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Phoenix Dance Theatre: Particle Velocity

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Phoenix Dance Theatre premiered their new programme “Particle Velocity” to a packed audience at West Yorkshire Playhouse. This mixed bill was a very diverse programme and offered a combination of traditional and cutting-edge choreography, all wrapped up in the physically dynamic style that Phoenix Dance Theatre is best known for.

The evening opened with choreography from Richard Alston, which is the first work he has created for the company and fans of his work will not be disappointed. All Alight is well-crafted and reminiscent of a more traditional era in choreography, with a series of duets, trios and ensemble sections. This is danced to a backdrop of Ravel’s music for violin and cello, exquisitely performed by Benedict Holland and Jennifer Langridge from Psappha; the musicians’ positioning upstage greatly enhanced the relationship between music and dance. Conceptually and choreographically, All Alight is not groundbreaking work, but as Alston says, ‘I know what moves me about dance’. Apprentice dancers Chris Agius Darmanin and Vanessa Vince-Pang were particularly captivating in this piece, bringing a wonderfully light and elegant quality to their duets. Notable, too, was the seamless lighting from designer Andy Waddington.

Next on the programme was Ki, Jose Agudo's first piece for Phoenix Dance Theatre and inspired by Genghis Khan's extraordinary life, exploring themes of a man seizing control of his own destiny. Josh Wille, performing this solo, is an extraordinary dancer and has ample opportunity to showcase his strong capabilities. The movement is technically and physically demanding, and there are moments that are really exciting. However, conceptually, the piece lacked clarity. While there was a connection to the title 'ki' or 'energy' , using movement content with a martial arts flavour, the link with Genghis Khan seemed rather nebulous.

The strongest piece of the night was after the second interval: Douglas Thorpe’s Tender Crazy Love is conceptually brilliant. Each element of the piece resonates very simply but also very clearly with the same concept. The duet is about a couple pushed to extremes of desire and is visually cinematic. Thorpe’s signature visceral raw style is contextualized within stunning and dramatic lighting which punctuates the shifts in the story. The music is well-chosen and also heightens the action. The use of confetti as a visual is utterly mesmerising and cleverly implemented. The lighting manages to alter the space in unusual and surprising ways. Thorpe’s work has really developed over the past few years, and gone from strength to strength. He is definitely one to watch for the future and I look forward to his first full evening work, Dogs Land, later this year.

Repetition of Change, the final piece of the programme, was choreographed by Phoenix Dance Theatre's Artistic Director, Sharon Watson, and also uses live music with a specially commissioned score ‘Forms Entangled, Shapes Collided’, composed by Kenneth Hesketh and performed by Psappha, which is dark and rhythmically complex. This is an ambitious and brave piece exploring the intricate world of DNA. Watson has replicated and used double helix within the piece because it is multi-layered. The opening of this piece is visually stunning and the movement has a mercurial quality, as a giant parachute begins to unfold under projections which put the dancers on stage under a microscope. This is a very strong section in the piece, with powerful imagery and compelling movement, and could have afforded further development. The dancers work exceptionally well as an ensemble in this piece, which is wonderful to watch.

Phoenix Dance Theatre’s premiere received rapturous rockstar-like applause from their audience, proving it to be a popular and entertaining programme of work. Particle Velocity is touring nationally; visit phoenixdancetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/tour-dates.htm for further details.

 

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Resolution! Mariana Camiloti, Loughlin Dance, CoDa Dance Company

The three works of this Resolution! evening all began with strong, striking images. Some delivered on the potential set up by their opening, while others did not.

Standing alone in a green dress, Mariana Camiloti exudes presence from the moment of her entrance. Soon, a green balloon emerges from her pocket and the solo becomes a duet. Air is repeatedly blown into and let of the balloon, with Camiloti similarly inflating and deflating in empathy with her new partner. The pace is slow, but mesmerising, until she breaks the spell by letting go. The balloon whizzes through the air, somewhat ridiculously. A cluster of balloons is revealed at the back of the stage as the lighting signals the shift into the next phase of the dance.

Vibrantly green, these balloons provide a visual feast. Gradually Camiloti arranges them into a diagonal line stretching almost all the way across the stage. Her pace starts slow but becomes more frantic as she rushes up and down the line, constantly rearranging the balloons, trying to keep them in place. It is a valiant, but futile effort, as these green spheres are full of air and agency. The execution of this simple but challenging task is engaging: an attempt at control and a search for order that is in vain, but which is endearing for that very reason.

After requesting the audience to blow up and contribute the balloons that they were given before entering the auditorium, her visual landscape increases in brilliance and we are treated to seeing Camiloti really move. It is breathtaking, full of lightness and clarity, and it leaves me wanting more. As compelling as her earlier gestural movement was, it feels like it is with this new movement energy that 27 Dragonflies wants to culminate. But there isn’t quite enough to satisfy. 

The dreamscape created by Camiloti is about... balloons? Bubbles? Dragonflies? It doesn’t really matter; this is an intensely personal world, to be individually experienced in all its delightful surreality.  


Loughlin Dance’s Placid Chaos opens with one dancer lit by a square of light. As his movement escalates, he is forced out of, and back into the illuminated rectangle, an effective visual choice. The other dancers enter, walking across the stage, sometimes skirting the central lit area, sometimes not. But the tension created by this opening is not upheld in the rest of the dance.
 
There are some interesting choreographic moments, but these are lost in the larger swirl of bodies that lacks purpose and structure. Overall, the choreography feels too much like snippets of phrases sellotaped together; it needs more flow, and maybe more stillness too. It also tends towards angst, lending it an air of drama that seems superficial rather than supported by the content. The hip-hop inspired sections, although pulsing with intensity, do not fit well into the whole.

Eventually the opening image re-emerges, the rectangle of light starkly lighting the same performer. It is nice to see Placid Chaos come full circle, the end anchored to the beginning, but it doesn’t really go anywhere in between.


The evening concluded with CoDa Dance Company’s 12 Months On. This piece opened with two performers each holding another performer limp in their arms. The choice to prolong this moment was a good one: the tension built accordingly. Eventually it broke, the performers violently dropping their comrades’ bodies to the floor; the power of hearing bodies and floor collide should not be underestimated.

12 Months On deals with caring for the ill and the guilt, anger, and confusion that this can engender. It is dominated by beautifully strong performances and seems to hinge around the duet structure. However, this breaks down as the piece progresses with trios and solos also appearing in the mix. Whilst these moments generally still work, the duet is the more effective choice, especially given the subject matter. More emphasis on the duet as structural underpinning would make for a tighter piece that delivers with more impact.

