Resolution! 2010: Dancing Outside Traditional Boundaries in London

Posted on January 30th, 2010 by

On a rainy night in London we attended our second viewing of Resolution! 2010 at The Place theatre. Since I have been dancing for many years, this particular performance was very exciting to me. I knew I’d be seeing the works of young professionals who were pushing the limits of dance.
The Place is primarily a dance house, it also serves as a dance-training locale. Upon entering the performance venue, we found seats in the first few rows and waited for the dances to start. The stage was empty and lit by work lights hung from the light pipes. The black marley dance floor bore marks from previous use and spike tape markings adorned the black. Backstage did not exist in this small venue; rather there were floor to ceiling curtains of about six feet wide that almost managed to cover the boom bases and their load of lighting instruments. The house lights went down and the evening’s dances began.

From Spain, the company La Macana presents VEN.
Performed and Choreographed by: Alexis Fernandez & Caterina Varela

A girl wearing tennis shoes, ripped jeans, a black tank top covered by a half-open green shirt walks down the stage right stairs and crosses the stage at a diagonal. She turns, lifts her hand and beckons to the direction from which she came. A young man with unruly blond hair, clothed in a white shirt, jeans and tennis shoes joins her on stage. For a moment they simply stand with their eyes locked, letting the heavy beat of the music pulse around them. They circle one another cautiously, their steps slower than the beat of the music. Suddenly, the male dancer steps closer and sweeps the girl off her feet. Using a combination of momentum, leverage and sheer muscle power, he keeps her off the ground for the next few moments. As he moves to set her down, he pauses and looks out at the audience, as though suddenly realizing someone is watching him. He remains that way, staring out, holding the girl in his arms, braced slightly on his thighs, just balancing there for a few seconds, then allows her feet to reconnect with the floor. Lifts and jumps continue to punctuate the heavy metal beat as the duo moves through sequences that cover the entire floor. Their movements bring them upstage center where they circle one another at arms length and the dance of one advancing and retreating begins again. Their bodies reconnect and more of the lifts begin with the female dancer limply allowing herself to be swept up and tossed around, until she turns and leaves the stage the way she entered. After her departure, the music changes to a much slower song and her male partner is left on stage, lying on his back as though stargazing. His movements become jerky, and he uses his hands to move his legs into place so he can stand. For the next few minutes, we watch as he struggles to get up, only to be fought by an invisible force that appears bent on keeping him down. In a movement that seemed out of place, he suddenly removes one shoe, and then returns to the ground and struggles to get up. As the song concludes, he takes off his other shoe, places the two next to one another and jumps onto them. As his body is suspended in midair, his partner reemerges onto the stage and from the moment she lifts him from his shoes, their bodies remain in contact for the remainder of the piece. He uses her as a prop, like a child’s playground as he clambers over her, uses her hands as stepping-stones and picks her up. The movements are all about trust as he successfully jumps and lands on her legs, walks across the stage standing only on her hands as she army crawls to keep up with him and give his feet a resting place. They make their way off stage in this fashion.
Throughout the piece, there are times when nearly all motion will cease and the dancers will lock gazes and run their hands over each other tenderly. A sense of raw tenderness and passion underlines the entire dance and sparks of emotion seem to fly between the dancers.

The Shortest Day
Choreographed by: James Wilton

After the lights go out in the house, four figures grace the darkened stage. A single spotlight comes up, piercing the haze-filled air and illuminating a single dancer. As heavy rock music blares from all sides, the dancer begins to move. Slowly, other lights come up and illuminate the stage and other three dancers. Each dancer moves in his or her own sequence, but all the moves have a similar sense of urgency. In the program, the choreographer describes the dance as placing “four performers in a desperate struggle for survival: to exhaust themselves, force a recovery, then exhaust themselves again, to hurt each other in an attempt to find hope in a hopeless world.”
Much of the dance involves using one side of the body to push the other side into action and using the momentum to move either downwards or to the side. For the first part of the dance, none of the dancers make any physical contact with one another, although when they are in unison they all run backwards in a counterclockwise circle with their right hands outstretched toward the person across the circle. Partway through the piece, the female dancers roll off stage and the male dancers make contact. They grab onto one another and begin a frantic series of leaps, throws and rolls until only one dancer remains. As he is about to exit the stage, the other three rush back on, backwards with the right hand outstretched and the fourth dancer joins the circle. Their feet make no noise over the fast music yet the dance clearly becomes more intense and the movements become faster and more urgent. Partner work begins between all the dancers and they toss one another into the air like a child throwing confetti. The heartbeat of the dance calms slowly as the dancers fall, one by one to the floor, breathing audibly, lying in lose positions. The music and lights lower, but suddenly kick back into full volume as the dancers rise in unison and begin a fast-paced chorus of lifts with running starts and double and triple spins in the air. They hit the ground audibly, roll, and jump over on another in a manner so frantic it feels as though they have only moments to live. At last all four of them collapse, still in unison and the lights and sound fade until only a singular spotlight remains, and then that too fades into blackness.

