As a regular voyeur of contemporary dance, I sat patiently in my seat in the Lilian Baylis Studio, awaiting a pleasurable double bill of contemporary duets – and with a title matching the name of one of my favourite evening tipples, expecting a pinch of extra spice.
Southern Comfort does not only contain a smooth mix of movement and music – Gregory Maqoma tosses ice into the cocktail with a humorous and comical dialogue. The character performed by Belgian trained Shanell Winlock, is one that all artisans of the performing arts can relate to. With her bossy, impossible endeavour to reach perfection and her exertion to create a number of humiliating situations for the three musicians who are also present on stage, this performance is almost like watching a comic sketch of a dance rehearsal.
The three musicians tread precariously on bubble wrap upstage, whilst the movements of both Winlock and Maqoma seem to control the African percussion arrangements and the lingering cello legato. The Sarod guitarist is referred to as ‘Mr Bollywood’, and the ethnic and indigenous tones resonate throughout the space, whilst the dancers manoeuvre with urgency and vigour to the instruction of Winlock’s harassing character.
Overhearing some dance veteran during the interval, who thought that the piece was all ‘a bit of a gimmick’, I would say that it is not so much a gimmick but an enjoyable insight into working for an impossibly creative perfectionist. With a creative use of costume, music and dialogue, Southern Comfort is an entertaining and amusing performance that is shaken – not stirred.
Bound, part two of this voguish double bill, is choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who sure knows how to utilise a prop. The use of about a kilometre of rope was spectacular in itself – creating shapes, twists and optical illusions together with strobe lighting and the dancer’s bodies. There were sections of contact work that were so intricate that I could not tell whose body belonged to who. Winlock’s limbs wrapped and twisted around Maqoma like a constrictor pressing it’s prey. This gravity defying, choreographic maze of limbs left me open-mouthed, due to sheer amazement of the corkscrew positions Winlock was winding herself into.
The live music, coming from behind a dimly lit screen at the back of the stage, carried the movement from one section to the next without a seam in sight.
Titillating my tipsy taste buds, the two pieces were mentally and aesthetically very fulfilling.