For the most part, the bodies do the talking, conveying the varied emotional responses to caretaking. However, there is one moment where speech is introduced and it seems unnecessary. The use of voice does not add anything to what the bodies are already saying, and this solo moment could have been just as communicative without.

Overall, 12 Months On conveys what it sets out to convey, highlighting the complexities that come with responsibility towards another’s body: a particularly poignant subject matter for dance.

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'Snow Flying'... !

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In the thick of the January snow, our team of four plus two new faces reconnected with each other and with 'Setback'. Here's our most recent rehearsals in words...

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Resolution! DeNada Dance Theatre, Diciembre Dance Group, The Typewriters

It takes a very brave choreographer to tackle Le Jeune Homme et la Morte, previously immortalised by Roland Petit, but not only did Carlos Pons Guerra do exactly that for DeNada Dance Theatre, but he accomplished it with a hell of a lot of flair, effortlessly banishing the likes of Barysnikov, Nureyev and Vasiliev in the opening moments.

Unfortunately, the intensity of Young Man! (a direct translation of 'Jeune Homme') also had the effect of banishing the programme notes, which explained that it was based in post-Franco Spain, "a time of sexual liberation", and that the two androgynous dancers were in fact both women.

Choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra's only nod to Petit's version is the opening scene, which sees Sabrina Ribes Bonet lying on a table, smoking a cigarette as the lights come up. She then munches on an ever-present chorizo before launching into an anguished solo with dramatic gestures and flair.

Death - Victoria Da Silva - arrives in a spotlight, a sultry, ubercool and androgynous figure, hellbent on tormenting Sabrina and destroying her confidence and virility, trying to provoke her however possible - including a very original use of a ham as a prop.

Young Man!
opens with an explosive start, and sustains such high energy for much of the piece, it's unsurprising that the energy levels ebb towards the end of the piece, while Sabrina wrestles with her demons. That's the only low point in this piece, however: Carlos Pons Guerra has created a richly entertaining and enjoyable work with inventive and vivid storytelling and imagery, with fantastic performances from both of his dancers. Young Man! is a piece which deserves to go far - and it teaches the audience two lessons: Spanish women are feisty lovers... and never leave your ham unattended.


Resolution! companies normally have enough challenges to contend with - for example, lack of funding, availability of rehearsal space and dancers, and never enough rehearsals - without the obstacles faced by Diciembre Dance Group, with Lucía Piquero now based in Malta and Sara Accetura in Italy; they had precisely 4.5 hours of rehearsal before this performance.

While the story of Diciembre Dance Group's Yerma's Nights may be obscure to the audience, it takes Federico García Lorca's short story 'Yerma', of a woman obsessed by motherhood despite her barrenness, to the extreme that she murders her husband, thus destroying any chance she could ever have of bearing children. In Yerma's Nights, Sara Accetura portrays the figure of Yerma, while Lucía Piquero is a younger, modern woman discovering the story and the questions it raises for her, with her gradually absorbing Yerma's life and character. Torn pages are used to represent the presence of Lorca's story: from Lucía's discovery and absorption of it to her final rejection of the story - or of no longer needing its presence.

Sara Accetura portrays a tormented, anguished character, predominantly expressing herself through frenzied movement and fecundity references; Lucía Piquero's character is far more pensive, with freshness and optimism to offset Sara's resignation and weariness.

Yerma's Nights
is a contemplative work with much use of stillness and unhurried movement: it can either be a big gamble to create in this way, or an indication of choreographic confidence. It isn't Diciembre Dance Group's strongest work, but Lucía and Sara are to be congratulated for what they achieved in such a short space of time. And the live accompaniment by Alberto García and Victor Gil was absolutely exquisite.


The Typewriters
' Adaptors was a work in two parts - or three, if you include the sections with the dancers milling about or dancing exuberantly in their underwear. Seeking to explore gender differences, especially in relationships, the first half largely fell flat, with an overreliance on minimalism, seemingly to to inject more drama into the characters and their choreography. With a cast of seven dancers, they used small deliberate movements - brushing laps, adjusting seating positions, leaning - offset by more dynamic solos.

The second half saw the dancers swap their unfinished clothing, with the men donning skirts and makeup, and the women adopting male behaviour: exaggerated stances, sniffing loudly and hacking, and of course grabbing their crotches. This half was far more successful, if lacking refinement: Ria Uttridge aggressively tried to seduce Daniel DeLuca, who whimpered and slapped her, but the highlight was an endearing duet between Udifydance's Christopher Reynolds and Daniel DeLuca.

 

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Resolution! taciturn, Zoe Cobb (The Artful Badger), Ivan Blackstock

Last night’s programme at Resolution! was overflowing with physical humour. Clever and engaging, these three groups: taciturn, (Zoe Cobb) The Artful Badger, and Ivan Blackstock delivered unique perspectives to the everyday event, infusing and delighting the audience with creative performance.

Taciturn
could upstage and deliver some comical lessons to all airline staff: based around health and safety guidelines, this trio demonstrates what to do when your parachute fails, what to do in an earthquake, how to search for a bomb and, finally, how to take a punch. The physical prowess of these three dancers lends itself to what was approaching slapstick comedy, but with enough movement charm to engage with contemporary dance. There were artful transitions between the comedic and the sensitive, the suspended and the rushed; voiceovers, music and vocalization created and carried the scenarios they seamlessly developed. Energetic and engaging, this piece was over far too quickly, though it’s best to go out with a bang. (sorry)

Although not strictly contemporary dance, the second offering of the night performed by another trio: The Artful Badger toyed with the experience of a new bird entering into the world, developing relationships within and around itself. Personalities shaped these dancers as the work progressed, and the physical depiction of this experience, paralleled with the human experience, was touching and often quite comical. Demonstrating curiosity, repetition, camaraderie and even jealousy, these birds bounced and pecked around one another and toward the audience, ruffling their ample feathers in delight and frustration. Though the soundscape was minimal, this work contained a delicate nuance that was emotionally warming.

In the final work for the evening, Ivan Blackstock examined the humourous possibilities of things that go bump in the night. Disturbed by the sleeping habits of the woman next to him, his frustration built into a scene reminiscent of Bedknobs and Broomsticks – nightclothes, jeans and hoodies bounding around the stage with personality and cunning. This extended scene, entertaining in itself, was somewhat two-dimensional, though the antics were clearly humanising, and the empathy of the situation was engaging and enriching for the audience. The movement vocabulary was set to impress, these obviously talented dancers performing complex movement phrases with impressive ease. Blackstock is clearly a choreographer who likes to entertain, and with his band of black-unitard-cum-clothing helpers, he certainly succeeded, his exit littered with numerous bouts of applause.

