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.


Wild Card: Tim Casson & Friends

Posted: April 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Wild Card: Tim Casson & Friends

Tim Casson & Friends, Wild Card, Lilian Baylis Studio, March 18

Tim Casson on stage and on film in Fiend

Tim Casson on stage and on film in Fiend

There is something so ebullient about Tim Casson that his Wild Card evening at the Lilian Baylis Studio is bound to be a lively occasion. He takes over the Garden Court Café, the Khan Lecture Theatre as well as the Studio stage and fills them with dance appetizers and main courses that will cater for a broad range of tastes. Oliver Fitzgerald, Chloe Mead, Sarah Blanc and Jen Irons collect stories (in the nicest possible way) from people in the café prior to the main performance to gather material for a dance they will perform later on stage; this is the latest incarnation of Casson’s groundbreaking, record-breaking The Dance WE Made. While we are watching the first part of the evening on stage, these four dancers are editing and rehearsing their accumulated phrases for performance in the second half.

In the half hour before the main performance (it is also repeated in the intermission) Casson curates what he calls First Contact in the Kahn Lecture Theatre, bringing together two pairs of artists who have not worked together before, one a dancer and the other an artist from another discipline. Each pair has been given a speed-dating two days to come up with a collaborative work (collaboration is the name of this evening’s game). The first pair is filmmaker Alisa Boanta and dancer Robert Guy, the second actor/musician Tim van Eyken and dancer/choreographer Dani B Larsen. In Dust You Are Boanta projects a film on to Guy’s bare back that makes him both tactile screen, a live chakra model and actor in his own drama. The film is so cleverly filmed and projected that it is difficult to differentiate the filmed movements from Guy’s own. Van Eyken sings a ballad of a young man lost at sea while Larsen embodies his lover in her interaction with both the story and the storyteller.

On the Studio stage Casson presents three works that continue the theme of collaboration: works by Nina Kov, Cornelia Voglmayr and his own Fiend. Kov’s Copter was first seen as a Place Prize commission in 2012 but she has subtly reworked it from being a duet between a dancer and a remote controlled helicopter to a fable of human interaction with machine. Kov has also removed herself from the protagonist role, allowing her the distance to mould the choreography on Rosie Terry while the copter pilot is the ace Jack Bishop. I remember seeing the original and being more aware of the copter than of the dancer but Kov has now balanced the work to show a charged relationship between the two that runs the gamut from touchingly playful to coldly voyeuristic.

In Voglmayr’s Sonata in 3 Movements dancer Elisa Vassena and violist Benjamin Hooper create a deconstructed sonata in which the dancer’s body, the viola player’s body, the viola and the bow all have a significant and interchangeable role to play. Hooper begins by laying his viola on its side and lying on his back behind it. He reaches over his head to pluck the opening phrase of the glorious Prelude to Bach’s cello suite No. 1 with Vassena dancing her torso on his upturned knees. Throughout the work Voglmayr mischievously sets Hooper an obstacle course, both physical and mental, that tests his ability to return to the Prelude. In the second movement, Vassena gives Hooper a lesson in dance imagination: ‘take your sitting bones for a walk’, ‘imagine your pelvis coming out of your mouth’ ‘imagine yourself a pillar of ashes and your cells are disappearing in the universe’ to which Hooper valiantly submits with hilarious results. In the third movement Vassena holds the bow between her foot and her ear and Hooper presses the viola strings against it to play Bach’s notes in unfamiliar but recognizable fashion. It is a blurring of the familiar demarcation between musician and dancer that is witty and rewarding. Hooper gets his virtuoso moment in the coda while Vassena sits at his feet seemingly unmoved until she gets up and nonchalantly walks him off.

Casson’s Fiend (his definition of wild card?) is a collaboration between himself and computer programmer/operator Tom Butterworth with whom he shares the stage. The work is based on Nijinsky’s ballet L’Après-midi d’un faun where Casson is the faun but his nymphs are multiple images of himself captured in various poses and phrases by an onstage camera that Butterworth then loops on to the backdrop screen when the choreography demands: Butterworth improvises the transference of Casson’s movements on stage so that his screen image interacts with his nymphs. It is complex and the only way to see the logic of it is to watch the screen. Casson is using the technology to explore the dual nature of watching and being watched in an environment of digital manipulation and his adoption of Nijinsky’s lecherous faun adds an element of voyeurism — a subsidiary theme of this Wild Card — to the work’s theme.

The time arrives for The Dance WE Made, which references those who valiantly contributed their stories; it is short and sweet and danced with fun and enthusiasm that makes a strong point of contact with the audience. Casson comperes this part of the show, adding a final coup in which he divides the audience into pairs for a choreographic task: the first partner asks a predetermined question (Where do you live?) and the second answers in purely physical language. The second then asks ‘What kind of house do you live in?’ and the first responds with another phrase of movement. The two responses are then performed together (on stage or in the seats) to form a simultaneous series of short choreographic phrases. Hey presto, the choreographer has demystified choreography in such an unpretentious, engaging way and in doing so has possibly broken another world record for the number of new works created amongst a dance audience in one evening.