Resolution! 2015 : Red Tape Dance, Hannah Buckley & Rachel Burn

Posted: February 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2015 : Red Tape Dance, Hannah Buckley & Rachel Burn

Resolution! 2015: RedTape Dance, Hannah Buckley & Rachel Burn, The Place, January 16

Hannah Buckley in Woman with Eggs (photo: Sara Teresa)

Hannah Buckley in Woman with Eggs (photo: Sara Teresa)

I’ll begin in the middle because Hannah Buckley’s Woman with Eggs — ‘a solo about women’s ability to be many things’ — is worth celebrating. It tackles what many women see as the social imperative of having children with a poignancy that is balanced by Buckley’s uncompromising argument for freedom from its tyranny.

I am not sure at the beginning where she is going to take us; she is crouched with her back to the audience scratching around on the floor, her hair covering her face that is following intently the actions of her hands. But very quickly Buckley transforms all these elements into one of the most intelligent works I have seen at The Place. By accumulating gestures and revealing clues as to where she is going, Buckley builds up over the course of the work a layered argument so complete and irreverent that by the end we can’t help but stand smiling with her and marvel at her accomplishment.

The first spoken clue is a quote from an Inuit folk story, Kakuarshuk: ‘Long ago women got their children by digging around in the ground…’: immediately all that intense scrabbling assumes meaning and from this point each element of her performance — her costume (courtesy of Lauren Reyhani), her hair, her voice, her angular way of moving with turned-in stance and the articulation of her arms — now uncannily combine to inform her subject. Having related the Inuit tale about a barren woman’s quest to find a child she introduces extracts from two interviews, one with a seven-year-old girl and one with her grandmother aged 90: two amusing and refreshing perspectives on ‘women’s ability to be many things’. Buckley dances in her own idiosyncratic way to an Alex Drewchin cover of Kate Bush’s Babooshka, and then suddenly changes tack, dragging herself to a floor microphone to give away her next clue: a refreshingly honest view of children by artist Sophie Calle: ‘…I don’t like the terrorism of children. I don’t like the lack of freedom it gives to the parents…’ She lies still to let the sense of her monologue filter into our consciousness and then takes two gold-painted eggs from a bowl and begins to groove to Grimes’ appropriately titled track, Oblivion, letting the eggs balance precariously in her open palms until she ramps up the rhythmic pulse to the point the eggs spill on to the ground and break. She nonchalantly picks up two more and repeats her dance until the dozen or so eggs lie splattered on the ground around her, a breathtakingly trenchant image of a tyranny overturned with Buckley in the unassuming role of liberator.

Fabio Filipe and Maria Cassar in Red Tape Dance Company's Pensar é Destruir

Fabio Filipe and Maria Cassar in Red Tape Dance Company’s Pensar é Destruir

Red Tape Dance’s Pensar é Destruir (thinking is destruction) courts the philosophical using the power of masks: Fabio Felipe as a dog and Maria Cassar as a cat enact the lines of the poem by Fernando Pessoa that inspired the work:

“Living life with a façade of a cat or dog,
is the only way that regular man can live life
…with the satisfaction of a dog or cat.”

In their masks, Felipe and Cassar carry on an animalistic social dance with the cat appearing the stronger of the two and not in the least afraid of the dog. After sequences of walking patterns, swings and lifts, they end up falling against each other mask to mask for the longest time, their expressions fixed. Masks have a particular power and Felipe and Cassar exploit them well. It is only when they take them off that Pensar é Destruir loses its force, becoming two people with some interesting but not compelling partnering (but isn’t that the sense of the three lines from Pessoa?). Strange, isn’t it, the power the face can have in dance. The unmasked section is accompanied by a Bach concerto (as opposed to Oli Newman and Anstam in the first section) which plays a parallel, playful role to the choreography rather than a structural one. Then just as the partnering gets going in rolling lifts across each other’s backs, both the music and choreography abruptly fade out. There’s more to be achieved with this idea, and I hope Red Tape Dance continues to explore.

