Organic Entity, Triple Bill

Posted: August 4th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Organic Entity, Triple Bill

Organic Entity, Triple Bill, TripSpace, June 10

Salah El Brogy in The Moment (photo: Danilo Moroni)

Organic Entity is an enterprising collaboration between three dance choreographers — Anna Watkins, Neus Gil Cortés and Salah El Brogy — to make a full evening of dance with a variety of approaches and styles that the individual choreographers would be unable furnish by themselves. It’s a model that deserves attention but is not without risks, the first of which is with whom to collaborate and — which is directly related to the first — which works to present. Watkins, Cortés and El Brogy seem to have found a viable cohesion; Organic Entity is thus both a title and an indication of the way the three works unpack and make their offerings to the audience. In Human Animal Watkins researches evolution, making a solo for Carmine De Amicis that sees a struggle within his body between animal and human conditions. In Left Cortés looks inside Léa Tirabasso and Rosie Terry Toogood to mine their psychological states and El Brogy in his solo The Moment establishes a spiritual dimension that is altogether human. Each work acts as a counterbalance and commentary on the other two; it all makes for a very interesting evening.

The sound of a ticking clock in Watkins’ work suggests a time-lapse treatment of evolution and the first we see of De Amicis he is lying on the floor as physical material ready to transform. Over the course of his development his bird-like head gestures on top of a raw, muscled body take on a more human form as he rises on to his two feet in the confines of an imaginary cage. De Amicis writhes with intensity to the percussive score by Andy Pape but Watkins’ portrayal is more masochistic ritual than evolutionary path; the power of De Amicis is too self-consciously human to be convincingly feral with the result Human Animal spirals around its own frenetic physicality rather than expressing either the animal in the human or the human in the animal.

This is where the elemental solo by El Brogy acts as a telling counterbalance of how an earthy presence in a human body can be expressed. Although The Moment comes at the end of the program, El Brogy’s performance reaches back to Human Animal and provides a resolution to De Amicis’s evolutionary path. That’s the way this evening of dance interrelates. There is nothing self-conscious or restrained in El Brogy’s presence; his improvisation goes to spiritual places with a disarming physical power. At the beginning we see him crouched with his head between his arms, his body rising and collapsing under some existential weight. When he rises, his arms are like birds and his hands like wings and his wild hair obscures the sharp features of his face. He is a force of nature who uses natural gestures to tell his story: his hands go through the motions of washing, bathing, drinking, eating but these are merely stages on a journey he is remembering and reliving. Movements spring and unspring from his body in all directions just as memories dart into focus at the speed of thought; his head and eyes are in complete accord with the gestures of his body as if his dance arises from an inner necessity. El Brogy is at times volatile and at others reflective, always mindful of the moment he is trying to recapture. To his own sound design, he takes us on a journey through his own time; the dance is the journey. Watching him is to connect viscerally with his animist experience, and he takes us far beyond the realms of the theatre, like his finger raised to the sky with a smile of recognition.

I had first seen Gil Cortés’ Left at Emerge Festival in 2015 and was impressed by her mature handling of psychological frailty. Here she has reworked it with two women instead of a man and a woman and has restaged the dynamic between them to the same musical input from Philip Samartzis, Mica Levi and Zoe Keating. I admire this ability to revisit a work and bring something new to it, an acknowledgement that as she develops as a choreographer and as a person she can return to older works with new experience. And I imagine within the context of Organic Entity’s triple bill, Left seemed to fit neatly between the physical and spiritual aspects of the bookending works. Tirabasso is the febrile victim of a psychological struggle that Toogood incarnates with the dispassionate, dark menace of a spider-like presence. Gil Cortés takes us unerringly through the shadowed terror of sensing an internal assailant to the stages of capture and possession until Toogood melts into the background leaving Tirabasso to wonder if it had all been a figment of her imagination. It’s a lot to fit into a short work, but Gil Cortés is as assured in her handling of the subject as the two performers are in the roles she has given them.


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! 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.