Category Archives: dance

Review: Adrift, Z-Arts

https-cdn.evbuc.comimages328058501035990472651original

Adrift (a work in progress) by Kapow! Dance

Z-Arts, Manchester [17.07.17]

You are invited to witness two bodies. Lost and found at sea. Friends, Lovers, Enemies, Strangers. The only thing that is consistent is some sort of relationship because the sea and the raft change direction and momentum continually.

Adrift is an exploration of stories at sea, portrayed by two women on a pivoting raft journeying across waters built on melted plastic bags. Part environmental commentary, part relationships case study, this piece challenges us to reflect on what moments between two people truly mean and how our actions impact those closest to us. We see this quite literally in Adrift. One movement from one of the women will cause a complete change in the other’s positioning. This presents us with a view from which to examine the changing power balance between the women at different points in their far water escapades.

The most visually interesting moment for me were watching the women on opposite corners of the raft, slowly dipping up and down in a circular fashion. This continued simplistic image, gave host to a whole heap of thoughts surrounding the mundane nature of life even when things are hectic and how routine doesn’t venture too far from our mental doorsteps. It also placed a great deal of acknowledgement towards how someone can hugely affect someone else by doing very little. I guess that’s almost like when we see something bad happen to someone else but don’t always do anything about it. It reminded me of that poem about keeping your own yam on your table from GCSE English Lit.

The use of body percussion alongside stunning lift and balance sequences make this piece perfect to experience in the round with little need for extravagant staging. The trust between the two dancers during their balances is an active sharing of trust and honesty between them but also with the space and the audience members in the room. It fosters a sense of unity which is hard to achieve in smaller scale works and even more challenging when a work is so early in its development as this piece. For this reason, this effort is to be applauded.

Verdict: Adrift is an exciting piece of dance theatre that is already showing bags of potential in the early stages of its development. Excited to see the completed product.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: 10000 Gestures, MIF @ Mayfield

MIF17-Boris-Charmatz-10000-Gestures-credit-Tristram-Kenton-3jpeg

Image: Tristram Kenton

10000 Gestures by Boris Charmatz

Mayfield, Manchester International Festival [14.07.17]

We’re invited into the eerily empty Mayfield depot. The sense of abandonment is very real as we await some sort of action beyond the brightening and dimming of the light strips eagerly positioned on thirteen pillars. One woman bursts into eye line and what follows is a bizarre but honest physical analysis of the human condition and its ever-evolving state.

Set in an evocative space, the orgy of compulsive movement that unfolds from the myriad of bodies is nothing short of mesmerising. Reactive and challenging, we are watching bodies being bodies. Each movement is nuanced and present and occurs within the uneven sandwiching of frantic action and unnerving stillness. This is much more than a spectacle in that it challenges us to decide whether we want to give meaning to each movement. And what’s more important is that we are free to react to that how ever we please – there isn’t a concrete or correct answer in this thoroughly peculiar pursuit.

Heavily rhythmic and rife with precision juxtaposed with indecision, 10000 Gestures isn’t meant to give us specific bits of information at specific points in time. Its purpose lies in proposing 10000 opportunities to its audience and welcoming us to choose, though not always freely, what we would like to devour and digest. But in placing us in uncomfortable and uncertain situations with little freedom over what occurs, Boris Charmatz has successfully replicated a typical state within our existence, in a unique yet unsettling environment. It’s probably not the average person’s cup of tea to have a bunch of half naked shouting people climbing on top of them, touching them or requesting that they perform specific actions, but this is an experience that doesn’t even have tea on its radar. At points, you are wondering ‘what the fuck’ is happening and why and, everything about that reaction is okay. This was never going to be a comfortable experience and I imagine that people who hoped for one probably wanted their money back. It was however the most original and absurd thing that I have seen in years and for that I wholeheartedly commend it.

The 10000 gestures offered to us are a display of punctuation for the human existence, that takes us on a journey of lust, elation, desire, insanity and pain. This was Fantasia for adults on a stagnated treadmill heading for a euphoric revolution. The aim here was not to lead us to a destination but give us an abundance of tools to reflect on what’s what and where’s where, without getting overly existential about it. A multitude of scenarios without a frame to stop and start in allowed space for a slightly disheveled audience to compose themselves among the chaos that was occurring both on and off ‘stage’.

