Resolution! 2016, performances on January 16

Posted: January 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2016, performances on January 16

Resolution! January 16: Jack Philp Company, Pirenaika Dance, Spoken Movement

Elly Braund and Nancy Nerantzi in Pinenaika Dance's Calle Leganitos (photo: Pierre Tappon)

Elly Braund and Nancy Nerantzi in Pinenaika Dance’s Calle Leganitos (photo: Pierre Tappon)

Jack Philp’s Psychoacoustic is a collaboration between neuroscience, sound and movement to ‘explore the body’s and brain’s response to sounds around us in light of particular emotions.’ Philp sets the context with a visual presentation of a mix of jarring sounds we might experience on a daily basis: pedestrians, traffic, construction, and social media. Gaia Cicolani stands immobile in front of the screen but her tensed hands and fingers prelude a growing muscular contraction throughout her body in response to the cacophonous input (audience brains are probably doing something similar but the seated bodies do not carry the movement through in the same way). By contrast, Linda Telek responds calmly to the more lyrical passages in Ben Corrigan’s acoustic environment but the reactions of both dancers fall within a narrow range of predictable gestures. It is only in their interaction with Clémentine Télesfort that the theme begins to develop as if they are reenacting the processes of the brain undergoing contrasting acoustic patterns. It is neuroscience, however, that has the leading role and the stage is rooted in the laboratory. Philp describes Psychoacoustic as ‘a culmination of the primary stages of an ongoing research project’, which translates as ‘the end of the beginning.’ In its further development Psychoacoustic might benefit from employing a less literal approach to movement and giving it less of a reactive role than an equal partnership in the collaboration.

Pirenaika Dance is Oihana Vesga Bujan, a dancer with Richard Alston Dance Company. Calle Leganitos, which Pirenaika Dance presented at Resolution!, is the first public sharing of Vesga Bujan’s choreography. Although she herself is an accomplished dancer, she has created her work on two other dancers in the company, Nancy Nerantzi and Elly Braund. The starting point is an odd one but with happy consequences: a Victor Borge performance of A Mozart Opera in which he characteristically reduces the cast and plot to a banal, farcical tale. Vesga Bujan sets off in the other direction with her two dancers to find ‘a relevant dance’ to an adagio, an allegro and a rondo for strings by Mozart. The dancers ‘will dive into the unknown…towards a place far from the glittery or the mundane…’ which is exactly what they do. Nerantzi and Braund are like spirited twins let loose on the rhythms and nuances of Mozart’s music that with Vesga Bujan’s help transport them to new levels of exhilaration. Even when Vesga Bujan plays with silence she keeps the musical line in motion with her innate musicality and lyrical sense of movement. What she adds to the dance is a lively gestural sense*; her gestures, drawn from daily life, amplify and qualify the dance in a way reminiscent of Jiří Kylián’s choreography. Like Kylián she finds through gesture new dynamic shapes, and the new shapes lead to new connections that form refreshingly new phrases and choreographic punctuation. For a first public work, Calle Leganitos is remarkably mature.

Kwame Asafo-Adjei’s Family Honour to a score of the same name by Simon Watts is a production of Spoken Movement, which is an apt description of the way Asafo-Adjei performs. His movement speaks with an intense physical articulation in the service of a narrative, the history of a father whose memory lies deep in regret and sadness. The work is full of symbolism to which Asafo-Adjei pays precise attention as if performing a ritual. He picks up a book from his desk and peremptorily tosses it out as if the written word has no place here. He talks about his mother as a ‘very, very, very wise woman’ but when he mentions his father he falls silent, looking away with a pain that has no words. He communes with his invisible mother, his source of strength, then fails once again to speak about his father. Instead his frenetic hands on the desk go through the actions of erasing, cutting, re-ordering and then with his whole body he digs out the traces of his memories on the floor in an extended, contorted solo, hammers them out with his muscled arms and shoulders until he sits once again at the desk, exhausted and exorcised. He lays his body on the desk and breathes a final, muffled incantation for his ears alone. Asafo-Adjei is a compelling performer, but what makes Family Honour disquieting is the inseparability of this life story from its theatrical expression.

* According to Laurence Louppe (in her Poétique de la danse contemporaine), a gesture is the visible emanation of an invisible physical source that nevertheless conveys the intensity of the entire body (‘Le geste est avant tout l’émanation visible d’une genèse corporelle invisible, mais porteuse de toute l’intensité du corps global.’)


