Each year Jan – Feb, six amateur and six professional dance critics team up to offer their perspectives on the many works presented at The Place's platform for short, live dance works by emerging choreographers, Resolution!. Also as part of the platform, Aerowaves (Europe-wide dance network) presents performances by emerging artists from abroad, this year: Alma Söderberg, Aerites Dance Company, Koncentrat, Itamar Serussi Sahar, and Marco D'Agostin. BELLYFLOP has agreed to publish the reviews produced by Resolution! Review that include the Aerowaves performances, for both the amateur writers and the Aerowaves artists to gain more exposure. (Eleanor Sikorski is one of our regular contributors)
Friday 14 Jan
Alma Soderbreg (Sweden)Cosas
The Guerilla Dance Project, Laura Kriefman Not Looking for Anyone
Avatara Ayuso Dance company Pidgin
Alma Söderberg is exquisite. Just her stride on to the stage is impressive. Her solo Cosas is a torrent of song, language, stamping feet and verbally punctuated gesture. Sound and movement become one pumping, well driven engine. She is fiery but also incredibly cool. Her jeans and sneakers are cool, but also the way that she controls herself, flicking and switching between dynamic states and remixing snippets and lengths of songs-that-we-know, is cool. She is also a bit wild, but nothing is random or lost. She alludes to culture and then tears it apart. Weaving abstracted sounds and images together she sends us into a dancing trance.
Guerilla Dance Project doesn't offer the warfare and sabotage that I secretly hoped for. The dancers are preset on stage. High street dresses and teachers' chairs – it could be an afternoon in a dull student union bar. There is a strange pre-performance, pre-the-real-thing atmosphere. The piece begins, but the numbness of the preset remains. There are bodies, cups and scatterings of torn newspaper on stage but nothing that I want to look at (aside from a few interestingly glary-eyed performers pulling ear phones out of their cleavages). Kriefman is nobly ‘looking for the dances in everyday life', but at present everyday life is more interesting than her choreographed version of it.
Avatâra Ayuso presents Pidgin with conviction. There is attention to detail, chemistry between the dancers and a satisfying embrace of both the awkwardness and precision of the dense, spiky movement. However, obsession with position distracts from the richness of dynamic quality, there is fickleness in the compositional relationships between the dancers and the physical softness tends to become affected by the stylistic habits of the dancers' trained bodies. An engaging performance but in need of an edit and something to define it amidst the sea of hot pants, arched lumbars and pointed feet which floods so much of today's dance scene.
– Eleanor Sikorski
Fri 21 Jan
Aerites Dance Company d.opa (dopamines of post-Athenians)
Sooraj Subramaniam Nocturne
James Cousins Taste Water Again
Darting across the stage in brief entrances and exits, Aerites Dance Company catapults its Aerowaves piece d.opa! into the stratosphere. Dancers parade a white flag around the stage and roll about in money, evoking powerful images of national identity. At times this piece is hilarious while at other moments it is shocking. A Greek national tune is sombrely sung a capella before morphing into the kind of disco-pop kitsch that evokes Eurovision. With a brush of a broom, however, the kitsch is swept away. A split stage provides two very different narratives as sexual desire leads to manipulation, and is juxtaposed with the morbidity of a man stood on a chair with a noose around his neck. An unnecessary excess of costume changes but an impressive performance nevertheless.
A dual-action framework was also generated in the evening’s third piece by James Cousins. Taste Water Again uses a split scene effectively to layer up choreographic interplay without losing the observer’s focus. Restless energy is channelled by a strong company of dancers, who move between each other with ease. Dynamism contrasts with the serenity of realisation – these are not just great dancers but great performers.
Sooraj Subramaniam’s Nocturne was an appropriate diversion located between the two pieces, and after Aerites’ dependence on props and costume, Nocturne was just what was needed – no frills except for those in the movement quality. Subramaniam shows the deep plies and intricate mudras hand gestures from his Bharatanatyam training, combining them with forceful floor work and explosive jumps. This dancer is virile yet gentle and fluid, echoing the versatility of South Asian dance. A masterful storyteller, he depicts a bathroom scene with wit and charm. This piece was a contemporary slant on the traditional, informed by its roots but a stand alone offering. Fast, consecutive spins into darkness formed a lovely ending.
– Lucinda Al-Zoghbi
Fri 28 Jan
Koncentrat Artistic Group (Poland), Rafal Dziemidok Floe
Gillie Kleiman Ophelia is not Dead
Anomic Multimedia Theatre, Dan Shorten Leave only footprints
Floe's beauty is in the peculiar balance that exists between painstaking explanation and mysterious anonymity. Garniec remains anonymous. Hovering in the background, her sequined dress keeps us expecting more. Dziemidok, on the other hand, moves forward, talking us through what he is doing. He is graceful and ordinary, sincere and trivial. He explains a bit, shows a bit, explains a bit more… and rather than becoming boring, his revelations accumulate to offer us a perceptiveness we would otherwise be too lazy to employ. Dziemidok is gentle and unassuming, yet, his control over us is complete. He leads us far down his logical path and then, just as we develop an appetite for mystery, he gives us a remedial dose of bewilderment in the form of flashing lights and a sequined dress – it all fits perfectly.