Verdict: 10000 Gestures is a captivating, raw and challenging display of bodies being pushed to the brink of their abilities and existence being measured, dissected and reassembled before our eyes. It is exposing, both literally (a few knobs and bums are flashed about) and metaphorically of the fragility and vulnerability of our existence. But most importantly it welcomes us to reflect on our resilience and in that there is healing. Nice one, Boris!

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Review: Available Light, Palace Theatre

available-light-785x486

Image: JJ Tiziou

Available Light by Lucinda Childs, Frank Gehry and John Adams;

performed by The Lucinda Childs Company

Palace Theatre, Manchester; part of Manchester International Festival [07.07.17]

Edging forward. Black. Red. White. Two quartets and a trio. This is what silence sounds like.

A repeated phrase occurs constantly. Duets, trios and quartets of dancers complete the phrase in cycles. Changing direction is juxtaposed against moments of static. There’s a techno xylophone vibe in the air and we watch the phrase repeated again and again. Different groupings moving completely in sync, commencing the sequence at different times. And then it elapses.

This is more like a pause than a fermented stop. It’s like the moment that you spend waiting for a lift to start moving or for a programme to buffer on I-player. This moment is minuscule in the grand scheme of things and usually a pocket of time that we would miss or flit away. Yet baring witness to stillness is something we rarely have the opportunity to subject ourselves to. We don’t get to hover in time and watch movements in their infancy transpire from fine to gross: it is not a privilege that comes with modern life. Pace moves much faster than we do and we’re left in a cycle of aspiration and failure to keep up. Each time we observe the same eloquent phrase, it is not merely to display technique. It is to bring us into consciousness and ask us to question all the moments in our lives that may well be mundane, linear and robotic.

Following suit is compulsive. We cannot help but respond to the storm in a teacup that reflects going through the motions. Moving together in unison brings power but standing still surrounded by organised, regimented chaos demands a certain sort of composure. But that is a state that is not easily acquired when perched on a pedestal that is somewhat out of sync with its surroundings.

There’s an urgency, an increased systole-diastole dynamic in sound. It’s almost irrelevant whether you are stopping or starting because what if state you’re in your experience is shared. It’s part of a greater movement.

Available Light is as much about stagnated progress as it is about transitioning forward, and stillness. Red lights give bodies a golden statuesque complexion, whilst white lights soften the heat to a pale bronze. A wake up call to reality. We come into this space along. Exist both together and separately. Then leave alone.

Verdict: This was a very unique piece of dance and for that it should be commended. Possibly not one for anyone with very wayward attention, though I have the attention span of a flea and was with this all the way. Original, thrilling and conscious.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Interview: Pauline Mayers on…

Header-Image-Furnace

Image: West Yorkshire Playhouse Website

It’s Monday morning.

This time last week, I had a conversation with Pauline Mayers about her currently touring show What If I Told You, perceptions of black women’s bodies in arts spaces and the wider world and, what it’s like being a person of colour in a white dominated industry.

Pauline on… art and defining herself as an artist

I define art as a means of being able to see the world in a different way, to explore the world through a different door, a different approach to life, different places and different times.

Pauline highlighted how art provides the space for you to express yourself in a way that you cannot in other spheres. It creates more avenues and connections, with the self and the wider world.

Regarding defining oneself as an artist, Pauline does not place herself in a box. She is a lover of reading, research, finding things out; she loves to evolve. Pauline describes herself as a risk taker, agent provocateur and artistic revolutionist.

 

Pauline on…working as a black woman in theatre and dance

Pauline has danced for many years all over the world  – she always wanted to express herself. She described the ongoing commentary on her black body and stressed what appears to be the obvious in that, we all have bodies. Change needs to come surrounding perceptions of black bodies in space but we are not yet at that point. The same goes for listening to black narratives, Pauline spoke of the disbelief in her experiences that occurs within theatre spaces and how audiences doubt her truth because it is not within their repetoire of experiences. Pauline owns her story when she shares it in a performance space because it is her truth. It is unfortunate that POC do not get to own performance spaces often.