Alejandra Baño and cast in Rachel Burn's Happening (© Camilla Greenwell Photography)

Alejandra Baño and cast in Rachel Burn’s Happening (© Camilla Greenwell Photography)

The evening closes with Rachel Burn’s Happening, a piece inspired by the stories of twelve men and women that Burn has transformed into dance. The cast consists of only four women, so each interprets three stories across the two genders. Finding a common theme among the twelve stories is clearly one concern and finding a setting that can frame that theme is another; in fact the latter can only be explored following the success of the former. What Burn has done is the reverse: she has found a setting before finding the theme, and although her idea of transparent balloons tied with long strings to as many boots as there are story donors and performers may indeed be an intuitive response, it is not enough to make Happening coalesce. The other issue is that because there are only four in the cast, the work appears to consist of only four stories arranged as a collage. It is a shame, because the abstraction of the words into dance — the choreographic nucleus — is lovely and the performances by Helen Aschauer, Alejandra Baño, Marianna Mouaimi and Ana Mrdjanov emotionally strong. Perhaps adding a man or two to the cast would add more definition to the men’s voices, but finding the right form for all twelve stories remains Burn’s principal challenge.


Resolution! 2014: Waldeinsamkeit, Stewart and Cox, Kuniskis

Posted: March 21st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2014: Waldeinsamkeit, Stewart and Cox, Kuniskis

Resolution! 2014: Waldeinsamkeit Theatre, Heather Stewart and Helen Cox, Ieva Kuniskis, The Place, February 6

Rachel Burn in Women's Tales (photo: Judita Kuniskyte)

Rachel Burn in Women’s Tales (photo: Judita Kuniskyte)

One of the pleasures of attending Resolution! is that you never quite know what you are going to see. This evening’s program ranges from theatre with very little dance to dance with very little theatre to a fertile mix of the two.

The three creative minds behind Waldeinsamkeit Theatre all trained in theatre rather than in dance, which perhaps explains the heavy dependence on text in You must be the one to bury me. The title comes from the translation of the first part of an Arabic phrase that crops up in a language game a couple, Richard (Joseph Lynch) and Sophie (Stephanie Bain), plays. The second part reads, ‘for I cannot bear the thought of living without you.’ The arc of the narrative falls rather short of the title’s expectation; as Richard and Sophie’s relationship falls apart the conclusion reads more ‘I can’t bear the thought of living with you’. The contraction of a relationship into twenty minutes — from its online introduction to courtship to holiday to descent into routine to misunderstanding, jealousy and a final attempt at saving it — creates problems in the telling, though the opening scenes are refreshing in the fast-forward/playback mode in which they are played. But by the time a third party (Rea Mole) enters the picture late in the game like a fortune teller behind a screen, the humour dwindles away in an attempt to draw the increasingly drawn-out ends to a close: it needs to fast forward but there’s nowhere to go. Bain understandably wants to prolong the work but the problem is not so much the theatrical treatment as the narrative itself: ‘bury’ becomes less a metaphor for the strength of desire as for the weakness of the plot.

Heather Stewart and Helen Cox’s Lapse is intriguing. There is an integrity to the work that makes me want to see it again, but the subject is so cerebral that it puts me off. Shaped by Kenneth Goldsmith’s Fidget (an intense observation of each and every body movement Goldsmith made on June 16, 1997), Lapse has a similarly compulsive approach to movement while sparing us the details. To a reading of sections of the text by Robin Toller, Stewart and Cox perform movement phrases that repeat and syncopate in a matrix as astringent as it is precise. There is even a clock ticking to remind us of how relentless time can be when acutely observed. The reading by Toller gives lightness to the work while Stewart and Cox’s patterns lend it the complexity of a chess game or mathematical puzzle in which their neat technique and clean lines make their phrases almost hypnotic: the body as unemotional instrument. Toller accelerates his reading and Stewart and Cox move faster but not on his rhythm, playing a game of catch-up before they slow down to half-time. Toller eventually runs out of voice and the exhaustive catalog of movements grows silent, but he rallies with a commentary on, among other things, Lapse‘s ‘perverse inability to convey body language except through language.’ Thank goodness for Stewart and Cox. 

The opening haze of Ieva Kuniskis’ Women’s Tales draws its inspiration (so I learned later) from a scene in Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Nostalgia. Such a timeless sense of space — notwithstanding The Place’s initially over-enthusiastic haze machine — is a perfect setting (thanks to lighting designer Maria Klochkova) for this intricate weaving of four separate women’s stories.

Rachel Burn kneels on a bench with her legs tucked under her and Victoria Winter stands facing her. Andreea Padurariu brings in a flowerpot and defiantly tips both flowers and earth on to the floor, looking behind her with sly contempt to see if she is being observed before running off. She returns with a stash of letters and sits on a chair reading them, crumpling each one as she finishes it and dropping it on the floor. Helen Aschauer enters with a bowl of water that she places close to Burn, then paces up and down ranting at nobody in particular — sotto voce at first but the volume rises — interjecting at critical moments with a passionate prodding of her thigh and backside or a wild gesticulation of her arms: a physical and verbal monologue in a voluble language that has the flavour of a hot climate. Kuniskis builds her choreography from these carefully observed details, revealing her characters through their actions, developing their tics and idiosyncrasies into rich and imaginative dance that gives her work a sense of being grounded in the psychology of the earth (mirrored by the autumnal colours of Maiko Sakurai Karner’s costumes and a delicious Tupelo Blues by John Lee Hooker). Each woman’s quite independent tale is carefully superimposed on the others like a collage through which relationships are revealed by a sudden coincidence of gesture or by an act of sympathy.

