Simone Mousset: The Passion of Andrea 2 at Touch Wood

Posted: September 12th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Simone Mousset: The Passion of Andrea 2 at Touch Wood

Simone Mousset, The Passion of Andrea 2, Touch Wood, September 6

Simone Mousset

Luke Divall, Lewys Holt and Mathis Kleinschnittger in rehearsal (photo: Simone Mousset)

Masquerading under a working title, The Passion of Andrea 2 ‘claims to be a second version of a piece from many, many years ago inspired by feelings of insecurity and confusion in a world of competition, threat, suspicion, and violence.’ We shall probably never know what The Passion of Andrea was like, but Simone Mousset’s sequel lands fully formed on the Touch Wood stage at The Place following a mere three-and-a-half days of rehearsal with Luke Divall, Lewys Holt and Mathis Kleinschnittger. Each introduces himself as a professional dancer named Andrea which is where the clarity begins to unravel. What brings them together is their ‘favourite trio’ that they rehearse with childlike abandon and perfunctory brilliance until a perceived error occurs and the trio breaks off in clamorous recriminations and comic-strip violence.

Mousset frames the work within a game where Holt divides the audience into three teams; each has the explicit role of shouting a warning to its assigned Andrea whenever he might be facing a situation of mortal danger, of which there are many. Holt gives nicknames to each performer to be used as the warning cry: Divall is ‘short’, Kleinschnittger is ‘skinny’ and Holt, of course, is ‘best’. Each has his own finger gun in his pocket and when tempers fray out it comes to settle the argument. The heat of unpredictability requires our acute attention to save our respective heroes from being wasted; Divall suffers from a combination of Holt’s recklessness and his team’s slow reactions whereas Holt never hits the deck because of the irresolution of his accusers and the quick reaction of his team. The deviant behaviour, farcical humour, and fast-paced rhythm of the game galvanize the audience into action that in turn encourages a stream of asides and repartee between the Andreas and their supporters. The action fits neatly into the current zeitgeist of political discourse where doublespeak and fake news make a mockery of serious debate, conferring on The Passion of Andrea 2 a satirical edge that only becomes evident, like an echo, after the laughter dies down.

The structure of The Passion of Andrea 2 is in the form of a theme and variations where the Andreas collectively develop the theme of insecurity and confusion followed by delicious individual variations on ‘feeling uneasy’ before the piece returns to its original motif of the favourite trio. Divall, Kleinschnittger and Holt are ideally matched to spark off each other with delightful absurdity while maintaining the clarity of the work’s formal structure.

Touch Wood ‘offers artists the chance to show a short fragment of an early idea or a sketch of a work which is in its conception.’ At 15 minutes The Passion of Andrea 2 is a miniature work but complete in its form and content; it sits like a single movement in a musical structure — an allegro giacoso ma non troppo, perhaps — that suggests it could be linked to other self-contained but related movements as a way of extending this early (or late) sketch into a full-length work.

 

(with apologies to the creators of other works on this evening’s Touch Wood that we were not able to see)


Resolution 2017: Helen Cox, John Ross Dance & Simone and Elisabeth

Posted: January 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution 2017: Helen Cox, John Ross Dance & Simone and Elisabeth

Resolution 2017: Helen Cox, John Ross Dance, & Simone and Elisabeth

Simone Mousset and Elisabeth Schilling in Impressing the Grand Duke (photo: Bohumil Kostohryz)

Resolution is a festival of emerging artists, but for an explanation of the perilous stages of emergence there is no better guide than Simone Mousset and Elisabeth Schilling’s hilarious Impressing the Grand Duke. Having experienced the travails of ascending from ‘the deep and mysterious choreographic forest’ to ‘the deep inverted choreographic mountain’ they know how it’s done. Impressing the Grand Duke is told as a fable about an artist called Nymphadora who dances and dreams all day long in an obscure corner of the world. One day she receives a visit from the Grand Duke who recognizes her as an up-and-coming artiste, an original talent and future star and sends her on a mission to conquer the choreographic world. Nymphadora is played by both Schilling as Nympha, the stubborn, egocentric creative, and by Mousset as Dora, her harridan muse and business manager. Add the fairytale costumes by Mélanie Planchard and there are no limits to which these two consummate clowns will descend to deliver a satirical farce of the highest order. Despite Dora’s low opinion about their prospects (“Nympha, we are not getting anywhere in our art. You are always dancing the same dance….We have to emerge.”) the two manage to get through the various choreographic contests by squabbling or riffing verbally on their inability to choreograph. For Dora the goals are clear: international stardom, real visibility, real props and costumes, and sponsorship. For Nympha real costumes are trumped by the prospect of a visit from the Grand Duke.