She shared her refusal to perform for Black History Month and her disappointment at the last minute nature of programming for this month and Black theatre seasons.

We also touched the importance of being able to see yourself reflected in the theatre, especially as it is such a white dominated space and that a change needs to come. Pauline mentioned her participation in Eclipse’s SLATE Project. She described how the focus on process was something she had not experienced in a long time and how such experiences are rarely available for artists of colour.

Pauline on… the experience of POC in theatre and beyond

POC are rarely listened to, when discussing their experiences there is always a caveat of ‘oh yes, but…’ and never a moment of ‘I hear you’. Pauline who has trained as a counselor highlights that POC are less likely to participate in Talking Therapies and that comes from not being able to speak their truth and always being challenged. Their psychological injuries are sidelined.

Pauline on…POC as emerging artists 

Pauline described an experience she had when presenting a piece of work and an onlooker expressed surprise that her piece was so well rounded. Having huge amounts of experience, after 30 years in the business it should look professional, Pauline exclaims.

POC are brilliant at doing many things at the same time. However, POC are too frequently boxed off as emerging artists, which creates two problems: a stagnation of progression and POC all competing with each other for a platform. Why are we all fighting for one space? Why are we having to take someone out in order to have artistic space?

Whilst opportunities are few and far between, we then face the battle of longevity and siustainability. Pauline states that theatres need to be talking to artists and finding out what they wantUnemployment is a huge issue for artists of colour – where are the sustained work opportunities?

Pauline on…What If I Told You and what’s next

What If I Told You is a calling card,  a reminder that she cannot give up on this artist thing. It’s a part of her DNA. Within this she highlights the importance of accepting the lows but focusing into the work and how this allows you to settle into your calling. She believes it is essential that we spend more time with ourselves and reflect on what it is to be human. By doing such reflections, she wonders if the world would be less divided.

She intends to continue creating work and building the Mayers Ensemble. Alongside this, she would like to continue working collaboratively and venture into directing.

 

What If I Told You is on at the Royal Exchange on Tuesday 20th June and then moves to Edinburgh Fringe, performing between 11-26th August.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Review: The Toad Knew, The Lowry

the-toad-knew-c-richard-haughton-8_0

Photo Richard Haughton

The Toad Knew by James Thierrée’s Compagnie du Hanneton

The Lowry, Salford [10.05.17]

A woman draped in a red cape crosses the stage singing. We hear the strike of a match and see an amber glow in her hood. She melts into the stage curtain of matching velvety fabric and then it is peeled away to reveal the residency of the moment that is about to unfold.

The Toad Knew could be a story. It could be a play. It could be a dance. But it is most certainly a moment. A moment in a space that resembles a room that one could only imagine finding down the rabbit hole. Except this is no rabbit hole. Despite having a bizarre essence of Alice in Wonderland about it, The Toad Knew has a peculiarity all of its own that comes in part from its onlookers. Everything from the rotating staircase to the pond in the tank to the flacks of dusty carpet derive part of their meaning from you. As the experiencer, you paint part of the meaning into this spectacle and that’s part of what makes it so unique and beautiful.

Tonight, I watched a piece of theatre swallow itself over and over again. What started as a levitating space age swamp filled with galactic kites soon grows into a home of sorts. Its inhabitants whilst on the surface appear rather unusual, on closer examination are a physical manifestation of feelings we have lived and a multitude of versions of ourselves and those around us. We observe the relationships between these unnamed characters and through their physicality and personal quirks, they are able to speak volumes that surpass that surpass the limits of the English language. There is nothing concrete here. All interactions are fluid and a relationship that could be perceived as father-daughter, brother-sister, lovers can exist as all of these things and none of them simultaneously.

Nothing in the world that we have been invited into is fixed. Water still trickles, sawdust still falls, girls still float in water temporarily and lights still shine bright. Among compulsive gyrations, a piano that plays itself whenever there is an ‘elephant in the room’ sensation and an array of prosthetic limbs and wigs, we are sent on a journey filled with revelation that is quiet by nature. This is not the place for Eurekas and soul searching. It is the place for being in the moment and knowing that it’s okay to relive your memories and decipher your dreams in a room filled with other people. It’s also okay to not know what is happening because you feel that there’s a universal correct way to look at this moment that we’re all participating in. What you can know for sure is that whatever you feel about it is not wrong.

