Laïla Diallo: Hold Everything Dear

Performers: Theo Clinkard, Letty Mitchell &Laïla Diallo. Photo: ArnoPerformers: Theo Clinkard, Letty Mitchell &Laïla Diallo. Photo: Arno

Hold Everything Dear is a delicate piece. It has a self-awareness which gives me a sense of how much time has been spent making it and how well it knows itself. It has a confident calmness to it: the very first action we see is the stage casually being cleared by the performers – it is captivating, especially for an audience caught in the first moments of watching, but I imagine it would not be considered as an opening by more hesitant choreographers for fear of it being too boring, or too mundane.

There is a strange contradiction in Hold Everything Dear which is that it is incredibly precise (each scene is like a well matured cheese that has sat and thought about itself for such a long time that it has become refined enough for people to spend a lot of money on it and nibble it in small chunks that melt in their mouth) yet it never does more than to evoke and suggest. All of the beautiful images of travel, holiday dreams and escape, of which there are many, eventually fade. I notice sound and bodies repeatedly fading.

A couple of moments in the piece give me a sense of something materialising – the quiet demise of Helka Kaski’s role as she sinks into a pile of polystyrene snow, which later holds the clear imprint of her body, is a moment in which things appear to naturally converge (although of course it is not nature I should credit, but the choreographer). It is a moment that has been building – Kaski strewing polystyrene throughout the piece like Gretel leaving her fated trail in the woods – and the sound at this moment creeps up on us with intensity and decisiveness. It is the occasional repetition of actions and the return of characters that create the possibility for me to feel something from this piece. Another example of clarity is the return of Seke Chimutengwende’s holiday-winning character. Diallo, Theo Clinkard and Letty Mitchell quietly suspend chicken-wire clouds over Chimutengwende’s panama-flaunting head and his disappointment, although quiet, is ever so tangible, purely because we have already been touched by his desires for sunshine (and everything else that comes with that well known dream) and somehow we know his loss.

Hold Everything Dear is very episodic. The constant change is conscious and in some ways it is well carried – the costumes especially manage to hold their own amidst the episodicality (I need a word license) of the piece, changing easily and lightly – change being part of what clothes are. However elsewhere the change is too much – I cannot form attachment to anything before it has already ebbed away. Things appear from nowhere. Throughout the piece there is expression of loss, all of the dancing carries the angst of it, but most of the time I’m not sure what exactly has been lost. I get tired of things ending over and over. Maybe that is the point – that I feel loss as the dancers feel loss – but it is tiring. And I never have anything long enough that I might feel like I have lost it. I wonder why the performers are dancing, or what is moving them, because I am never told. There is continuum in the mood and the notion of the piece, but I desire access to the individual people more than to a mood.



Choreography: Laïla Diallo with the performers

Performers: Theo Clinkard, Seke Chimutengwende, Laïla Diallo, Gabi Froden, Helka Kaski, Jules Maxwell, Letty Mitchell, Grigory Tsyganov and Semay Wu

Original Music: Jules Maxwell

Lighting Design: Guy Hoare

Costume Design: Theo Clinkard

Dramaturgy: Chris Fogg

Production Management: Chris Copland

Management: Claire Morton and Joe Bates, Morton Bates Arts Services

Special thanks to original cast members Gabi Froden (vocals) and grigory Tsyganov (viola)