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.


Resolution! 2016, performances on January 15

Posted: January 20th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2016, performances on January 15

Resolution! 2016, January 15: Animal Radio, ISH by moi, Neus Gil Cortés

Publicity image for Neus Gil Cortés' Here Body (photo: Patricio Forrester)

Publicity image for Neus Gil Cortés’ Here Body (photo: Patricio Forrester)

Some subjects just don’t seem to share common ground with the choreographic side of dance and social media is one of them. Animal Radio’s Book My Face begins with a powerful visual image on a screen of two large-scale faces (of the two dancers, Maga Radlowska and Aneta Zwierzynska) undergoing cartoon-like transformations (photography by Agnieszka Dolata and filmed by Neil Emmanuel). The faces endlessly morph from one tic to another, one expression to the next, but the idea gets carried away; it becomes a show in itself, lasting the entire length of the work without playing more than a peripheral role in it. The drive behind Book My Face is an exploration of how ‘virtual identity affects the inner instinctive animal in us’ and ‘the extent to which the identities we inhabit impact on our movement patterns.’ Do they? It seems to be a case of a choreographic fusion of Animal Radio’s contemporary dance, capoeira and contact backing itself into a concept. The only connection is between the dancers and the live rhythmic input of musician Alex Judd. It might be worthwhile to put the concept and the visuals aside and start again with the dancers and the music to see where that might lead.

ISH by moi’s Sirens is another kind of animal altogether. Ishimwa Muhimanyi uses a zoological analogy to establish his premise: ‘Visibility exposes an animal to the risk of attack from its enemies, and no animal is without enemies. Being visible is therefore a basic biological risk; being invisible is a basic biological defence. We all employ some sort of camouflage.’ The opening film of the striking Muhimanyi in a long black wig, bright red pants and matching trainers drinking a milky white substance from a bowl on a white floor is a defiant statement of visibility. If he is being provocative it is with a siren’s beguiling sense of humour. In the same outfit he backs on to the stage in a narrow rectangle of light, rippling and undulating with unabashed showmanship before dropping his disguise to start a cabaret-like monologue on coming to grips with and overcoming fear (in the form of a black latex mask on a stand whose potential for camouflage he rejects). His text is candid and amusing (an irresistible combination) and his gestures seem to derive from the same impish source. By the end Muhimanyi has established his sense of self without imposing it; instead, he draws us into his world, our camouflage in disarray.

I have seen three pieces by Neus Gil Cortés (most recently at Emerge Festival) and while each has been quite different there is a core that is consistent. She has that ability to evoke emotion through a minimum of means. In Here Body she puts together traces of memories and expresses each of them in her movement, one after the other, sometimes overlapping, creating a collage of gestures, acts, and stillness that together form the reality she is remembering. As in memories, there is space and time in her work and she allows us the space and time to engage our imagination to draw us in to her remembering without giving us a narrative map. At the very beginning we see an empty wooden rocking chair in the spotlight and just clear of it, in the half-light, we see Gil Cortés lying on the floor, her head, long languid arms and legs in a state of suspension, floating. In her program notes, she writes that Here Body ‘explores feelings and fears around death and decay.’ These feelings, so I learned later, are the result of two concurrent events in Gil Cortés’ life: a loss of faith and the death of her beloved grandmother. I mention it not because they provide context vital to an understanding of the work, but because I am fascinated by Gil Cortés’ process of transforming memory into choreography, finding the emotion in motion and fusing the two in their shared meaning. This is what she does so well. Here she improvises to texts read by Jane Thorne that comprise random funerary memorials found on the Internet. However, at the end of Here Body Gil Cortés unravels part of the mystery by introducing a figure in the form of Durgesh Srivastava who represents her late grandmother. As a choreographic device it is risky, making visible what the invisible presence in the rocking chair had evoked. It is a concession to materialism, but Srivastava provides one of the crowning moments of the work. On the accent of ‘ok’ in a song (Darling Deer by BRIXIA) about the acceptance of death and decay, her arms trace a circle over Gil Cortés’ head like a prayer and continue upwards. It is such moments that have the power to heal.


Emerge Festival, Week 3

Posted: November 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Festival, Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Emerge Festival, Week 3

Emerge Festival, Week Three, The Space, November 17

Maëva Berthelot and Omar Gordon in Neus Gil Cortés' Left (photo: Patricio Forrester)

Maëva Berthelot and Omar Gordon in Neus Gil Cortés’ Left (photo: Patricio Forrester)

This is the third program of the three-week Emerge Festival curated by C-12 Dance Theatre at the intimate venue, The Space, on the Isle of Dogs. These small-scale festivals, like Cloud Dance Festival and Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform, give opportunities to young choreographers without any hierarchic selection process: it is a raw mixture of work from around the country that is never less than interesting and can include some gems. There has been a lot of discussion recently about the absence of female choreographers, but in the two programs I saw at Emerge, the majority of choreographers are women.

