERYSKIN’s Brocade (photo: Emli Bendixen)
“They say you start weaving clearer, sharper memories after you’ve been to a place at least twice. Because then the reflection is more of validation. Let the rush come to you and let your senses be flushed the first time. There will be time for reflection after you’ve had your fill.” – Psyche Roxas-Mendoza
Brocade is an adventure in minting time, maintaining rhythm and weaving space with four dancers (Kirsty Arnold, Laura Dannequin, Morrighan MacGillivray and Roberta Jean), and one musician (Angharad Davies). With two rows of chairs facing another on the opposite side of a 3-metre x 18-metre runway, we are all lines.
Greeted by four female backs that slowly begin to rotate we are introduced to a family of movement that exists somewhere between a hop and a stationary skip (very rarely a jump); it feels like a close cousin of a folk dance with knees raised high, always bouncing on the toes, arms neutral at the sides and landing with a satisfying flat-soled slap on the floor.
Grant Anderson’s lighting design uses a series of lamps with exposed filaments to mark the centre line of their territory with the arches of Tramway 4 lit up drawing attention to the industrial history of this former tram shed. There is a neat historical fit in this presentation as the trams used to replay the same journey and trace the same lines across Glasgow — here the scale is shifted and the performers wear away the floor through their repeated solo and group parades and promenades up and down, embossing their own histories upon the venue.
“I have learned that each and every piece of cloth embodies the spirit, skill, and personal history of an individual weaver…it ties together with an endless thread the emotional life of my people.” – Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez
As each dancer runs, shuttles, dashes, scuttles and stretches into awkward metronomic steps they invite other dancers to join or dissolve with them; we see and hear combinations of rhythms from 1, 2, 3 or 4 dancers like machines beating out their own time stamps. I’m aware of the rhythm and multi-rhythmic step patterns in play, building, shifting and alternating for the first 30 minutes of this 50-minute encounter. Feeling the waft of the wind as the performers sweep in front and behind at alternative paces alerts you to the labour that is being invested and to the reality of glistening backs and flushed brows as the endurance becomes apparent.
There is a delicious intimacy in a single stop when two of the dancers raised on tip toes, two other performers joined them, tessellated in behind and put their own toes under the raised heels; as they cradled their arms under the arms of the other using their whole palms and fingers took the head of their partner as breath and rest took over. I wanted time to pull out even more, I wanted hours of these parades and space weaving — there is joy to be found in losing and re-finding yourself amongst their rhythms.
“Of what is the body made? It is made of emptiness and rhythm. At the ultimate heart of the body, at the heart of the world, there is no solidity… there is only the dance.” – George Leonard
Brocade describes itself as ‘a sound and movement piece which celebrates energetic alliances between unique female dancers and musicians.’ What I struggled to find was a connection or a thread towards the dancers — they rarely present their face or acknowledge the audience as they’re consistently moving and concentrating on step patterns and wider rhythms. There are plenty of alliances on show between the performers, but I felt little was offered to me as audience; if we were invited in to share their rhythm and territory then we could join them and retreat into their glorious oscillations.
Towards the end and still leading from the shoulders with ulna nerves and palms out Jean stepped out and began layering vocal cries and breaths via a loop station switching the sonic from warp to weft. Previously we had intermittently heard Davies plucking the violin with asymmetric sounds and pulses adding textures to the foot-tapping polyrhythms from the dancers. The three dancers embarked on a spin, folded from their centre with waves of sound playing through their spines. This focal shift from the parading (which asked us to follow, to choose where and who and what to follow as it was impossible to drink them all in in one set of eyes) was welcome as my visual rhythm had been consistently disturbed as I kept turning my head left and right attempting to hold them all in my eyes.
Brocade is a work where it pays to notice and if you do there is plenty to mine; as the performers weave the space with invisible geometries the only physical residue they leave is that which we choose to carry in our own memories.