After her rant, Aschauer returns to her bowl of water and washes Burn’s long hair.Winter’s pensive self-questioning leads her to comfort the disconsolate Padurariu. Aschauer takes off Burn’s cardigan to dry her hair before braiding it. Burn, who has been serenely meditative up to now suddenly erupts and clambers up Aschauer like a tree to perch briefly at the top, then knocks her down in her rush to the corner where Winter stood, but Winter has by now exchanged places and sits next to Aschauer, hand on her shoulder. There is a cinematic quality to Women’s Tales, with our focus shifting from one gesture or act to another like joining the dots of a broad canvas suffused with a dreamlike melancholy. Aschauer takes a sip of water from the bowl and removes her shoes. Burn returns to her bench, aided by Winter who then helps Aschauer put on Burn’s cardigan. Aschauer scribbles something on her knee and sets off at a delirious pace around the broken flower pot, tripping, falling, getting up, furiously writing in the air in one long flowing intensity. Meanwhile Winter is carefully piling up Padurariu’s crumpled letters on her lap, balancing them carefully in a paper pyramid. Just as the pile is complete, Padurariu stands up: it is her turn to tell her story, and she, unlike the others, comes forward into an imaginary spotlight as if to speak…but she cannot get a word out. She turns upstage and moonwalks to the music as if she is somehow elevated and continues to dance her story through her back, private and sensuous. Towards the end of her dance Aschauer begins to clean up the mess of the broken pot, Burn turns round quietly on her bench to face away and Winter sits in Padurariu’s chair: all four are ineluctably trapped in the web of their tales. It is only when Burn begins to sing a Lithuanian lullaby in a beautifully clear voice that the spell begins to break; Aschauer adds her voice as she sweeps and Winter joins in to form a trio as she picks up the crumpled letters. Padurariu ends her story and helps Aschauer with the cleaning. As each woman finishes her task she leaves, still singing; our ears strain to hear the final notes as our eyes accustom to the darkening light, somewhere between the end of the dream and waking.

 

 


Resolution! 2014: Vais, Burn, Clark

Posted: February 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2014: Vais, Burn, Clark

Resolution! 2014, The Place, January 29

Rachel Burn, Threshold (photo: Ben Hopper)

Rachel Burn, Threshold (photo: Ben Hopper)

Culture Device Dance Project: I can’t explain and I won’t even try

An arm extends from the wings, a waking arm stretching out in the morning light, followed by the rest of John Livingston. He seems to be in close and intimate conversation with the light around him (provided by Maria Klochkova), his gestures close and passionate, catching the air in his fist and pulling it down, unrolling his arm and slowly revealing his face in his ‘circle of public solitude’. He revels in being upside down, his head as anchor and his leg pointing up in the air like an exclamation mark. As he gets up, Sarah Gordy enters with an altogether more dynamic phrase, gyrating like a gentle hoola-hoop. Livingston searches, pushes back, grasps at questions and twists his body as if squeezing out the answers. Gordy is already grounded, her legs bent deeply to the floor and her body freely laid out above, her arms circling as if to test the limits of her senses, making a wide sweep around Livingston. He expresses each gesture with timeless concentration, acting and reacting in a moving dialogue. When something doesn’t quite succeed, one can sense his determination to follow it through to its logical conclusion, like one straining to express his words and meaning clearly. At the end of this first section he falls and rises again while Gordy continues to orbit like a planet circling the internal combustion of its star.

The dreamlike drone of Stars of the Lid changes to a slow-drilling techno pulse by Emptyset. Both Livingston and Gordy are rooted to the ground, their gestures becoming more forceful. Livingston throws off his t-shirt while Gordy pushes and pulls at an imaginary boundary. The drama in Livingston’s dialogue notches up in intensity as if he’s turning the screw tighter; Gordy watches him with concern as she continues to orbit, picking up on the repetitive, mechanical nature of the music. There are magical moments when their two independent worlds unite for an instant in a complementary movement that jumps out of the soundscape like a spark but finally the symbiosis fails, their energy is depleted and they both collapse to the ground — only, one imagines, for the time it takes to gather up the resources to start again.