The only exception this evening is Dialect of War by Jean-Pierre Nyamangunda and Viviana Rocha of What Is Written Dance Company who join Sia Gbamoi to make a trio that starts off quite innocuously but grows in menace. Described as ‘the story of a warrior tribe whose lives are brutally disrupted’, the energy of disruption is carried in the choreography but the narrative of violence is carried in the presence of the dancers, most completely in Nyamangunda whose eyes convey both terror and pain. In Don McCullin’s war photographs it is the eyes of both victims and perpetrators that convey the ultimate darkness of the soul; the use of the face as an integral part of choreographic intent is no different.

Gemma Prangle’s Dance I made on my Bathroom Floor is about as far away from Dialect of War as a programmer could manage. Prangle starts behind a shower curtain in silhouette to the sound of running water and when she raises her arms above the curtain for a stylised soap dance the sound of lathering pervades the room. When she reaches outside the curtain for her towel we can see it is not there; it is a moment of expectation, a simple but effective piece of theatre. Prangle conceived the piece when she noticed how much time she spent dancing in her bathroom compared to the studio, but the attraction of such an idea is that she should be unaware of anyone watching. Who dances in their bathroom to an audience? By emerging from the shower (bone dry) and shielding her naked body with her arms, she acknowledges our presence. She then compounds the artifice by apologizing for leaving her towel in the audience and asking for the person sitting on it to throw it down before continuing her ablutions in all propriety. We are now effectively sitting in her bathroom and the inherent humour and absurdity of the idea has been flushed away.

Co_Motion Dance (choreographers Catherine Ibbotson and Amy Lovelock) present a quartet of women in FORCE, a highly energetic battle for power that relies on the strength and spatial precision of the performers. Some of the jumps also rely on split-second lighting cues for that are too demanding for the limited technical resources available and too much of a gimmick for the level of choreographic sophistication. The force of the work comes from the force of the performers: why contrive this brute physicality? Presumably to make it more interesting to watch, but I would argue that the construction and theatrical intent of the work have to be more interesting first.

The title of Tamsin Griffiths’ work, Duvet Cover, appears to follow a similarly domestic theme as Dance I made on my Bathroom Floor, but the duvet in question is a metaphor. It is the place of comfort, ‘an emotional home’ in a work that expresses the volatility of depression and bi-polar disorder. The piece begins with a film clip projected on to a white sheet showing Griffiths climbing into a giant duvet and relishing its warmth and comfort; the fuzziness of the image makes it look like an ultrasound image of a baby in a womb. At the moment the film ends Griffiths pushes from underneath the screen to lie supine on the stage. Her initial movements remain close to herself as she goes through the motions of adjusting drowsily to vertical and following the path of a hand that seems to have an agency of its own to a score that is dreamy if not hallucinatory. Griffiths’ entire body explodes into action as she follows a volatile narrative; there is no ‘why’ in these shifts of mood, these ‘phases of depression’ as they progress in a certain direction and then suddenly change course. Duvet Cover is a work that can be read on two distinct levels: one that doesn’t make sense and one that does. Griffiths is perhaps playing unconsciously on the ‘invisibility’ of depression and how that plays into misunderstanding about the nature of the disease. She controls her performance even when it seems most chaotic: she displays an effortless virtuosity in her ability to throw herself to the limits of her balance and return to equilibrium. Although she takes emotional risks, Griffiths is not challenged sufficiently in Duvet Cover to extend her range. Perhaps it is one of the challenges of working alone but one of the rewards is to see that raw honesty in a dynamic physical form.

The most complete work of the evening is Neus Gil Cortés’ Left, a duet for Maëva Berthelot and Omar Gordon (Cortés shares the role with Berthelot on subsequent evenings). It has a simple starting point: ‘When we are alone, all we have left is our thoughts…’ ‘All’ is the operative word, for in this fifteen-minute duet there is a great deal to inhabit our imagination and Cortés leaves open that vital gap between choreographic intent and audience reaction. Gordon, who has the dark lines of a character in an El Greco painting, is the manifestation of a relentless, demonic aspect of Berthelot’s psyche. Despite herself, Berthelot circles around him like a moth around a candle and when he finally dissolves into the darkness she is left eerily reliving his gestures. They are two but they are not two, and their partnership is mesmerisingly intense. As a choreographer, Cortés handles the frailty and domination with a freedom and depth of detail that anchor the work in a youthful maturity. She also proves her intuition as director in creating an enveloping sound score around the music of Philip Samartzis and Mica Levi, costumes that enhance the narrative and in managing to create magic from the available lighting resources.