 

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Resolution! penny & jules dance, Wayne Parsons, Botis Seva

This Resolution! triple bill saw all four choreographers performing in their pieces, something not unusual for Resolution! where funds are tight (or, in many cases, non-existent). As is also not unusual for this new dance platform, the night’s offering was a mixed bag.

As the hashtag in the title might indicate, social media was the theme of penny & jules#Factory. The audience were encouraged to tweet @pennyandjules during the piece - a live feed(back) in dialogue with their exploration of how we use social media not just to share, but to create our lives. The two solos that opened the piece showcased the dancers’ fluidity and comfort with the floor. However, with the introduction of the technology (a video projection mash of photos, footage of the dancers, programming code, and overly-long quotes), the potential established in the opening section was soon lost. While there were some interesting concepts at play - the relationship between the individual and their virtual self, for example - they only occasionally came across. The performers were dominated by the technology, but there was not enough in the video projections to really interest. Was this irony intended? Unclear.


Wayne ParsonsMeeting was the gem of the evening and clearly the work of a more experienced choreographer. Although this was Parsons’ London choreographic debut, National Dance Company of Wales has toured three of his works (he danced for NDCW, along with Sydney Dance Company and Richard Alston Dance Company) and he has also created a work for Monmouthshire Youth Dance Company.

A duet between Parsons and Katie Lusby, Meeting explores the distortion of memory and how a story changes with each retelling. The performers compared notes on their movement, correcting and adjusting each other as they went along. Sometimes these corrections were good-natured, other times less so; the power dynamic between the two performers shifted back and forth as they negotiated their conflicting memories. Oscillating between simple gestures and more expansive, dynamic outbursts, the movement was characterised by idiosyncrasies. These gave the choreography freshness, offering moments of oddity and humour that charmed. 

Exploring the distortion of memory might be the conceptual intent, but, ultimately, Meeting’s accomplishment lies in its intelligent insight into the dynamics of a two-person relationship. Alternating between bickering and agreeing, being vulnerable and in control, the underlying dynamic between the two performers was one of tenderness. Parsons and Lusby’s strong, genuine presences resonated powerfully, conveying an endearing sense of humanity, with all its quirks and flaws, throughout their Meeting.


Place in Between is a solo created and performed by Botis Seva. It opens with Seva facing away from the audience in a soft pool of light. He moves slowly from one side of the stage to the other, the spasmodic, almost violent movement concentrated in his torso. This piece challenges the audience to slow their pace right down and be present with the performer in his slow, tortured struggle. This is an exploration of faith: from the kyrie-like music to the lighting suggesting church windows to the praying and genuflection, religious references abound. The texts scattered across the floor may be another religious reference, but this is unclear; they do not add much.

Seva’s strong presence and inward focus is powerful and his slow progress through space provides something akin to a meditative experience. However, the theme is a large one and the development of the piece doesn’t accomplish as much as it could. Despite compelling imagery, something gets lost in the telling, and at twenty-five minutes in length, I wonder if his drawn-out internal struggle is, ultimately, worth it.

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Resolution! Joe Lott Dance, Scope Dance Theatre, Sven K Dance

Tonight's triple bill found a breakdancing quartet in Palette, mapping and painting their movements as a disparate drawing was formed, sandwiched between two similarly science-themed contemporary pieces, Chemistry and Heart of Matter.

Joe Lott's Chemistry, in response to Mendeleev's dream of the elements and how the periodic table came to existence, evoked a vision of dancing atoms that, as the music shifted in dynamic, sparkled with gestural nuances. Two male and three female dancers grouped and split, shifting in and out of unison in a play of dancing particles fusing and separating to eventually form the elements in re-ordered pairs. Creating order out of more and more chaos through both floor patterns and dynamic expression would clarify and charge what was already there with the intensity and power associated with chemical fusion. Tension increased as the dancers repeated a simple hop, step and jump phrase in rectangular pathways crossing and intersecting each other's focus. This was possibly the most powerful section of the dance: there was room to play with the energy and complexity of the phrases, drawing the piece towards a crescendo.


Scope Dance Theatre's Nefeli Tsiouti both choreographed and performed with three dancers in Palette. Courageously attempting to marry a visual artist and dancers onstage in a mixture of narrative and metaphor resulted in a somewhat disjointed piece. Several moments of potential, such as the relationship between breakdancing and graffiti, which is historically significant in the development of breakdancing, are strong bases from which to explore choreography. The notion of the artist both painting the dancer and creating the dancer explored in a scene of faux puppetry showed humour and personality, but confused the purpose of the dislocated artist left at his easel. Flourishes of spins, windmills and jumps were glimpsed but then overshadowed by the attempt to bring so many disjointed themes together. Taking breakdancing out of the context of the battle stripped it of its expected function, but the multiple themes of Palette which replaced this lacked in depth and focus.


Sven K Dance closed the evening in a highly polished formal piece, Heart of Matter. Travis Clausen-Knight's grouping and floor patterns with five female dancers and himself conveyed powerful but transient relationships between them, inspired by the power of the Higgs Boson, the 'God Particle'. Constantly changing duets, in which the pairs seem to become magnetised by each other's presence potentially added a layer of power and gender play to a more abstracted work. The angular and linear style was abundant with staccato vocabulary, powerful statuesque positions and flurries of fluid gestures. The addition of a blue glow-ball had the potential to undermine the piece but, in a scene of dreamlike quality created by cool blue lighting and use of silhouette, it took on some gravitas. This glowing sphere of energy was revealed as a determining force in the interaction between the dancers whose groupings eventually dispersed into a circle encompassing Travis Clausen-Knight and the light. Experimenting with object play underpinned the final section choreographically, elevating it from a showy light display to an integral element of the piece.

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Resolution! Kansaze Dance, Porkpie Dance Theatre, Hack Ballet

Can we call dance works schizophrenic? And are the multiple personalities an intentional choice, or due to the result of choreographic indecision? And do we really want to know the answer to that?

Kansaze Dance's Looking Back, created by Rachael Kansaze Nanyonjo, is a very good example of a dance work with multiple identities. Dispensing with programme notes altogether, the audience was forced to piece together the context of the piece, from the opening 'I have a dream' speech by Martin Luther King, to badly-distorted footage of protests around the world and riot-influenced choreography.

At least, that was the context of part of Looking Back. The rest of the work used very sweet choreography, reminiscent of backing dancers, eliciting sweet and happy performances with interesting use of sculpture - but failing to match the impact of Maria Fonseca's performances, or her powerful duets with Jack Webb

Looking Back would have been a much stronger work if it had focussed more on Maria Fonseca and her strengths: the emotional and dramatic nature of her role brought out the best in her as a dancer, and made her absolutely compelling to watch; the rest of the cast lacked her personality and flair, and struggled to win over the audience in her absence, especially with less meaty choreography to work with.