Culture Device Dance Project is a professional company for dancers with Down’s Syndrome using improvisation techniques and experimental electronic sounds to push boundaries. I can’t explain and I won’t even try was developed by artistic director Daniel Vais in collaboration with the dancers.

Rachel Burn, Threshold

I first saw Rachel Burn’s work at a Cloud Dance Sunday. It was Pull Through, Flick, which had a monastic, spiritual underpinning that is still present in Threshold but here Burn is inspired by Walt Whitman’s free-ranging lines in Leaves of Grass — particularly Song of Myself. When you travel from Pull Through, Flick to Threshold you realise how much the ‘self’ that Whitman writes about has imbued Burn’s ‘self’ to create a more confident and poetic universe as if she had developed his ‘loosen’d tongue’. Given that she created the work on the same three dancers — Lauren Bridle, Laura Erwin and Anna Pearce — the work also reflects their emotional and physical stretching. (Only three days before the Resolution! performance, Erwin broke three bones in her foot during rehearsal and was unable to perform, so we saw a stunningly composed — and sleepless — Burn herself as both muse and interpreter. Whitman’s line of the poem that is chalked on the floor could have been dedicated to Erwin: ‘Be of good cheer, we will not desert you’).

The work is episodic in the same way Whitman weaves one image or story into another, each linked to the others by his understanding of the essential unity of person and environment. Renu Hossain’s lovely score seems to be inspired by the same humanist spirituality, supporting the key elements of the sea, the earth and the air. In each of her performers, Burn brings out individual strengths to match: Pearce turns herself inside out in her solo, arriving at a oneness with her material that is timeless and it is lovely once again to watch Bridle whose ability to transcend form is ever present; she is like water to Pearce’s earth. As for Burn herself, when not joining in the trios she seems quite at home as the statuesque, white-robed goddess with the delicately supplicating arms.

There is so much to enjoy in this sculptural work that it deserves a more sensitive treatment in terms of light and shade. Verse is read while choreography is essentially a visual art and paintings may be an appropriate inspiration for this further refinement. Perhaps by the time Erwin’s foot is healed there will be time (and funding) to explore.

Rag Days: Scratch

Choreographer Timothy Clark and designer Emma Robinson close the evening with Scratch, a burlesque loosely fashioned on the antics of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their companion April O’Neil.  In the opening scene, the four comrades (Ben Jones, Hannah Rotchell, Henry Curtis and João Cidade) are drilled by O’Neil (Patricia Zafra) as overbearing, over-the-top martial arts instructor. They have names that sound like The Whip, Morphine, Blue Mix and Red Lance and together they form the intrepid band of Dance Rangers battling evil — in the form of a manic, radio-controlled model car in satanic colours that races around the stage causing havoc — for the good of humanity. Off duty, they tend to talk all at once, or riff a cappella on their names. Clark is never at a loss for comic invention and keeps the audience entertained (i.e. laughing) throughout. According to Rag Days’ facebook page, Clark formed his company with the noble purpose of ‘making accessible dance works for the purpose of entertainment’, so Scratch certainly succeeds even if there is very little dance — accessible or otherwise — in it. Dramatic confrontation with Evil is finally averted by an enterprising Dance Ranger switching off the car to a rousing round of congratulations and a lot of energetic posing and fists in the air. The audience can’t help but respond in kind.

 

 

 

 

 


Cloud Dance Sundays

Posted: June 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cloud Dance Sundays, Lion & Unicorn, Kentish Town, May 19

Bravo to Chantal Guevara for getting Cloud Dance Sundays (www.cloud-dance-sundays.com) underway, aiming to provide ‘monthly evenings of good contemporary dance in the comfort of a cosy pub – a great way to end the week, with time for a drink or two downstairs before heading home.’ On this first outing:

Rachel Burn, Pull Through, Flick.