They finally emerge (completely) to recorded congratulations against a Hollywood soundtrack so you can almost see the credits rolling up the screen as you reach for your Kleenex. Only one thing worries Nympha, who with devastating timing between the batting of her false eyelashes and the pouting of her red lips asks Dora, “And now?”

The choreography is ascribed to both Mousset and Schilling; not only are they natural counterparts to each other on stage but through their creative alchemy they anchor the theatricality of the work in a musical form. For last year’s Resolution Mousset and Schilling worked together on Their Past to the symphonic music of Yuri Khanon but for Impressing the Grand Duke music provides only the initial impetus. Schilling begins the work dancing with capricious delight to Claude Debussy’s Étude 10 pour les sonorités opposés, on pointe, and even when Mousset comes thundering down the aisle on to the stage she never disregards the music’s rhythmic structure. But when the Étude finishes, the work continues as a tightly coherent physical score with spoken and recorded texts, and the Hollywood finale. In Impressing the Grand Duke, Mousset and Schilling have added a delightful sense of humour to their musicality and ability to paint with dance, which makes them a creative duo to watch. All the more so now they have emerged.

Helen Cox’s double pendulum (ee cummings punctuation) opens the program. It takes place in either a spacious attic or a church nave sculpted in light and haze by Lucy Hansom and Ric Mountjoy. There is something of both the domestic and the spiritual in this duet that Cox dances with Andrew Oliver; their relationship has a domestic flavour in the way they set out their individual dynamics in their initial solos and then borrow from each other, but the spatial design, enhanced by the lighting, puts the work on a spiritual plane. Both dancers have the ability to stretch their gestures way beyond the reach of their limbs and Cox can effortlessly inhabit a spiral that wraps the space around her; together she and Oliver control space. They do not touch for much of the work (when Cox clutches Oliver’s wrist it comes as a shock) but glide around and replace each other in a silence of choreography that the selection of tracks by Loscil and Floating Points intensifies; their relationship develops out of the choreography rather than being described by it. It is one of the few works I have seen that stands on its own choreographic merits without any need for notes or explanations.

In an evening of duets (unless we count the offstage presence of The Grand Duke), John Ross and Nicole Guarino’s work, They Never Were, takes its title from its predominant motif of unfinished gestures. The choreography is a rich tapestry of gestures but the grounding of each one is constantly withdrawn like a quietly redacted conversation. As in double pendulum there is a silence that pervades the work, both in the quality of movement and in the intertwined gestures that barely connect. Hannah Kidd’s costumes soften the bodies while Hansom herself again works her magic with a mist of lighting that further dissolves the figures into sculptural forms: we barely see the faces of the two dancers. Enhancing this sense of the ethereal is a score of Arvo Pärt’s haunting Für Alina and an extract from Jon Hopkins’ Immunity on top of which we hear a series of short, recorded phrases (written by Drew Taylor) like memory traces. Ross and Guarino keep these elements in constant suspension while their feet remain effortlessly on the ground. The nature of the work withdraws quietly into its title with equal elegance.