If Looking Back had been reduced to Jack Webb's and Maria Fonseca's performances, it would have been an outstanding piece, and the best so far of this year's Resolution season. Unfortunately, their roles were too out of step with the rest of the cast's choreography and performances, which diminished the impact of the material - as did the technological problems, from the distorted projection to the blinded audience for the final scenes. One of the multiple personalities was brilliant, just not all of them.


If you look up the definition of Third Culture Kid, you find David C. Pollock statement "A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background."

This beautifully places Anaish Nathan Parmar's 'Mum... What's my gam?' in perspective: Parmar's exploration of his third-generation Indian roots, whether from the viewpoint of an adult trying to reconnect with his Asian heritage, or as a sulky recalcitrant child who is weary of curry and would much rather be playing cricket with his friends in Melton Mowbray.

Somita Basak, potraying Parmar's mother, is wonderfully skilled both at theatrical performances and at Bharatanatyam, and convincingly portrays Parmar's long-suffering mother, herself torn between her roots and assimilation. Parmar himself is a natural comic - but he's also an impressively fluid dancer, and it seems a shame that there's not more scope for dance within 'Mum... What's my gam?', as the audience no doubt feels cheated by not seeing more of both characters dancing.

Anaish Nathan Parmar has mentioned wanting to develop educational workshops with 'Mum... What's my gam?' for fellow "Third Culture Kids" to explore their roots, and there is definitely a lot of potential for this piece as an educational tool: it's accessible, entertaining and engaging - and it's got some wonderful dancing (if not nearly enough).


Hack Ballet's Zone offered the premise of contemporary ballet as an extreme sport, and it certainly delivered. Each of the six performers - including choreographer Briar Adams - was on edge, careful to keep the competition within sights, never allowing themselves to relax in case they suffer in the selection process. At times, the dancers seemed to be holding themselves back, but we knew that was because of the tough challenge ahead of them.

The use of solos allowed each dancer to distinguish his or her personality and physical strengths, from Natasha Usmar's strong character and expressiveness to Alice Gaspari's graceful and poised, yet heartfelt performance.

The group sections were not always as effective; they were at their most powerful when artfully lit by Antony Hateley, for example the dancers in silhouette holding dynamic yoga poses against a lit cyclorama, or as a shadowy mass of figures while a partially-lit dancer performs a solo. At times, however, Zone seemed to lose its way, either with too-literal choreography, or in floorwork, but at the opposite spectrum was one of Alice Gaspari's and Thomas McCann's duets, which brought a whole new level of energy to Zone, brief though it was.

As with many of the Resolution! performances, Hack Ballet has good dancers putting on great performances, with impressive strength and commitment.

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Resolution! Rubedo Dance; Selina Papoutseli, Tom Lyall & Cis O'Boyle; Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot

Resolution! has a way of challenging your expectations: the pieces you look forward to seeing aren't always what you thought they'd be, and other works on the programme often end up surprising you - and in a good way.

The first work on tonight's programme was by Dena Lague's Rubedo Dance. Dena Lague is known to many as being part of the Matthew Bourne family, and indeed, a number of her dancers were familiar from past works by both Matthew Bourne and Drew McOnie.

The programme notes for Gestus - "Five dancers share the space to explore facets of their individual characteristics and energies" - suggested that the work would be largely improvised, and indeed the opening solo by Kanako Nakano felt more improvised than rehearsed, due to its spontaneity. The second solo, by Grace Hann, seemed to have Isadora Duncan influences, due to Vinci's expressiveness and fluidity; as Gestus developed, the Isadora Duncan influences appeared to multiply. 

Gestus appears to have been driven by the dancers' individual movement rather than by Dena Lague's choreography, however the most interesting dynamics of the piece were when the dancers interacted, forcing them to break out of their self-absorbed bubbles. And Carrie Johnson deserves a special mention of her own: her solo was more engaging than the others, as she's the kind of dancer who immediately draws the audience in. Great performances by great dancers, even if the material could have had more impact.


Butoh is both challenging to perform and to watch, so it was a surprise to see it on the Resolution! programme - and even more of a surprise to see it performed relatively well.

Sadler's Wells describes Butoh as "highly charged stillness and very embodied slow motion" (source: www.sadlerswells.com/dance_genres/butoh.asp), and while Selina Papoutseli and Tom Lyall didn't fully accomplish either aspect - the former through selecting poses which were difficult to sustain over longer periods of time, the latter through moving a little too quickly at times - a 15-minute piece is too brief for conventional butoh, and Papoutseli and Lyall succesfully conveyed the ethos of butoh in a bite-sized portion.

This is butoh. Selina Papoutseli stood on tiptoe, holding a twig aloft. After a very long time, she lifted her other arm. And then she shifted her focus to the branch. Behind her, Tom Lyall carried a yellow cube and red pompoms. In a work like this, you appreciate the tiny details: the striking imagery, the effectiveness of Selina Papoutseli's facial expressions, especially as she struggled to maintain a pose, and the impact of Cis O'Boyle's striking lighting design. Most inspired of all was the scene where the audience watched the muscles in Lyall's back move - that's a very impressive piece of choreography in itself. Butoh isn't to everyone's taste, so Selina Papoutseli and Tom Lyall are to be congratulated for making it more accessible to tonight's Resolution! audience.


It might have seemed surprising to have a 25-minute solo last on tonight's programme, but only people unfamiliar with Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot's work would have thought that.

As the audience filed back into the auditorium, a disembodied voice announced that "the next tour is about to start", while the set consisted of hanging laundry bags, with piles of discarded laundry underneath. Once Vertigos was ready to start, Anne-Gaëlle announced that the tour guide was absent and that she would be taking his or her place, and proceeded to hand flags to two people towards the rear of the audience: "in case somebody gets lost during the tour, please wave your flag."

The clothes on the stage became part of the story, affecting Anne-Gaëlle's movement style and persona: we saw her become a diverse array of the characters, as each item of clothing gave her the opportunity to revisit memories and previous incarnations of herself.

Vertigos is a stream-of-consciousness solo which takes the audience on a personal, if very exhausting journey, always telling a story even if the audience doesn't always know what it's about. Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot is extremely engaging and compelling to watch, bonding well with the audience, and able to hold an audience captive, whether performing her own version of beatboxing, or in the haunting final scene, with an ethereal song by Hamlet Gonashvili (www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNpFDrXvyXQ) accompanying her duel with the laundry bags.