The Toad Knew is a reaction, a unity and a change that prompts us to reflect on our commitments in this moment and externally. Repetition and precision in intriguing movements encourage us to engage in a habitual pursuit of a story that doesn’t have a beginning, a middle or an end. Instead, we are left trinkets of may have been and what could be: sleep disturbance, being held back and wanting to do the right thing. And we’ve all had the feeling of not wanting to let someone go that is truthfully conveyed to the sound of These Arms Of Mine.

Three pairs of arms carried silverware and one body danced under foiled shackles that dazzled and humoured the light. It is hard not to write about this moment in a poetic manner given that it defied the parameters of prose and made its physicality audible. As soon as stacks of silverware were balanced, they soon littered the floor. In the onstage frenzy to pick them up and toss them aimlessly into the tank/pond, we are reminded that there is an unspoken urgency to ‘get your shit together’ – no matter the space or time. But this doesn’t mean you need to do it right now and you certainly don’t need to brush your desires under the carpet in order to do so.

To end this moment, the toad appears in all its white, evocative glory and devours each of our characters whole. One by one. Time still turns and ticks and flows. But, our moment is soon to pass. The Toad tells us of the thoughts that she cannot keep track of, for there are so many. Each of these moments that lived in and devoured each other are not easily described in words. They are not concrete. But these characters, their acts, their journeys, their habits – they are all thoughts. Thoughts that we’ve all had in different manners and different contexts.

Verdict: The Toad Knew is an exquisite and unique moment trapped in a kaleidoscope and admired under the gaze of an honest and personal magnifying glass. Somewhat disturbed but hilariously peculiar, this is a compelling and captivating piece of theatre that reminds us that it’s not about the conclusion, but the journey that you take to get there and the meaning that you derive along the way. A stunningly original moment that we would all benefit from experiencing.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: MK Ultra, HOME

33419038674_0c6394131e_b

MK Ultra by Rosie Kay Dance Company

HOME, Manchester [04.05.17]

This Is Fake Theatre.

Welcome to MK Ultra – a physical embodiment and exploration of the 1950’s LSD mind control experiments conducted by the CIA and a window into the intertwined affair of pop culture and the illuminati.

Our evening begins with a film projection within the shape of an equilateral triangle and escorts us back to 1957. Two men are arguing in a bowling alley about the order and chaos of the world and conclude that the world needs a new way, a new religion so that everyone can think for themselves. However when this movement takes off, just like all freedom movements, demands for and the seeking of power escalate. Cue Operation Mind Fuck – with support from a couple of Playboy Bunnies and a lilac animated bunny. And let the games begin.

From here on in, we observe as seven dancers express the compulsions and attempts to resist the declarations of the ‘norm’ – whatever that even is. Are each of their movements their own planned decisions or are they moving like this because pop culture subtly told them to? This high energy, acrobatic performance is perfectly fluid and each movement is clean and controlled. The use of levels takes us on a visual roller-coaster of incredible stunts and tableaux that reel the audience in. Welcome to Operation Mind Fuck.

With a palette of trippy, ecstatic colours and a reel of projections ranging from Alice in Wonderland animations to Marilyn Monroe, Rosie Kay Dance Company have successfully created a piece of dance theatre that really challenges us an audience and forces us to question everything we think and feel about this performance and the world beyond the one it has created. Cosmic purple flowers blooming, Mickey Mouse conducting an invisible orchestra and Dorothy’s red slippers clicking repeatedly are just a handful of the images that lay imbedded in your mind. And all of this against a mashed up soundtrack of Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, takes us into a blended confusion that it is still quite hard to process. MK Ultra is so distinct and dedicated to its exploration that it had me constantly trying to work out what I was listening to and seeing. At points, I was sure that I could here Narayan by The Prodigy, Toni Basil’ Hey Mickey and Wake Up by Hilary Duff – though I’m pretty sure the latter was in my head, imposed by the overt Disney references, colour charged cityscape projections and hypnotising floor sequence. You know these triangular messages are truly messing with your mind when you’ve got Hilary Duff going round and round in your head… Wake up, wake up on a Saturday night, could be New York, maybe Hollywood and Vine, London, Paris maybe Tokyo, there’s something going on anywhere I go… Yes, there was certainly something going on here…