Resolution! 2016, performances on January 20

Posted: January 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Resolution! 2016, performances on January 20

Resolution! 2016: Justine Reeve, Rhiannon Brace, Simone Mousset

Simone Mousset, Elisabeth Schilling and Hannah Ma in Their Past (photo: Bohumil Kostohryz)

Simone Mousset, Elisabeth Schilling and Hannah Ma in Their Past (photo: Bohumil Kostohryz)

Justine Reeve and Company is actually Justine Reeve sans Company, or the-one-and-only Justine Reeve distilling over 20 years of dance teaching into a satirical compendium of key principles. Reeve is a fine performer and the line she draws between performance and reality is also fine; she gets away with pointing out uncomfortable truths by offering them in a comedic routine that has us laughing hysterically. And this evening she is in full flow, hosting a mock Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminar entitled Outstanding Dance Teaching and Tactics for Achievement, abbreviated nonchalantly to Outstanding and tactics, in which the audience plays the role of delegates. Reeve has a lot to say and she says it with delightfully-timed word play, bullet points, aphorisms, biscuit licking, a clip of her teaching a jelly-roll sequence to Chloe Mead and Corey Baker, a beached-whale dance, and a Tim Van Eyken song called Trust in Me that morphs into Trust in Reeve, while unflinchingly taking on the university dance syllabus and dreams of Michael Flatley. As a teacher she’s on dangerous ground; but behind the mordant humour of Outstanding and tactics it is not hard to sense that Reeve’s object of dissection is not teaching per se but the bureaucratic structure of dance training that sucks the life out of its teachers and replaces the oral tradition with administrative jargon. She has been teaching long enough to know the difference and in the custom of the court jester or clown, Reeve is a messenger who uses the art of performance to convey it. Outstanding and tactics is classic Reeve and the dance community should have the courage to present it and discuss its issues. As long as she agrees to share her biscuits.

Rhiannon Brace describes her creative path self-deprecatingly as ‘a clueless mother’s experience of pregnancy, childbirth and “life” after’ following the birth of her son, Dylan. Less clueless is her choice of music that inverts the meaning of ‘baby’ in pop culture to the biological phenomenon with which she has recently fallen in love. Baby thus has a similar structural reliance on popular music and the double-entendre of its lyrics as Jerome Bell’s The Show Must Go On. From Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Brahms’ Lullaby played on a music box through a juke box playlist of Be My Baby by The Ronettes, Kooks by David Bowie (to whose memory Baby is dedicated), Baby Boy by Beyoncé, Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons, to a finale of Tina Charles singing I Love to Love, it is the music that proves the driving emotional force through Brace’s autobiographical journey. Babies don’t dance (well, they do, but that comes later) so the cast reflects an older family hierarchy with Gracie-Jayne Angel as ebullient baby, Grace Kemp as mother, Mary Cox as young grandmother and Jey Jeyakumar as teddy-bearing father. Bookending her journey with a short before-and-after solo by Kemp, Brace’s choreography celebrates the bonds of family and friends and the mutual help that makes the process of early motherhood bearable, proudly sharing the fruits of her labour with five mothers and their (very young) offspring in Snugglies who join her in a loose improvisational finale to the Tina Charles track. Never has so much applause been showered on so many babies for such a brief appearance.

The initial impact of Simone Mousset’s Their Past is a first hearing of two movements from the extraordinary Middle Symphony by Russian composer Yuri Khanon. Mousset does not attempt to counter the urgent power of Khanon’s score but along with Elisabeth Schilling and Hannah Ma she weaves an ethereal contrast to it both visually and emotionally. The music rises up suddenly out of the dark and its haunting orchestration spreads like a mist. Their Past is inspired by Mousset’s experiences of travelling, living and working in Russia, Ukraine and Lebanon and there is in her approach to the music of Khanon (from whom she asked permission to use the score) a response to the expansive and mysterious land as much as to the music. Schilling and Ma in matching black bodices and red tulle skirts are described as guides to the white-clad Mousset as she journeys through time. There are traces of a Renaissance dance and a wonderful trio of three silent voices speaking through the body. Mousset revels in the gesture of ambiguity; the women float with mysterious shivers and shudders, hesitant in their fragile relationship in which they seem ineluctably drawn to each other. As rich in imagination and as enigmatic as Khanon’s music, Their Past forges a unity of its elements that sustains its folkloric enchantment to the end. A simple inversion of the opening relationship between the three women brings the work to a close with Mousset and Ma watching Schilling’s final abandoned spiraling of red tulle under a red light until she falls to the floor on the final percussive crack of the score and the spell is broken.