At 25 minutes in length, Anne-Gaëlle Thiriot's Vertigos is a rich and rewarding experience: if only it was in the Place Prize finals, where it belongs!

 

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Bellyflop: The Belly of the Beast

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The night opened with a wild plethora of imagery and tentative brashness demonstrated to us by Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small in 'O'.

The piece is segmented in a way that keeps you on your toes. It gives you a commentary on the process of making the work, and the distractions that come within the act of starting something new. This then somehow blends into themes of feminine sexuality, and how it is observed. The opening scenario is the moment which stayed with me most: the simple but 'in your face' image of both performers on all fours writhing and articulating in velour jeans and rubber boots, while the soundtrack tells us "I'm gunna take that bitch to college." You could say the 'in your face' provocative imagery is really Bellyflop's strength, for example the unexpected beauty of lip syncing to 'Addicted to Bass' in a long straggly wig. However, there are a lot of ideas to fit into one piece, and it becomes a little too busy at times.

Hemsley and Johnson-Small have a magnetic energy in both their performance quality and their creative partnership, and they are definitely a pair to look out for in future.

The second piece of the program was Improvisation by Seke Chimutengwende and Charlotte Ashwell, who bounce effortlessly off each other. They have an intelligent yet natural relationship which feels safe while still daring and compelling. This was a perfect addition to the program, and cleverly structured.

For the most part of The Mermaid and The Hammer, I was a frustrated audience member, trying to make sense out of two woollen mermaids who were nonchalantly banging a hammer. However after this continued for 5-10 minutes, it was the audience's reaction which became more interesting to observe as it fluctuated. The program note reads: 'These performances are an invitation to inhabit the moment before laughter, that delicious suspension where nonsense and sense, the vague and the purposeful, meet and dance together.' The Mermaid and The Hammer was difficult, but interesting viewing.

The audience then exited the auditorium to discover a giant glittery cake in the foyer and the final offering of the night from Eleanor Sikorski. The sound of bells faintly emanated from within the structure, before Sikorski burst from the top, showering the audience with marshmallows, glitter, love-hearts, and condoms. She rotated on top of the cake, singing in tune with her children's bell set, asking awkward questions to individuals, and throwing yet more glitter. Sikorski's performance was perhaps the most assured of the night. Hilarious and beautiful, poignant yet self mocking, and performed with the audience control of a seasoned comic.


Wild Card - a new initiative by Sadlers Wells has two more evenings coming up in February and March 2013

12 Feb 2013 - Dan Canham: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Dan-Canham

14 Mar 2013 - Ivan Blackstock: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Ivan-Blackstock

'O' by Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small will be performed again at Michaelis Theatre, Roehampton 31st January 6pm

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Batsheva Dance Company, not once but twice!

Within a week, I have had the honour of seeing Batsheva Dance Company twice in the space of a few days. When I first saw Batsheva at Sadler’s Wells in 2008, how I whined and moaned about not being able to see them again. Four years later, Batsheva Dance Company performances are a regular occurrence and not at all taken for granted.

My first viewing was Deca Dance at the Jerusalem Theatre. First of all, I was surprised that we were to see the Batsheva Company rather than Batsheva Ensemble who have just returned back to Israel from touring Deca Dance. As we entered the theatre, one of my Gaga teachers was on stage, dancing, warming up, teasing the audience: the first sign that this was no ordinary dance show! Also he was in the famous black trousers, shoes and white shirt. Were they to do my favourite section?! After a brief floory across the stage, with dancers darting and pulsing as if you were watching cars pass on a motorway, the lights dimmed. The audience cheered, clapped, danced in their seats (Israeli dance audiences are very different to British audiences). The lights went up and there it was: a semi-circle of chairs, dancers sat in suits with their heads down... Echad Mi Yodea! Starting Deca Dance with Echad Mi Yodea is like starting Swan Lake with the Black Swan's 32 fouettés en tournant (turns): how will Batsheva keep up the high energy and power?! Easy!

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Resolution! Ieva Kuniskis, Ceyda Tanc Dance, NRG Dance Company

While Resolution! provides a platform for people's first choreographic steps, last night highlighted the difference between those who have started out as choreographers, and dancers who are dabbling in choreography.

Ieva Kuniskis's Gone To Get Milk could be described as a work about three disturbed characters, each in their own way. And a lot of oranges.

Gone To Get Milk starts entertainingly with Helen Aschauer running onstage, dropping oranges everywhere before running into the wings, followed by the sounds of urinating and a toilet flushing. We're introduced to each character in turn: Helen Aschauer battling strong emotions while talking to herself in German; Zoe Georgallis, who resorts to cleaning the floor to counter her nervous madness, and the wonderful Charlie Cooper Ford, who walks onstage apparently in mid-conversation, possibly with himself, and possibly about the orange in his hand. This develops into a dynamic solo about letting the orange go or eating it, and eventually settling for tucking it under his chin, appealing for the audience's applause. Charlie's character is perhaps the most accessible of the three, as he relies less on signature moves which don't necessarily convey their meaning.

The three dancers work together extremely well, and Gone To Get Milk successfully creates entertaining relationships between each of them - even if Charlie Ford has a bad habit of always dropping Zoe Georgallis.

Physical theatre work typically neglects choreography, so it's rare to see a work which is both experimental as well as choreographically strong. Even rarer is a piece which is 25 minutes long and doesn't feel its length: the characters and their interactions are entertaining enough that the time flies quickly, and this could easily be the start of a much longer piece for Kuniskis. For starters, we need to see more of Helen Aschauer, and secondly, Gone To Get Milk deserves a stronger ending.


Ceyda Tanc spent four months training at The State Turkish Conservatoire for Music and Dance in Izmir, Turkey, following her graduation from Roehampton University, and she has since been working on creating a movement style which draws on both contemporary dance and traditional Turkish dance.

Volta opens with dramatic flair as occasional bursts of light show dancers walking, duetting, or holding poses. The programme notes refer to a prison walking exercise, and there are a number of walking scenes at the start of Volta, interspersed between sections of dance, and also to clarify the tense relationships between the dancers.

Ceyda Tanc has created very confident choreography with committed performances by all her dancers, effectively using lighting to create a shadowy atmosphere, compounded by Seb Jaeger's evocative score. Volta is impressive in several ways, especially the use of group scenes with her dancers almost perfectly in sync - something even the larger, well-known dance companies struggle to achieve. And we all know that time and money are short when it comes to creating Resolution! works, but it's always a joy to watch a well-rehearsed piece. Ceyda Tanc is definitely onto something.


There's something about performing a work in concentration camp costumes two days before the Holocaust Memorial Day. And after seeing several Resolution! shows, opening scenes in blackout start to lose their novelty. Fast.

