Cloud Dance Festival | Displaying items by tag: scottish dance theatre
I think it's safe to say that I am, at the best of times, extremely gullible. And I know this. But in 'Second Coming', the opening of Scottish Dance Theatre's double bill, they truly had me, and I'm fairly sure everyone around me, hook, line and sinker.
From a bare stage, house lights still up, with dancers milling around in warmup mode, we were told that there was a water leak and a consequent electrical fire backstage the previous evening. That they'd only been able to enter the space an hour previously and to allow the technicians time to set up, the dancers would simply demonstrate raw movement material from the choreographic process.
The dancers take to the stage, filtering in and out, deftly executing swift and everchanging movement sequences, creating a relaxed and intimate environment.
We're then told of a dancer being injured the previous night, and an exchange begins between technicians, setting up standing lights and shouting over the dancers; only now (despite the brilliant acting skills of Scottish Dance Theatre's technical team!) did I start to smell a rat. With a lighting state now in place, all eight performers move through a pulsating unison phrase, with solos and trios breaking out and becoming skilled and slick moments of confrontation or unity.
There is a delightful tension throughout this work, fuelled by the scratched, fragmented soundscore working against the everfluid movement material.
The charade of disastrous occurances continues and we're told that "the choreographer was fired - it got ugly". The charming sincerity with which Joan Cleville delivers this information is hilarious. He begins to demonstrate his solo ("the best till last"), and is increasingly interrupted by the wrong music, and by Jori Kerremans and Nicole Guarino. The solo becomes a duet, which becomes a trio, a slapstick, comedic, manipulative struggle for the limelight. These performers are masters of their craft, and maintain the intimate connection to each other and the audience, with a sense of constant communication throughout.
With nothing ever quite concluding, Matthew Robinson enters for a rant about choreographers' fixation with breaking down the fourth wall: "is this trying to be conceptual?!" he pleads, and is soothed and dragged ("cue the sappy music!") and once again manipulated throughout the space.
In 'Second Coming', choreographer Victor Quijada has succeeded in creating a sensitively selfaware and captivating work with incredibly-exectuted movement, sporadic violence, charming humour and satisfying unity sprinkled pleasingly throughout.
Jo Strømgren's 'Winter, Again' offers a juxtaposition to the previous work, whilst still utilising Scottish Dance Theatre's dancers' impeccable skill impeccably well. Through a screen of dirtied white paper panels, they appear and disappear, performing brilliantly overegged balletic parody movement. These surreal characters are seen mourning the loss of a number of dead birds, creeping surreptitiously with guns, wringing and clasping hands and discovering equally loving and threatening relationships.
With spine-tingling proficiency, Natalie Trewinnard enters with bandaged and bloodied eyes, whilst Maria Hayday, spoon in hand, seeks her next victim whose eyes to add to her small tin box.
Alongside the cleverly accomplished humour of 'Winter, Again', there is a bleak and somewhat sinister feeling to the work, as a voiceover narrates the meaning of winter - "hides the guilty" - and Natalie Trewinnard covers hers hands in the blood that has been relentlessly dripping into a tin bucket downstage left.
Shifting unison work, a dead deer being dragged through the space, and fleeting nudity are woven through the movement of this piece, working cohesively to create an environment that seems happy to remain somewhat unexplained, satisfyingly so.
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.
Captivating, playful and sincere, Scottish Dance Theatre explores the primal and compelling desires of our existence in their 2012 Spring Tour. With refreshing honesty, the ten company members speak to us not as dancers but as people, telling their stories of love, identity and oppression in a varied and lively new programme of work.
The first half of the evening displays works from emerging choreographers within and outside of the company. One solo, entitled My Sweet Little Fur by Idan Cohen, unearths the beast inside us. With an agile, eloquent performance, Jori Kerremans trembles like an excited dog, cocks his leg, and stalks his prey, as he battles against the rebellious animal within.
