Review

Resolution! 2011: Opening Night

Tame_Game

I cannot stand how watching contemporary dance turns me into a bad person. It does. I start picking apart the performers and their bodies and their movements and it gets horribly personal and I don’t want to do that. When I am really enjoying the work this stops because I am transported, or something, but otherwise I am sitting there all bitchy and feeling guilty for it. Not the best state of mind for watching choreography. Maybe this is why I am always filled with dread at the dawning of the annual Resolution! season, even the exclamation mark makes me shudder inside a little bit. I find myself sat in the Robin Howard Dance Theatre (usually in roughly the same spot – up the back, a bit to the left, probably on that broken seat that squeaks at inappropriate moments in performances) filled with apprehension: “Shit, I am about to watch Contemporary Dance” I think. What does that thought even mean? Why do I have it? Resolution! is a great platform for choreographers, but the two twenty minute intervals and over a hundred works is a bit of a killer.

The opening night:

Janina Rajakangas with Striptease “A reversed striptease celebrating love and body. A trio about the female mating ritual” they say. I didn’t read the programme notes, I never do. I did get the celebratory element, especially towards the end, when they got dressed and danced to Balkan-sounding music with strange head jerks and opening of legs and I guess quite confrontational movement, more often seen on men or in works by male choreographers; unashamed and unapologetic. It was then that I really felt the power of the three performers, all unique and exciting movers. Once they dressed, the piece seemed to become about the movement and its resonance rather than anything else. From that point on I felt the excitement and pleasure of watching an articulate moving body, rather than veiled political messages or something.

They entered topless and in knickers with thick patches of appropriately coloured (nice touch) ‘pubic’ hair. I didn’t understand why they weren’t completely naked though. I didn’t understand why a lot of things happened in this piece, but in the end it became fun. What was great were a child’s shouts of “Mama!” when the lady, who (I presumed) was his mother strutted to the front of the stage and swung a sock provocatively whilst bouncing up and down so her bared breasts would jiggle. It gave the sexual thrusting, slapping, grunting and grinding an added potency, reminding me that some baby would/had/currently is suckling on those nipples and that we all did that once.

The second piece was Susanna Amarante Duarte’s Finding Anna. A solo. I felt disconnected. The set was two chairs positioned at an angle stage left and a microphone to the right. These were not used. They were suggestive, but I quickly gave up trying to work out what it was they were suggesting. Same with the movement; I could see the ‘signs’ of Emotion, the fighting to get herself off from the floor and slamming back down into it, the fact that the piece took place largely on the floor with Duarte horizontal, but I didn’t feel anything. And then I felt guilty about this schism, guilty for being more concerned with the cut of her t-shirt and the drawstrings at the bottom of her trousers than the Dance. But these things become part of the dance, and choreography is about the attention to details.

BLOOM! paid attention to the details in Tame Game and through these established their own ‘rules of engagement’, a particular world into which the audience was invited and willingly played along. I find this a great place to be an audience – not manipulated or coerced but complicit in the game; I lost my expectations and allowed the piece to unfold without judgment. The design was simple but somehow lustrous, clean but tender: the chalk flicked onto the stage floor in one neat “ping!”, the empty rectangular picture frame, the taped delineation of the Active Performance Space, the dangling orange of the whistles held in their mouths, the symmetry of the framed image of a bared bottom in ‘The Prologue’, the fact that the three men had bothered to grow and preen matching facial hair. All the elements worked to create a symbiotic unity. And there was dancing – not as an add-on, an aside and not tempered by theatrical introductions or explanations, not apologetic and not as a Spectacle (although it was spectacular). The dance managed to be both virtuosic and essential. A feat not often met. Good job.

 

Janina Rajakangas / Susanna Amarante Duarte / BLOOM! 6 January part of Resolution! 6-18 February 2011, Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place, London

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