Nathan Goodman joined Richard Alston Dance Company after graduating from LCDS in 2009, and interest in his first Resolution! work undoubtedly magnified after his electrifying performances in Martin Lawrance's Madcap in October 2012: after finally seeing him come alive as a dancer, would Elsewhere give us more of an insight into his inspirations as a dancer?

Unfortunately, that didn't really happen: from an awkward Cunningham-influenced beginning, Elsewhere only really found its pace once it moved into street dance territory, transforming Theo Lowe and Nathan Goodman, who seemed to be less comfortable with the more traditional choreography at the start. The sole highlights were a physical duet between Lowe and Goodman, and Goodman later performing a few pyrotechnics, but that was too little in a lengthy piece with lacklustre choreography and a soundtrack of a woman gasping.

 

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Resolution! Charlie Dixon Dance Company, Elena Jacinta, Alotta Fagina

Some emerging artists use Resolution! as a choreographic sandpit, and this evening was very much an example of that approach.

In the interval, Charlie Dixon explained that Long Road had been an opportunity for her to explore ideas and and ways of making work, without having fixed ideas about exactly what she wanted to achieve.

Long Road opened dramatically, with the faint outline of Robert Keates staggering, repeatedly falling, crawling and gasping in complete darkness, until he found his way to a spotlight and stood there, shaking, before collapsing again.

Long Road investigates the impact of war, and each of Dixon's dancers explored different aspects of this theme, with each dancer embodying a different response. Keates was clearly a soldier in combat, repeatedly on fire, as he dodged his way across the stage. Charlotte Pook's character was the most lyrical of the three, with fluid solos but prone to overbalancing, with occasional scenes of furiously scratching her ankle. An interesting device was Pook adopting Sarah Golding's angular and disjointed style of movement when close to her. These random solos were connected by group sections, bringing the characters and their movement back together.

Long Road is a work of many parts, exploring a wide range of styles and themes of possession. It draws its inspiration from extremely graphic photos from the Vietnam War, which did not lose their impact despite being displayed at reduced size during the performance. It's a strange work but engaging, and perhaps requires more than one viewing to make sense of the characters and scenes. 


The second exploratory work of the evening was Alotta Fagina's We're made of stories. Secrets are safe in stories, created by Hofesh dancers Karima El Amrani and Victoria Hoyland. El Amrani and Hoyland started by turning in a slow, crouched circle, slowly expanding their movement in small ways, building up their movement gradually.

At times We're made of stories seemed self-indulgent, with the dancers taking time to explore movement in its rawest forms; these scenes were less penetrable for the audience, contrasting with the more enjoyable scenes when the piece picked up pace and dynamism, mesmerising the audience.

It closed on a very poignant scene, with Hoyland in a handstand over El Amrani's head; the low lighting and haze made it hard for the audience to tell where individual limbs were, and which belonged to who.


The unexpected success of the evening was Elena Jacinta's Pieces of Mosaic, proving that less is more, and that simple understated works can be far more effective than more elaborate ones.

Jacinta's programme notes explained that Pieces of Mosaic was an exploration of the idea, expectations and experiences of performance; this was conveyed through solos by three women of very different movement qualities and personalities, with few interactions between them.

Pieces of Mosaic opened with a very fluid solo by Tomomi Kosano, showing what a beautiful and graceful dancer she is, which contrasted sharply with Carys Staton's more hesitant and poised solo, drawing out movements as though savouring each one, in an almost contemplative way, and later exploring the stage and her relationship to it. In further contrast, Natalia Iwaniec appeared to be playing a neverending round of charades, drawing on a wide range of random mimes.

Natalia Iwaniec's character demonstrated performance in its basest form, luxuriating being in the spotlight, complete with faux-sensual solos. Tomomi Kosano's performances were beautiful to watch, especially when repeating one of Carys Staton's solos, however Carys Staton - recently seen in Russell Maliphant's The Rodin Project - was by far the most engaging performer, with her perpetually concerned and anxious facial expressions and quirky responses. Well done to Elena Jacinta and her dancers.

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Resolution! Arc, Tara D'Arquian, Sounding Motion

Eighty-one works form the line up for the Resolution! platform, a chance for new and newer choreographers to engage with creating work through a supportive network of people. The mixed bill offered in last night’s programme formed an eclectic focus for artistic merit, appealing to three different tastes in choreographic creation and execution.

Leading was Arc’s A Sense of Beauty. A work appealing to and using the unique physiology of each dancer, the piece occurs mainly within the confines of one structure, created by two ladders with an adjoining board. The piece was emotionally endearing, creating characterizations through music, dance style and costume. Such a varying array of ideas had its charm, but unfortunately felt one-dimensional at times, the dancers pushed toward one movement dynamic within the confines of the concept. The live instrumentalist, while adding interest, had a confusing part in the storyline and once extracted, showed no more involvement in what was occurring on stage. The inclusive nature of the work in the end was heart-warming and demonstrates potential for all bodies in the realm of dance.

Tara D’Arquian’s May Our Bodies Become Bodies Again arrived at an emotional opposite for the first piece, a testament to how mixed these nights can be. The audience is used as a visual perspective pivot, technical hands change a frame that sets up a "room", a movement phrase is repeated over and over, infrequently embellished on but continuously portrayed with the same intensity. With perspectives changing, the story for the audience grows, the dancers on a set loop that could either represent days passing, relationship continuity, or several different couples. There were The Truman Show-esque moments created through this repetition, a hypnotic sameness that was effective overall. When the set finally stopped changing, other dancers were added, mimicking costume and phrase but performing with differing details. The splash of the different was welcome, but confused the unfolding nature of the story. Still, there was enough visual intrigue and reassurance of what could be seen to create a piece that was visually compelling.

The third and final piece of the night was an unrelenting portrayal of labour under the sun, demonstrated to the backdrop of Sicillian folk songs. Sounding Motion’s Naturale pared back choreography, costume and music to create the insistent pace to coincide with the concept. The hypnotic development of movement achieved an overall movement rhythm for the work, though the continuously developing solos appeared to be somewhat calculated and were only punctuated with a few (more satisfying) moments of unity. The live musicians were divided on stage causing a split focus, and this coupled with the split within the dancers was prone to create an excess of activity. A smaller space may have developed the intimacy that lacked in this piece, connecting the soulfulness of the Sicillian lyrics, the musicians and dancers on a more coherent level.

The diversity of the works shown as Wednesday’s edition of Resolution! demonstrated the assortment of ideas forming in the minds of a creative hub of budding choreographers. The complexity of structures and concepts beginning to be realized in these works has the potential to distil into something very compelling. In the spirit of works in progress, this mixed bag has shown varying strength in physical, emotional and conceptual ideas and continues to resound how exciting this dance platform can be.