Posted: October 21st, 2013 | Author: Nicholas Minns | Filed under: Performance | Tags: Amy Cutler, Army of Me, Brian Cox, Brychan Tudor, Drew Hawkins, Filipe Sousa, Gwyn Emberton, Joanna Young, John Collingswood, Karol Cysewski, Kirsty Arnold, Neil Davies, Sion Orgon, Wonders of the Universe | Comments Off on Joanna Young and Karol Cysewski
Army of Me by Joanna Young and Wonders of the Universe by Karol Cysewski, Borough Theatre, Abergavenny, September 18
Kirsty Arnold in Joanna Young’s Army of Me (photo Iain Payne)
The power of theatre is not only in the images we see in front of us but in what memories they inspire; the two are inextricably linked. The image of Kirsty Arnold standing barefoot in her printed cotton dress in the corner of the stage, slightly in the shadows as if not quite daring to come out, is just the beginning of a delicate journey — ‘distorted echoes in a world made of small pieces’— that choreographer Joanna Young weaves, that Arnold traces, that John Collingswood illumines and that Filipe Sousa’s sensitive soundscape evokes. It is the stuff of memory made manifest in all its clarity of detail. Through the phenomenon of recall, Young places us in the life of a young woman at a moment of intense significance, a shift in maturity perhaps, or a pique of rebellion.
The space in which Arnold stands so pensively is itself the suggestion of a room, in which she stands at a window looking up at the birds flying overhead, thinking perhaps of her future. Collingswood’s lighting projects three shadows of her on the back wall, one progressively taller than the next, like a chart of imagined growth. She crosses her arms in silence then places her hands on her hips looking up. A winsome young girl with red hair, beautifully self-contained and playful, she kneels, shaking her head, then lies stretched out on the floor. Getting up, she shakes her head again, with an arm gesture of dismissal. She is anticipating what we can now hear, the sound of feet crunching up a gravel path, up wooden steps, approaching or walking around. Sousa’s score includes recordings of footsteps by Brychan Tudor, one of Young’s inspirations along with Amy Cutler’s visual art. Arnold moves out of the light into silhouette, but Collingswood finds her, defines her in a wash of light. It is as if we are watching her as she plays in her own room; she pauses, then slides playfully to the side, skipping across the floor, independent, on the verge of experience, arms raised defiantly, running, turning like a dervish, not wishing to surrender her freedom; there’s that dismissive gesture again. Her figure moves into silhouette then back to the light, a little helpless, brushing away the distractions, faster and faster, in her journey of awakening. The steps are getting louder, closer. She runs across the room, suspended in time like the tolling church bells we hear. Her toes play, she kneels, bends forward, prays, but with a sense of an impending closure. In the darkening room she contemplates her hands until they disappear.
Gwyn Emberton, Karol Cysewski and Drew Hawkins in Wonders of the Universe (photo John Collingswood)
Karol Cysewski’s Wonders of the Universe is another kettle of (prehistoric) fish, an exploratory look at the origins of the universe through the agency not of NASA but of three comic crustacea in jackets and jeans (cleverly designed by Neil Davies) whose sexual proclivities at this stage of creation are openly acknowledged. John Collingswood lights and clouds the murky depths of the universe and ocean in which the three performers (Cysewski, Gwyn Emberton and Drew Hawkins) take evolution for a spin with a suitably elemental sound score by Sian Orgon. Cysewski is clearly having fun, but he is careful to moderate the cartoon-like characterization by harnessing the awe and excitement of Brian Cox’s commentary from his series Wonders of the Universe (the starting point of the work). Cox’s theories lend context to the choreography and at the same time Cysewski’s choreographic treatment reduces those vast theories to a more manageable size. The mouthpiece of Cox’s voice is Cysewski’s midriff, manipulated into blind lips by his fellow anthropods and through these lips pass some of the great evolutionary theories of our time which the trio then plays out: the Big Bang as a writhing form that is suddenly zapped and Emberton demonstrates the survival of the fittest by knocking his fellows on the head, a favour they return as they dance in solo or pairs: gametes and zygotes in a primeval mating ritual with attendant cluckings and horn-like siren calls.
In this grand scheme of evolutionary fervour there is suddenly an amoebic fart, an infinitesimal bang with a bad smell. The trio looks at each other accusingly. Cox is silent on the subject but Orgon is clearly having a ball with a techno riff on farts, snores and whistles.
Our evolutionary trio rushes forward from the oceans across the growling African plains to the point at which they stand on the Borough Theatre stage this evening — thousands of generations later — illustrating their miraculous journey. The midriff oracle speaks again; we hear the wonderment in Cox’s voice as he describes the stars evolving and dying, time unfolding and how nothing lasts forever. It’s a ‘majestic story’ and a lot to ponder, but the cheers and applause at the end signal an engagement by the audience not only in the science but in the dance. It’s a heady mixture.