Cloud Dance Festival: Showtime
'Femme' by Taciturn, 'Manuum' by theMiddletonCorpus, 'Don't Let me Go' by Simfra Dance Company and 'Balikbayan' by Avatâra Ayuso
Sunday 17th November 2013
By Samantha Moore

Cloud Dance Festival is in its seventh year of operation as a platform for contemporary and ballet choreographers at all stages of their careers. The marketing for the weekend did not present us with any thematic description and, I must admit, I attended with the worry I often leave Resolution! with - that none of the works combine to create a cohesive programme. Much to my relief I quickly found myself incorrect. Although I’m not sure if intentional, the evening lead me on a pathway that questioned gender politics and sexuality in a refreshing way.

Opening with Femme, Taciturn presented to us the female body and its contemporary objectification undertaken by women just as much as men. One third of the piece was performed without even turning to face the audience, presenting the women as only their bodies, dehumanising them and forcing them to be merely objects for viewing pleasure. Later, they fought to position themselves in the best sightline for the audience; the daily competition women face became abundantly clear and the force with which they each hurled themselves to the ground illustrated the harm we do to our own gender. I was left questioning: how we can expect men to treat us differently when we can’t even treat each other as equals?

Anthony Middleton then performed Manuum. I was mesmerised by the quality of his movement as he entered into an almost perpetual motion, unraveling from impossible contortions and slicing through the air. ‘Manuum’ means ‘hand’ and the piece aimed to explore our need to create, Middleton manipulated his limbs into positions as if he was a marionette come to life. As the programme moved from such an explicit exploration of female identity, I very much read Manuum as a male separating himself from the patriarchy he was made to perform, cutting the strings and learning to exist as an individual. Although my interpretation clearly departed from the work’s theme as a singular entity, as part of the wider programme I felt it very much made sense.

Simfra Dance Company continued the theme with an unambiguous work Don’t Let Me Go in which they explored their homosexuality. Entwining bodies, they demonstrate an equal partnership in lifting and transferring weight and exhausted the ways in which they could support each other. For me, the use of the voice over describing their need to be together was not necessary, the movement material was successful enough to tell us about the relationship without having to reiterate it.

Avatâra Ayuso’s choreography for Estela Merlos, Balikbayan had some visually stunning moments. The use of costume to hide the face of Merlos chimed back to the first performance of the night and the peculiar feeling of watching a body which is not entirely human. As Merlos darted on and off stage I felt a sense of unease with place being drawn and questioned, can we ever find somewhere to be truly comfortable and at ease? Merlos eventually asserted herself in situ, slapping her opened thighs and claiming a space for herself, but also other women. A truly powerful piece.

Overall, there were some moments I was unsure of but, as a totality, the programme worked well and each choreography brought a new perspective to the rest of the works.