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Resolution! Georgia Tegou, WatkinsDance, Matthew Robinson

Some evenings at Resolution! are better than others. Unfortunately, Saturday's triple bill did not fall into this category.

Georgia Tegou's Yet Another Day was the product of a collaboration between Roehampton University and Royal Academy of Music students, which might have been an interesting experiment for both parties, however the result was absolute torture by music: avant-garde flute music, with an overreliance on high-pitched screeches. The agony of having to listen to this for approximately 15 minutes detracted from Tegou's choreography, which focussed on very basic movement with an improvised feel. Although there was little in the choreography to hold interest, much less overpower the flautists' cacophony, Tegou did display a skill at creating arresting tableaux, from the opening scene of four women holding balls of string attached to chairs, to the final scene with one dancer, supported by the others, about to fall into an apparent abyss.


Anna Watkins received Arts Council funding to tour a full evening of her work, including Inseparable, so it was a surprise to see her return to Resolution!, especially with this duet.

From a promising start, Inseparable quickly degenerated into little more than an ongoing tussle between the two dancers, with occasional interesting ideas and moves, sadly outnumbered by the rest of the uninspired movement. It seems to be a characteristic of Watkins's choreographic style to draw on multiple dance styles, which makes it harder for her to define her own choreographic voice, which would strengthen her work significantly.

Despite several performances of Inseparable, it still needs considerable editing to remove unnecessary sections which add nothing to the story or the message of this work: duets can be fascinating, an opportunity for exploring creative ways of partnering (example: James Cousins' There We Have Been); it's a shame to see Inseparable fail to live up to its potential.


The final work of the evening - true to the adage of the best being saved for last - was Matthew Robinson's Vacant Skin, originally inspired by a short film he made last year, and aimed to explore to what extent people are defined by external imagery.

This was Robinson's first abstract Resolution! work, having created two previous theatrical works with fellow Scottish Dance Theatre dancer Toby Fitzgibbons. Vacant Skin was at its strongest with Robinson displaying his talent at intuitively creating ways of not only how to move, but also how to move the body, beautifully performed by fellow Scottish Dance Theatre dancers Eve Ganneau, Nicole Guarino and Naomi Murray.

It's an expectation that Resolution! performances are of works in progress, and Vacant Skin is a good example of this: some very good ideas, and some very good choreography and performances, but requiring further work before it can be the piece it deserves to be; in the meantime, Vacant Skin shows a hell of a lot of promise.

 

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Resolution! MonixArts, RK Dance, MurleyDance

One thing which many people from other artforms tend to overlook is exactly how much time and hard work it takes to create a work of dance - which is important to remember when comparing a finished piece to its trailer or rehearsal video. That's especially true for Resolution!, a season of creativity and creative twists and turns for new choreographers, so that the finished product is rarely what one expects.

We all love a good choreographed fight scene, don't we? How many of you are Buffy fans? MonixArts's work 'Nu.V.Na' (Nurture vs Nature) ostensibly explored dancers reacting to conflict, but in reality drew on Monica Nicolaides's judo and jiu-jitsu training by performing a full lexicon of martial arts moves. If there had been time, it would have been wonderful if Nicolaides's dancers could have spent some time inside a dojo: while the concept was admirable and interesting, the dancers lacked the technique, attack and conviction necessary to perform these moves as required.

That was only one aspect of 'Nu.V.Na', however: the dancers were far more comfortable and confident with the rest of Nicolaides's choreography, which better demonstrated her ability as an assured and talented choreographer.

And in the meantime, it was good to see that the costumes from Riccardo Buscarini's 'Athletes' were being put to good use! [Note: they were different costumes, just remarkably similar].


Ryota Kodera's 'Yamato - Nadeshiko' was an atmospheric exploration of Japanese geisha culture, using the lyricism of traditional Japanese movement to good effect, even from simple gestures. Using delicate choreography, Kodera's at-times complex choreography was deftly performed by all three dancers, especially by Tomomi Kosano.

Kodera's choreographic style was an intriguing blend of traditional Japanese movement and contemporary dance, but the audience would have benefitted from more specific explanations in the programme notes of what traditions and scenes Kodera was depicting, as the meaning was lost on much of the audience, and the choreography alone wasn't enough to sustain some people's interest.


The final work of the evening was MurleyDance's 'La Peau', a work inspired by iconic artwork and using iconic music: it could only bode well. And as Resolution! is all about diverse lineups and very mixed bills, why not have some ballet alongside faux martial arts and Japanese geisha?

La Peau was a work in four parts; as the piece progressed, the material improved, and David Murley's talent as a gifted and quirky storyteller overrode his choreographic ability. Reminiscent of Matthew Bourne's earlier works, Murley shows absolute commitment to detail and scene-setting - when was the last time you watched a 20-minute piece with peacock feathers, a Persian rug, a giant clam shell and a zimmer frame?!

The comic highlight of La Peau was 'Aging', inspired by Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus', accompanied by Janis Joplin's 'A Woman Left Lonely', which saw Lucy Casson as an aged crone, precariously perched behind a zimmer frame and insincerely chaperoned by Georgina Connolly and the wonderful Bianca Hopkins in trim red PVC minidresses, more concerned with their nails than with Casson's welfare - trying to trip her up with the giant clam shell at every opportunity.

La Peau offered Murley the opportunity to showcase a wide range of his choreographic talents, by creating four very differing scenes - including a solo for a smouldering bodybuilder in the final scene, who strips down to his dance belt - however Murley's ample choreographic abilities were overshadowed by his gift for creativity, characterisation and storytelling. Murley's is definitely a talent to be nurtured.

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Resolution! Chris Pavia, Tom Bowes Dance, Mazzilli Dance Theatre

The night of Tuesday 15th January at Resolution! 2013 opened with Chris Pavia's Captured by the Dark, a fitting title for this eerily-staged duet between dancers Hannah Sampson and Tomos Young (both of Stopgap Dance Company, as is Pavia).

A relationship is instantly set up between these two performers, the intensity of Young's gaze highlighted by Sampson covering her own eyes. There are human touches and subtle nuances of weariness or urgency that give a sense of real connection between the performers: a satisfying extra layer to the sometimes quite stark movement material.

Young’s physicality is eternally watchable, and with Sampson’s fluidity and natural energy, the two meet in some occasionally tentative, but often tender moments of contact and interaction. Such moments are highlighted to great effect by Sarah Gilmartin’s lighting design.

