'Distant Light' by Lo-Giudice Dance and 'Me & My Shadow' by RDC
Friday November 15th @ Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London
By Charlotte Constable

Emerging choreographer Anthony Lo-Giudice’s trio Distant Light is reminiscent of the work of Russell Maliphant. Like Maliphant’s, his choreography twirls and twirls, a melting pot of fluid motion through which the shifts in levels and off-kilter balances never jar. And, much like Maliphant’s solo adaptation of Nijinsky’s L’Apres-midi d’un Faune, a shimmering lighting design and haunting musical accompaniment (in this instance, Peteris Vasks’ Violin Concerto) accompany.

But that is where the comparison ends. The trio of dancers comprising Lo-Giudice Dance – Molly Hodkinson, Shelley Brettle and Rachel Jean Birch – attack the material with strength and poise, but the choreography seems somewhat unoriginal. Two dancers pair up in unison before watching the third dance alone, the ‘victim’ literally pushing past the others at times, and performing her own solo cry for help. One of the intimidators then steps out and simply observes the conflict between her confederate and her enemy - a slightly lazy choreographic choice. Indeed, the programme note suggests the theme of isolation, but the decision to feature three identical young females in matching black leotards and socks gives the dance a juvenile look, more ‘girl getting picked on’ than a political struggle for independence. There are characters here, but this would have been far more interesting if the costumes (designer unnamed) had reflected a little personality.

Costumes (again, unusually unaccredited) become a bit of a peeve again in the second work of the night, Rutherford Dance Company’s Me & My Shadow. The girls’ wet-look oversized tops capture the light, but distractingly flop into their faces when they hang upside down, and the men’s black shorts leave little to the imagination.

That said, I feel I have been unfair by discussing the costumes before anything else about this dance. The acrobatics are strong; one complete pivot centred around a performer’s head takes my breath away, and a well-timed unison array of headstands with painfully slowly rotating right legs is no mean feat.

The piece conveys its inspiration – the Jungian concept of the ‘shadow’ – from the offset, a menacingly lit solo performer slowly coming to life with her back to the audience, her barely illuminated ‘shadows’ remaining motionless. Then one by one, the five ‘shadows’ begin to mirror her phrase, their unexpected starting points sending a shiver down my spine. As she repeats her signature motif on a haunting faceless loop, their movement accumulates into more complex and clever interpretations of her identity, before they crawl into stillness, like nocturnal animals. All of this to a soundtrack of white noise, which keeps the breath baited.

The lighting then becomes warmer and the relationship redirects as a somewhat folky violin melody chirps over a mellow drone. The ‘shadows’ move as a unison cluster, scuttling towards the soloist in a mirrored sequence which is inviting, not intimidating. And she tumbles over them as they rapidly reform to share her load – a beautiful moment. It seems a shame that the final trio, more aggressive but collaborative, is set to dubstep; it all worked so well without a beat.