Human connection - love, lust, loneliness and rejection - tied together the other two works of this half. Opening with a thrusting beat, Nicole Guarino’s duet A Touch of Red explores the antithesis to domestic bliss when love has become somewhat one-sided. The two performers Joan Clevillé and Solène Weinachter shift and falter about the stage, brushing past one another and slipping away from kisses. Weinachter becomes desperate, grabbing Clevillé’s arm to place around her, straddling him and playing of games of falling. But Clevillé is indifferent; he slouches, stands lifeless and gazes off into the distance. At times he pushes her away, but when she falls he can’t help but catch her and it is at these moments there is a sense of hope, as we desire for them stay close.
But while Weinachter appears needy and Clevillé apathetic, these are more than two dimensional gender stereotypes and we begin to ponder the truth behind the situation. Were they ever equally in love? Is there something more going on in Weinachter’s head? Or, is there someone else involved? Indeed, while A Touch of Red has the potential to be a straightforward piece about love and rejection there is more to it than that. We feel tension, unease and hope, and through the sincerity of their performance we begin to see how their story speaks so vividly to our lives.
Likewise, in Clevillé’s own piece Love Games, the mysteries of human connection come under scrutiny. This time Clevillé takes a slightly more abstract approach, employing live vocals, playground games and a rug containing cornflakes, a knight’s helmet and newspapers, which soon becomes a refuge for the lonely. As dancers swap and change between partners the somewhat random choices of love become apparent, one dancer offering out two hands for another to pick from, deciding their fate from thereon in.
Clevillé mocks the ridiculous nature of our desperation to find love, demoting her dancers to schoolchildren running after one another as if playing chase. Poking fun at love’s silliness, an intimate duet is interrupted by the man blowing a raspberry into his partner’s tummy, and as the piece reaches its close, dancers become burly rugby players diving on one another to take down the competition. Clevillé’s quintet, like Guarino’s, has an honesty and familiarity that is uplifting; Clevillé’s witty and provocative vigour energising this common human narrative.
The final, much longer work of the evening takes the company on a bizarre, dreamlike journey, uncovering the more sinister and troubling side of human nature. Pavlova’s Dogs, choreographed by Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, overlaps themes, styles and images, in a complex whirlwind voyage where things seem to go from mad to pure bonkers.
Two men narrate the work, one a scientific lecturer and the other, an anarchic storyteller. The two other men are entertainers and stage hands. Dressed as hairy blue bunnies, they give a camp flashy dance to Flanagan and Allen’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’ and come on to top up the women’s lipstick. Finally, the four women, dressed like Victorian schoolgirls, become the puppets of the show, giving a straight performance, dancing on cue and generally doing as they are told.
As the story develops, however, a realisation dawns and the seemingly desperate elements begin to link. The storyteller’s random plot seems to be controlling the women, like mechanical dolls, who hop backwards as the narrator describes ‘gypsy-like backwards dancing’ and fall on cue. However, no sooner has this become apparent than the narrator begins to carelessly insult the women in his story as dirty, vein, ugly and chubby, unearthing a narrative of female oppression and abuse.
Much like their inspiration for the piece, Pavlova’s Dog comes across like a psychology experiment gone wrong. As one scientist goes off the rails and another constantly chastises him, with comical and realistic frustration, all around is thrown into chaos. As the piece reaches its final conclusion, the force of the two controlling men takes over and the women and bunnies are left rolling and shifting aimlessly across the floor as the two men passionately kiss in a moment of Freudian-tinted desire.
Performed with conviction and intensity, Pavlova’s Dogs explores a complex, otherworldly narrative and makes it both relatable and bizarrely fascinating. Scottish Dance Theatre’s 2012 Spring Tour takes on the challenge of exploring the human condition and succeeds unquestioningly. In the post-show discussion, Artistic Director Janet Smith received a standing ovation for the work she has done throughout her career and particularly with this company, as she prepares for her move to Northern Contemporary Dance School. Let’s just hope under new direction Scottish Dance Theatre will continue to produce such uplifting, inspiring contemporary dance.
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