Kleiman also plays with the joys of structural balancing – interrupting and splicing her own ‘fat girl cabaret' so that it's more than just the series of dance numbers it claims to be. When we expect show business she does fat wobbling. When we expect fat wobbling she does sexy. Surprises and all, it is neat cabaret entertainment. She delivers the lame alongside the glorious as if they were made for each other. Tampon jokes drift as if on fumes of Earl Grey and anti-climatic anecdotes are positioned into the splits. I can't decide whether she makes these things look normal or whether she looks normal alongside them. Either way, my eyes are on her and they are refusing to blink.
The last piece, Leave only footprints, sadly leaves me squinting – protecting my eyes from the overload of disjointed images and trying to imagine what the piece might look like if the performers were more successfully treading their way through it. An Abu Ghraib prisoner, boiling lava, a looming penis, flying limbs and pantomime faces – it could be fascinating, but won't be, as long as Shorten continues to be unaware of the chaos he has created.
– Eleanor Sikorski
Friday 4 Feb
Itamar Serussi Sahar, The Netherlands Undo
The Ticket Theatre Dance, Lexi Bradburn Backing Dancer
Briar Adams Surface Tension
Undo is a quintet of striding and chin-jutting dancers. Minimally clad in sharp black spandex, they flick and hover with fantastic control and self conscious bravado. They snap impressively between tension and easy coolness. Initially the wonder of the dancers is lost amid the consistent sound and their constructed behavioural oddness. Yet as the piece unfolds there are moments of silence in which the rhythms and slaps of the dancers' bodies are vividly exposed. Stillness shifts the audience's focus in and out of the intricacies and textures of the piece. The performance is characterised by flippancy, broken by the concreteness of the dancer's stares and repeated patterns. Yet neither the loose nor the defined really find their footing. Despite this, at the end of the piece my focus is so tightly pulled towards the dancers' almost invisible pulsing that I find myself pulsing in my own seat. If only there is more of this.
Backing Dancer has a satisfyingly simple dramatic setup. Three backing dancers (bound by ankle clinging golden skirts and tottering in heels) and a singer (brilliantly smooth, flawless and cheesy). The dancers, slowly gathering frustration, lose their inhibitions and their skirts, leaving the singer increasingly hen pecked. The comedy is repetitive and the singer's acting becomes caricatured, however the insistence of the synchronised, showgirl dancing successfully lends itself to slapstick and the dancers carry it well. They are in fact a pleasure to watch. It is odd, sexy and entertaining in the way that show dancing is. The peculiarity could do with some exploration though – what if the dancers never got free of their skirts or the singer somehow retained his ghostly control? I was left to wonder.
Surface Tension opens onto a crowded stage. A forest of bodies with wriggling duets and solos emerging from the undergrowth. The fluid dancing has character and energy, but this is lost in uncertainty – of performance and choreographic structure. The stage carries great shifts of movement, however there are such constant changes of formation and combination, without there being any development of intensity or tension, that the energy is lost to the loose air.
– Eleanor Sikorski
Fri 11 Feb
Marco D'Agostin Viola
Sarah Lewis & Steve Johnstone Chairs
Uchenna Dance Company, Vicki Igbokwe Life After
The beauty of Viola lies in its ambiguity and Marco d'Agostin's ability to draw us in. Wearing pants, he faces one side of the stage and touches himself as if exploring his body or rehearsing moves in front of a mirror. Violent punches to the air follow kicks and beats on chest. Is he asking for a fight? Is he seducing a woman? The sexual tension heightens as he vigorously smacks his bottom, bites his arm and licks his finger erotically. It's gripping because he's extremely physical. Whether defiant or showing off, erotic or self-abusive, d'Agostin exudes vulnerability. The dancer finally faces the audience, genitalia tucked in between his legs and fades in the dark.
In a similar vein, dependence is the kind of weakness that Sarah Lewis and Steve Johnstone fight against in Chairs. How many ways of sitting down can there possibly be? On someone's feet, lap, calf, in their swaying arms, bum on bum… and on chairs! As they dance to popular songs, Johnstone's power over Lewis becomes apparent and the latter wants to regain control. Arranging chairs and tea-lights, they prepare for a party. However, this is a dismal set up. She feels uncomfortable in her own body, contorting herself and pulling out ills. We feel reassured when he takes chairs away, preventing her from stumbling over them. After all, don't we all need someone to lean on?
Vicki Igbokwe's voiceover recalling the passing of her mother, is the starting point of her Life After. Six female dancers fuel the piece with hip moves and capoeira accents, but their uneven technical ability taints the enjoyment. Maracas and samba tunes turn ritualistic and shamanic, taking Life After closer to personal therapy than a show. Igbokwe asks us at the end: "Can you tell me what is the meaning of life?". This is too much of a question to ask since she neither untangles it, nor makes it more interesting to discover.
– Marina Ribera