Antique Dances presents Lonely Soul
Choreographed by: Holly Noble & David Ogle

During the interval, crew members raise the drapes that hide the lights, leaving the walls completely exposed. Five dancers file in and stand where the wings should have been but now are visible. They walk on stage with blank expressions, one at a time until all five women filled the stage with both their bodies and the sounds of their feet hitting the floor. One by one they stop and maintain various positions until only one dancer is still in motion. Unlike the previous dances, her movements are not full of raw, urgent energy, but rather are elegant and slow. Most of the movements performed by this group are more like ballet than the previous dances. As the dance progresses, the women continue movements individually, although some of them do the same sequence, but at different times. Slowly the flurry of movement brings them into a straight line across center stage, and one by one they begin a new sequence of movement. Footfalls pound out a solid beat against the music as the women march in single file around the stage, making sharp ninety-degree turns. As they march in a new direction, a sequence of movement is formed. One dancer breaks the solid march for no more than two beats, does a small embellishment and goes back to the march as if nothing has happened. When the entire group reaches the same place again, they all perform the newly added movement. The rest of the dance consists of the women remaining in this straight-line formation and adding new movements each time they turn the corner. Eventually, the line shifts so the movements are on the diagonal and then back to a straight line. Once the girls return to the line, one by one they reach the centerline where the final sequence began and freeze. Finally only one performer is dancing and as she reaches her final mark, the lights go down, leaving the women in a straight line with blank expressions.

I found the dance pieces absolutely beautiful. I was especially drawn to the pieces that used techniques that spanned dance styles, and had the ability to catch the audience up in the movement and music. The second piece, The Shortest Day was a perfect example of this because the dancers were so caught up in the movement. I feel that any dance in which there is a kinesthetic empathy; that is, when the audience feels similar to the performers, is one that is truly successful, and those are always the most engaging to watch. The Shortest Day was easily the most engaging to me, partly because it was, according to the program, about the apocalypse and the movements that would be made by someone who knows the end is near. The first piece, “La Macana” was also really powerful in a similar way. The dancers connected first with eyes, then with body and the connection was so strong it was almost tangible from where we were sitting. I was drawn to the piece partly because of the deep level of trust between the two dancers. Trust is something I struggle to attain in my own dancing, so any time I see dancers who trust each other completely, I’m immediately more engaged in the dance, trying to figure out what they have that I lack with my dance partners.
La Macana and The Shortest Day were beautiful and engaging, for different, though equally powerful reasons, the third dance, Antique Dances was far less interesting and powerful to me. It felt very technique-based and lacking in emotional depth. The dancers were not nearly as emotionally invested in the movements as in previous dances, and their facial expressions remained rigidly blank. I also found the choreography to be repetitive such that the dance felt too long. I wanted something more to happen, like aan explosion of individual movement, especially after the girls were moving in unison in straight lines around the stage. It felt as though the dance was building to an explosion of movement or emotion, but never quite got there and simply ended up falling flat and being less engaging than the previous two.
One thing I noticed about all three dances was the careful attention that the dancers paid to their form. By no means were any of the dancers obviously focused on keeping a solid frame, but especially the dancers in La Macana and The Shortest Day had to be careful and not lose form. When a dancer loses his or her form, lifts, weight sharing, jumps and even grounded work like running or rolling becomes sloppy and unappealing to the audience. I was impressed with the ease with which the dancers maintained their frame because I know it’s not an easy thing to make look effortless.
I’m very happy that we were able to attend these performances because we don’t often have the same chances in the United States. At home, we really are exposed to professional dance and choreography and not new, young people who are just breaking in the professional world. Having The Place in London makes the city a wonderful location for young choreographers because the theatre, and especially the production of Resolution! 2010 is dedicated to exploring what the body can do and say without words, and creating responses to the ever-changing world. It should not read that we do not have access to this sort of performance in America. It is out there; dance houses, theatres and schools work toward the same goals as The Place. However, these places and productions are not always highlighted in a way that draws the general public the same way The Place does.
I find The Place’s goals very applicable to the current world because, like the literature explains, dance can communicate across barriers and serves as an almost universal language. In a world where we struggle to communicate through words, we easily forget that our bodies serve as excellent communication tools. However, these tools need to constantly be explored if they are to be used effectively, which is exactly what The Place and Resolution! 2010 seek to do. The combination of the theatre and the production are doing the world of dancers and audience members a great service through their work. I hope someday that a venue like The Place can be a center for communication through the arts, and that The Place’s mission continues to spread beyond London to service the entire world.


Comments are closed.