In an unexpected shift in energy fuelled by Dougal Irvine’s engulfing score, the work becomes somewhat cartoonesque. The two dancers do well to fill the stage, and there is a constant sense of there being more than just the two of them in the space.

In a circular structure, the piece calms once more, referencing earlier movement, now in a (quite possibly deliberate) unrelenting way. The final image is strong and memorable, an apt punctuation to this intriguing and carefully thought out piece by Pavia.


The shadowy visuals, sudden changes and stormy soundtrack are all themes which continue into the second piece of the night. Tom Bowes' Brute presents a quartet, satisfyingly united in their various black garments and boots, gradually dispersing from the downstage left spotlight. 

The dancers twitch and pull together and apart, through some almost stilted exchanges and some moments of real connection in unison. A recurring theme of hands reaching and plucking at the air relates perhaps to the sense of ‘decision and discovery’ detailed in the programme note, although there are times when this, and the periodic upward focus become affected and unexplained.

The piece is at its strongest when all four dancers move individually, but in close quarters and with real conviction. ‘Brute’ seems to end just as swiftly as it began, with a sense of things being left unseen or unsaid.


Mazzilli Dance Theatre’s For How Much begins (though we didn’t know it initially) with the audience being accosted by a comical, yet slightly unnerving and manic gentleman in the foyer during the interval. He ushers the already intrigued audience back into the auditorium where the stage holds eight performers, a pianist at his piano, and piles and piles of clothing.

The one male and six female dancers surround the man we first met in the foyer, and from this tumbling flock of bodies, troubled solos break out and return as the momentum builds to a fighting energy with satisfyingly messy exchanges of weight. Andy Higgs’ accompaniment to this, both live and recorded, is beautiful.

The juxtaposition of the comical and the sinister running side by side throughout this work is used to great effect, particularly in a colourful ‘family portrait’ moment, where fixed grins become manic and a dancers begin to paw at each other with increasing urgency.

The piece moves on at a pleasing pace, and is at its strongest in moments of suggestion relating to the themes of human trafficking and forced labour. One solitary dancer is burdened with piles of garments, and a fluid and feminine quintet displays further sensitive choreography by Annarita Mazzilli.

As the work draws to a close, the title ‘For How Much?’, is clearly referenced, as gradually every performer moves through the space with handfuls of coins: shaking, dropping, scrabbling, spinning, stealing, donating, caressing and rolling them until the one solitary dancer remains, still and alone.

I left feeling inexplicably haunted by this last piece; and with an overall sense of satisfaction from my first outing to this year’s Resolution! platform… I look forward to the next!

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Resolution! Liz Liew & Yuyu Rau, David Willdridge, Attach Dance Company

Last night's triple bill reinforced that Resolution! is ultimately about creating a space in which new and less-new choreographers can experiment artistically in a "safe" environment, largely consisting of family and friends, as we were reminded with Attach Dance Company's raucous welcome by the audience. Sometimes the results are less successful than others, but that's simply part of their process of developing as artists.


The feel of experimentation is especially true for Yuyu Rau, who has collaborated with musician Liz Liew for Snapshots, her third Resolution! creation, and the first one she has performed in herself. Beauty Unveiled, her 2010 Resolution! work, was a very polished piece, launching her distinctive Chinese-contemporary style, while her 2012 work, Beloved Emoh, was an extremely introspective and personal piece, and Snapshots explored the emotions surrounding a number of Liew's memories.

From the opening scene, where Rau appeared to be a delighted sprite in a Grecian red dress, with echoes of Isadora Duncan, we were taken through a range of mostly happy memories, although the most interesting parts of Rau's choreography were when she returned to her Chinese-influenced style of dance; her dramatic facial expressions during these sections was a reminder of Rau's ability to captivate the Sadler's Wells audience during her The Most Incredible Thing performances. These sections were all too brief, however, and by comparison, the rest of the choreography seemed to lack challenge and complexity.

Despite being 25 minutes in length, Snapshots could easily become a significantly longer work, with the wealth of Liew's memories - hinted at through her childhood snapshots at the end - to plunder, however Snapshots was made to feel longer than it actually was, with frequent costume changes and musical interludes and too-short scenes. Dennis Kwong Thye Lee's performance on the guzheng (Chinese zither) was breathtaking, and Rau is always an enjoyable dancer to watch, but last night's performance felt like the start of a long and interesting journey for Snapshots before it reaches completion.


By contrast, David Willdridge's Leave Elegance To The Tailor was a confident, understated work: the type of piece which makes people fall in love with contemporary dance.

Officially about the distortion of memories, Leave Elegance offered the audience the opportunity to relish watching two extremely good dancers move, from Willdridge's fluid, animal-like grace in the opening scene, to his powerful and haunting duets with Daniela B Larsen. Larsen seemed a little underused at times, but in the context of the programme notes, she appeared to be the embodiment of past memories - making the work sometimes reminiscent of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Leave Elegance To The Tailor was an unexpected treat, and one to be savoured. Please can we have more performances of this?


Di-Vide, by Attach Dance Company, was a sharp departure from Andy Macleman's and Drew Hawkins's Drone, which had been performed at the Bob Lockyer celebrations (read our review) last April - Resolution! again proving itself to be an opportunity for new choreographers to explore with ideas and styles. While Drone had been an understated and simple work, Macleman and Hawkins clearly wanted to offer much much more in Di-Vide, with little remaining from Drone apart from their stillness in motion.

Di-Vide was a work in two halves, itself divided by the music, with Lucien Dubuis's La Danse des Machines creating a jaunty, Charlestonesque feel, contrasting with the seriousness of the second half, with music by Haxan Cloak.

The programme notes offered several definitions for "divide", and this was perhaps most notable in the difference in choreography for the two women (Hannah Wintie and Emily Thompson-Smith) compared with that for Macleman and Hawkins, which made the same-sex duets far more effective than the mixed-sex duets; the men's strong partnership was evident in the confidence and ease of their partnerwork.

Ultimately, however, the other three dancers struggled to match Macleman's prowess, although in one scene, Wintie echoed a breathtaking solo by Macleman, and was also whipped around in the air by Hawkins.

Di-Vide showed a lot of promise, and it was refreshing to see Macleman and Hawkins explore with shifting dynamics, different styles and different dancers - let's see what they create next!

 

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To Do...

I love to write lists. I write lists for most things in my life. I'll write a list of things I need to list if I can. I've even put writing this blog on a list. I don't think this is because I'll forget to write it otherwise, I think it's simply because then I can tick it off my list, and feel like I've achieved something.
 
Amongst all my lists, I've been thinking about productivity, and how best to go about getting the most out of my time. I'm torn between two schools of thought; does activity breed action, or is a clear mind (and timetable) a more productive one?

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