MK Ultra is nothing short of incredible. I like to be confused and moved from my comfort zone in the theatre and this successfully did that. I am currently in a state of ‘what on earth happened to me last night?’ and have been listening to DJ Rashad’s Twitter to try to counteract this. But, maybe that’s what they want me to do… Welcome to Operation Mind Fuck.

Verdict: A trip the light fantastic level of weird and confusing – absolutely phenomal piece of dance. Would highly recommend.

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Casanova, The Lowry

nbd-5-ch-min

Photo: Guy Farrow, Emma Kauldhar, Caroline Holden, Justin Slee

Casanova by Northern Ballet & Kenneth Tindall

The Lowry, Salford [03.05.17]

Opulent smoke and a procession of six figures travel with intent across the stage, surrounded by three towering ornate pillars. Then, six hooded men appear and engage in energised and powerful physicality that has you leaning in just to be ever more captivated by a sweeping array of small intricate to grand dominating movements. This ensemble give us a flavour of the beauty that is to unfold before us.

Casanova has become the social pseudonym of the womanisers and sex addicts of the modern world. But, Northern Ballet’s Casanova crafted by Kenneth Tindall invites us to take a look through a magnifying glass at an intricate and captivating narrative of the man behind the debauchery. This elegant, full length work inspired by Casanova’s memoirs explores the power, anguish, knowledge and of course, sex that dominated his many lives and delivers a vulnerable unveiling of who the real Casanova was.

On a mesmerising journey from Venice to Versailles, we see Casanova’s many versions of himself as an alchemist, violinist, writer and cleric. Among these pursuits, we see him tempt and be tempted by an array of women and take a particular fancy to a woman who has disguised herself as a man. This one is different. This becomes less about sex and more about passion and feeling.

The ensemble move with intent, diligence and passion, leaving it near impossible for you to take in everything that is happening simultaneously. The movements are captivating and give onlookers a true appreciation for the potential and possibilities of the human body. Each element is flawless in its execution and every dancer gives a distinct emotional performance to depict their character. Tableaux and trio performances convey ritualistic and sexual intent with both a tasteful and truthful aesthetic.

Christopher Oram’s awe-inspiring costume design transport us to the 1700’s in a spectacular masquerade of exquisite fabrics and silhouettes. The moving nature of the set allows us to journey with Casanova to his differing residencies and gives this tale a natural meander. But, it is the three pillars illuminated by Alastair West’s lighting design that really take this production from the Lyric Theatre stage to an entire world of its own. We see the dancers reflections on the speckled mirrored panes and the fluidity of their movements paints the most beautiful caricatures onto these panels. It is this haze of colours alongside this passionate tale that truly take us into the realm of Giacomo Casanova.

Verdict: Words cannot do this stunning production justice: this is a dance to be seen and experienced. Truly exceptional.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Review: Turn, Contact

turn

Image: Holly Rush

Turn: a micro-festival of North West dance

Contact, Manchester [28.04.17]

This review covers: Origami by Kapow Dance, Madre by Peter Groom Dance Theatre, Saiserit by Giorgio de Carolis, The Album of Love by Ane Iselin Brogeland, Periodo Blu by Matrafisc Dance, What’s Mine Is Yours by Coalesce Dance and INFAMY by The inFamous Five.

Three spaces continually evolving in response to the bodies within them that become rhythmic story books in the presence of both song and silence. Turn brings new work to the table created and performed by dancers from the North West of England. In its ninth year, the festival featured 12 new works (a number of which running simultaneously due to space capacity and then repeating at the end of the night).

The evening began in space 1, opened by Eithne Kane of Kapow Dance. Origami was a piece true to its name. Kane’s body folded , creased, turned, rolled and held shape in this bold articulation of what bodies are capable of being and communicating.