Anna Pearce and Lauren Bridle in Pull Through, Flick. Photo: Chantal Guevara

Anna Pearce and Lauren Bridle in Pull Through, Flick. Photo: Chantal Guevara

One can almost feel cold flagstones underfoot in the tiny Giant Olive theatre in Kentish Town’s Lion & Unicorn as a sweeping trio of pre-Raphaelite women enters with the somberness of a procession of nuns. Rachel Burn’s Pull Through, Flick builds up images of darkness, pain, and penitence as the women shed and share veils in communal bereavement. Hildegard von Bingen’s O Pastor Animarium sets the tone as the shape of Lauren Bridle, shrouded in a veil, moves in a grey ecclesiastical light, shuffling from one foot to the other as if loosening her roots. Laura Erwin takes the pose of a classical orator with one hand on stomach and the other at her throat, unable to breathe, unable to speak, a blur of pain as Bridle and Anna Pearce coil around each other and around the stage in mutual support. The tone of Pull Through, Flick is predominantly mournful and the score between the glorious von Bingen bookends does not relieve the gloom, but somewhere in the middle Bridle slips into a stormy, spiral solo that releases a sense of light as if she holds some ineffable secret. Her beautiful lines and circles last momentarily but when she rejoins Pearce and Erwin on their knees and the night of penitence, cleansing and submission descends again, the knowledge of that solo pulls me through. Not a flick exactly, and I’m not sure about the hope, but there was a moment of light.

John Ross, Man Down.

John Ross in Man Down. Photo: Chantal Guevara

John Ross in Man Down. Photo: Chantal Guevara

As John Ross kneels in a pool of light, the voice of Matthew Lackford reads the opening paragraph of a letter from the platoon commander of a soldier killed in Afghanistan to the soldier’s mother. Ross replays the soldier’s last moments in a series of abstract gestures — kneeling, crawling, urging, now standing, crumpling, turning — that he imbues with a maturity (gained perhaps through his research) that transforms these gestures into a commanding presence, a commanding officer: signaling, enjoying the danger, throwing himself out of harm’s way, then getting up and seeing it coming. Hit, he crumples, hands to ears, muffling the sounds of gunfire and perhaps hearing the urgent shouts of “Where, where, where?” but unable to respond. We are inside his head, aware of his mortality. Ross stands up looking back at where the fallen soldier lay. He is now the platoon commander, bravado gone, standing at ease with his troops, 19-year old boys any of whom could become, like their former colleague, a dead man. He looks away, tries to take it all in and throws up; he looks for memories, for friends, but finds only a nightmare of loss, throwing up again and violently throwing himself to the ground. Ross shows the reaction to the violent death of a comrade is more violent than the experience of death itself. Defeated by the loss, the violence, the brutality, the commander’s eyes — and Ross’s — seem to have seen what ours have not. He stands, takes off his top and turns his back, on which is written across his shoulder blade Bang! and a small hole just behind the heart: expressing the inexpressible. The performance is not only remarkable for its maturity and in avoiding any cloying sentimentality, but for the sound collage in which Ross has seamlessly layered a grungy, churned up track from Nine Inch Nails with his own thoughtful instrumentation and battleground sounds. A gem.

Tom Jackson Greaves, Vanity Fowl

Tom Jackson Greaves in Vanity Fowl. Photo: Chantal Guevara

Tom Jackson Greaves in Vanity Fowl. Photo: Chantal Guevara

Vanity Fowl follows an ordinary man, full of the usual insecurities that affect us all. A man who craves love, friendship and the need to belong…’ So begins the program note, with a title that could have come straight from early Matthew Bourne. In fact Tom Jackson Greaves has danced with New Adventures and Vanity Fowl was the runner up in the New Adventures Choreography Award last year, but although there is certainly something of Bourne in Vanity Fowl, Greaves has a sincerity and a self-deprecating sense of humour that sets him apart. His style does not wander far from his own physical capabilities, and its idiosyncrasy may prove to be limiting when he creates on other bodies, but here he is on his own territory creating on himself an imaginary rite of passage in three movements, which he labels Commonplace, Grace, and Disgrace. These designations are misleading: the trajectory is from gauche and stammering to rousingly articulate and back to self doubt and despair.

The context is set in a filmed introduction, a chic bar peopled with the stylish and the beautiful, where Greaves appears underdressed and out of character with everyone dancing around him. He catches the eye of an impossibly vain man who comes up to shake his hand and ridicule his appearance. This is the point at which Greaves comes on stage to prolong the handshake so we see only his reactions to the unseen man’s overarching snobbery and withering assessment. Greaves’ timing and squirming responses are very funny as he is skewered to the dance floor. The middle, transformative section begins with a Cinderella moment in his flat when he takes from his cupboard and puts on a handsome mirror jacket (courtesy of Theo Clinkard). His inhibitions fall away and he returns to the chic bar to dance his dreams. This is Greaves giving his all, and he does it effectively until the mirrored jacket falls apart, like the clock striking midnight. Self-doubt assails him once again as he props up his smiling face in his framed hands, removes his jacket and curls up on what is left of it in the dying light: not so much disgrace as sincerity about the superficial.