Richard Alston Dance Company: Alston at Home

Posted: June 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Richard Alston Dance Company: Alston at Home

Richard Alston Dance Company, Alston At Home, The Place, June 10

Nancy Nerantzi, Elly Braund and Oihana Vesga Bujanin Overdrive (photo: Chris Nash)

Nancy Nerantzi, Elly Braund and Oihana Vesga Bujan in Overdrive (photo: Chris Nash)

As a portrait of Richard Alston in the twentieth year of his company, Alston At Home shows his recent and current preoccupations with just one short work to anchor the perception of change over time. Without the revival of the miniature, Brisk Singing Duet danced by University of Michigan students Maeve McEwen and Michael Parmelee to the music of Rameau, the program shows an unfamiliar landscape on both the musical and the choreographic front. There are six works in all, three by Alston, one by Associate Director Martin Lawrance, one by Joseph Toonga and one by company dancer Ihsaan de Banya (the last two commissioned by The Place). Of the six works four are world premières.

Having just that afternoon seen the Alexander McQueen exhibition, Savage Beauty (highly recommended), what immediately strikes me in all these works is not simply the bareness of the stage but the blandness of the costumes. When Alston chooses to portray two Polish expatriate friends dancing to Chopin’s mazurkas in Mazur the inelegant costumes — a wan-coloured suggestion of a waistcoat by Peter Todd over army green chinos — immediately temper the emotional connection between the dancers and their context. If these are two friends ‘sharing what they love and what they feel they have lost’, their camaraderie is rather strait-laced; no vodka shots here, no dark passions or even live ones: the odd touch here and the odd look there are all that connect them. Take away the idea of Polish expatriates altogether and you have an interesting double concerto for two accomplished dancers (Liam Riddick and guest Jonathan Goddard) whose connection to the mazurkas (played onstage by Jason Ridgway on an elegant grand piano) is primarily through its rhythms rather than through any emotional content with which Chopin imbued his music. What is left is their angular, swirling movement and the precision of their musical phrasing in an otherwise bloodless setting.

The third work by Alston is a restaging by Lawrance of Overdrive (2006) set to Terry Riley’s score Keyboard Studies #1. It is, as Alston writes, ‘one of a series of works I made responding to the excitement and energy of pure rhythm.’ It requires you to sit back and concentrate which, as the sixth work and following the second intermission, is a tough call. But then none of the works this evening belong in that category of program ‘closer’ because they all congregate around similar pallid visual settings and emotionally purified choreography without beginnings or ends. Riley’s score — and Alston’s choreography — starts at a running pace and continues relentlessly till it suddenly stops. There is an intellectual rigour here, a physical argument in which Alston follows Riley’s structure, but the appearance of Overdrive is not so much paired down as dry.

Lawrance created his new work, Opening Gambit, as a birthday offering for Alston’s anniversary but it is choreographed on the muscular music of Julia Wolfe’s Dark Full Ride Part 1. It seems an odd coupling, one that celebrates Alston’s rigour but falls short of being a celebratory work. Lawrance has tamed the music rather than letting its natural force get away; he is helped in this by the capacity of Riddick to dance precisely on the musical beat without losing any detail (amongst the women Oihana Vesga Bujan shares this gift). Riddick brings a stillness to the heart of each movement, however quick, that gives each shape its full value. The opening line of ten dancers leaning nonchalantly against the bare back wall under Zeynep Kepekli’s lighting is the one inspired scenic element of the evening.

Ihsaan de Banya’s new work, Rasengan, begins as if he and the two other huddled dancers (Vesga Bujan and Nicholas Bodych) are standing in an underwater current, growing their small hand gestures to whole body undulations. The score by Ryoji Ikeda gives little for the dancers to feed off; the sound and the movement glide along on separate parallel paths. De Banya has pliant material to work with and brings out their physical attributes — Bodych’s never-ending back bend is an image that remains — but he is less inventive with the space in which they move and the dynamic patterns they create. He might want to take himself out of his future work so he can see the broader dimensions of his choreography.

Joseph Toonga’s Unease sets up a spatial intrigue immediately with de Banya alone in a corner talking to himself about something serious while four others stand in the opposite corner watching him. As he slowly sidles off stage deep in thought, the quartet moves as a counterbalance in a solo for four dancers that in its physical isolations has the appearance of muscular angst within a classical dynamic. Unease seems to trace the assimilation of de Banya into, and his influence on the quartet; Nancy Nerantzi is instrumental in her duet with him in winding him closer to the group until they are all moving together. Mirroring the beginning, the quartet with de Banya now sidles off in slow motion while one woman distances herself to dance alone but she too is drawn back into their rhythm before the work finishes in slow motion lighting.

Unease suffers from being too similar in feeling (though not in detail) to the other works on the program. Alston at Home is broad in solicitude for the future direction of the company but on this showing the forms of creative endeavour show a remarkable sameness. The musical choices may be one factor but there is also an over-reliance in the choreography on the purely physical nature of dance which under-exploits the musical and spiritual qualities of the dancers.