This was then followed by Peter Groom’s striking performance of Madre. A piece of dance theatre that gave us Paris Je T’aime meets the Wizard of Oz meets meets Marilyn Monroe and so much more. Peter walks out on to the stage with a nude stocking over his head, a plain t-shirt, boxers and red heels. Moving from strolling to symphonic signing, Peter takes us on a journey of lamenting what may or may not have been. We become part of this journey as he beckons us to come to the stage but, his offer is silently declined. This piece was filled with humour and passion and blurred the lines between dance, theatre and live art. An exceptional offering to start off the night.

At this point, the audience were split in two – one half went to see the following shorter pieces in space 5 (which I did not see): Only Speak When Spoken To by Meraki Collective, The Intersection Series by Jo Cork, The Visitor by Born + Bred Theatre Dance and A Film with Hope by Grace Surman & Clare Dearnaley. In space 2, two longer pieces were presented to the audience: Saiserit by Giorgio de Carolis and The Album of Love by Ane Iselin Brogeland.

Saiserit is a simplistic yet captivating piece of dance – repeated phrases delivered with precision and emotion lead us on a journey that pursues both knowledge and denial simultaneously. The relationship between Giorgio, a small black box and a mirror encourage us to reflect on ourselves. We watch him conceal his face with the box, pursue it and gaze into the mirror with his back to us. It is only half way through this piece that music is played. And in recognition of that change, it is apparent that this piece is very special. It can live in silence yet give us a wholly meaningful sensory experience. It makes us reflect on how much we really know and how much we are both knowingly and unknowingly ignorant of.

The Album of Love by Ane Iselin Brogeland followed and delivered what I can only begin to describe as the most poignant moment of the night. The piece I Want To Know What Love Is by Foreigner, Sexual Healing by Lionel Richie and a voice-over that talks of love: love is an act of surrender. Throughout this piece, Ane surrenders her self to the audience, the movement and to herself, all in an exploration of the states and expressions of love that can be experienced. She expresses the struggles and suffocations that we have all felt at some point. But the real power of this piece is in the shaking and the breathing – open to interpretation but nonetheless, relateable. By far, the gem of the night.

Following an interval to two audience halves were brought back to space 1 to watch the final three pieces (before being given directions to watch pieces they hadn’t opted for earlier). Two duets and a group piece graced the stage. Matrafisc Dance offered us a couple – one trapped in the past and one day dreaming of the future – each trying their hardest not to lose their head (their polystyrene one, quite literally). We observe their individual torment but longing to exist in the same space. The synchronisation of the performers, Antonello Apicella and Ina Colizza, was completely flawless and beautiful to watch. A relationship of equal beauty could be found in Coalesce Dance’s What’s Mine Is Yours? Anna Papatheodorou and Fern Maia gave a subtle yet thought provoking performance exploring how female strength can fight back against harassment. This was the sort of dance that was nice to watch at the time but it’s underlying message really hit home upon leaving theatre and has stayed with me all day. A good example of how we can use dance as activism.

And lastly, The inFamous Five took to the stage to perform Infamy – a comical yet serious look at a world that chose both Brexit and Trump …and how this world observes the women that reside in it. A great soundtrack, incredible facial expressions and a poke straight in the eye of politics. Raise your teacups and applaud.

On leaving the theatre, I reflected on what I had seen and how it made me feel. And then, I remembered that Akeim Toussaint Buck was unable to perform due to illness – he is one of the artists who drew my attention to Turn. However, I was also thinking about the lack of dancers of colour in the festival and wondering why this was the case. All of the organisations involved actively work with artists of colour, so I was surprised and a little confused at this. But, I guess the way to change that is to shout about Turn and encourage dancers of colour to apply and bring their offerings to the table. Turn is a fantastic platform and bringing more artists of colour to this platform can only build upon its unique offering.

Verdict: On the whole, Turn has been one of the highlights of my arts calendar so far this year. It has delivered new, innovative, relateable and meaningful dance theatre from a strong mix of northern talent. It is the sort of event that you go and shout about.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,