Transitions Dance Company, Triple Bill

Posted: June 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transitions Dance Company, Triple Bill

Transitions Dance Company, Triple Bill, Laban Theatre, June 1

Giannis Economides and Bryn Aled in Christian Duarte’s & (photo: James Keates)

It would be hard to imagine an evening of dance in which there was less transition from one work to the next. If Charles Linehan’s Nothing But Time raised high the bar for minimal movement in Transitions Dance Company’s Triple Bill, Oded Ronen’s Kintsugi added to it only a superficial psychological layer and Cristian Duarte’s & framed it in conceptual conceits. Linehan shows how minimal movement can be interesting; his spatial awareness and the intent in starting a movement are worth experiencing. Not all the dancers are comfortable in beginning movement from stillness but when it works you know something significant has happened; Becky Horne shows how it can be done at the very beginning of the work as she peels off from Sean Murray. There is also an idea in Nothing But Time that lends itself to choreographic treatment; it evolved out of Linehan’s research combining choreography and drone technology. In a film he showed at the Brighton Festival last year it was the long shadows of moving figures seen from the air at sunset that formed the choreographic material. Here, Michael Mannion’s searchlight stands in for the sun and Jonathan Owen Clark’s electro-acoustic score places us in the heart of the drone, its engine in our ears, looking down on the mundane motions of silent figures far below. There is thus a dynamic tension between Clark’s stormy, elemental score and the stark simplicity of Linehan’s movement that holds the work together. Linehan presents the dancers in a neutral unmannered way, their motion and gestures removed by distance from their implicit thoughts and relationships.

We might expect to find the dancers in Ronen’s Kintsugi inhabiting a different universe from Linehan’s, but the layers of psychological gesturing Ronen uses to suggest ‘a broken, lonely and fragmented world’ are little more than psychological dressing. Ronen uses the metaphor of Kintsugi — the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery — to suggest a parallel art of healing social wounds, but his choreography digresses too often into accumulative patterns and endless solos to keep the subject alive. Woven into all this action is the shaping of a line of yellow confetti — ‘leaking’ like stuffing from the pockets of the dancers — into a crack on the stage that is erased by one of the dancers in the final moments. To conclude the work with this facile reference to Kintsugi is to diminish the metaphor.

If, as the program note states, Duarte’s & ‘invites the dancers to (re)visit and plunder their own physical and conceptual memory banks’, can we be sure they have accepted the invitation? And if they have, what does Duarte’s work reveal about their years of training? Not very much. But judging by the self-conscious flirtation with minimal movement, the involvement with absurdist props and the derisory breaking down of the third wall, the dancers have been duped into adopting Duarte’s physical and conceptual memory banks as their own. There are moments when dancers like Bryn Aled and Marcus Alessandrini do re-visit their own physical memory bank, pulling off some bravura steps that light up the stage, but they are sparks in what is otherwise a rather damp confection of conceptual clichés.

I realised at the beginning of & that once the dancers had appeared in Linehan’s work, they did not seem to change in any physical or psychological way in subsequent works; they simply reappeared in different costumes. At this level of postgraduate performance it would have done the dancers a service to provide a more varied program in which they would be challenged by contrasting choreographic voices to bring out their own intrinsic qualities. Audiences might have benefited too.


Zoi Dimitriou, The Chapter House

Posted: December 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Zoi Dimitriou, The Chapter House

Zoi Dimitriou, The Chapter House, Laban Theatre, November 26

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Publicity image for Zoi Dimitriou’s The Chapter House

Watching Zoi Dimitriou’s The Chapter House at Laban Theatre recently is like taking part in a formal ritual. It is a calm work, lit to stillness by Michael Mannion and dressed in planes of white and lines of wire; an abstract world punctuated by the stormy lyricism of the musical score formed of pieces by Pluramon, Conlon Nancarrow and Caccini.

In such an austere and well-lit environment every detail of the performers’ gestures is magnified, which lends itself well to the nature of this solemn enquiry into the nature of creation. As Dimitriou asks rhetorically in the program note, ‘…what does it take to make (or remake) an art work in and for the digital age?’

The Chapter House is a kind of retrospective with a twist. It began as an idea to revisit five of Dimitriou’s past creations to assess the path she had taken and where she found herself at the end of it. It was an artistic and intellectual act whose prime concern was evaluation rather than creation but in inviting media/performance pioneer Mark Coniglio to help her with the documentation of her project she discovered in the process of recording her five ‘chapters’ that the transformative effect of the camera realigned her original goal into its performative continuation and development.

The ‘chapter house’ of the title is the structure of the work, a framework like the memory theatres of old; in the first half of the performance, a textual score Dimitriou reads backwards at a music lectern with an almost ecclesiastical lilt precedes each selective re-enactment. She shares the stage with video artist David McCormick who is recreating Mark Coniglio’s original role.

A nod from McCormick is the signal for Dimitriou to start; she approaches the lectern where she reads her first score. In silence the two performers approach each other across the stage to perform a ritual cleansing of hands, she with a glass bowl, he with a glass bottle of water and a white towel that he lays carefully on the floor. After the ceremony Dimitriou places the bottle on the floor with the exactness of protocol and returns to the lectern to read the next score. This time she performs the score alone — lying on the floor and rotating her position every ten beats of a metronome until her hand finds the water bottle; she drinks from it for ten beats — while David circles to record her with a tablet-sized camera on the end of a pole.

At this point we do not know what he will do with the recordings; for subsequent scores McCormick moves with the camera as a participant in the choreography but we do not see the images until later when we understand that, like Dimitriou’s textual scores, the captured images serve to transfer past memories into the plane of the present. But they are more than that: in the latter half of the performance the recordings, filtered through a complex algorithmic software (originally designed by Coniglio) that divides them into the five chapters, are simultaneously projected on to five screens — five sheets that Dimitriou and McCormick meticulously unfold and peg to the overhead wires. You can marvel at this magic while you see Dimitriou perform a beautifully slow, languid solo that is qualitatively different from what had come before as if the entire process of recording and playback has changed the intrinsic nature of her dancing. While watching this process of digital creation and re-creation unfold we can also perceive the embodiment of an idea that in the sparse surroundings of serene but minimal gestural movement makes a compelling statement of life’s richness and a reminder that at the source of ideas is the unity of mind and body.

 

Zoi Dimitriou will perform The Chapter House again at Laban Theatre on April 12, 2016