Words By Izzy Rogers, 23/05/19
Tonight brings the work of three postgraduate choreographers from London Contemporary Dance School: fresh talents making dance about what preoccupies them, minus the commercial pressures of delivering a ‘show’. The resulting pieces are subtle, inventive, intriguing and occasionally funny; abstracted, conceptual dance that engages my brain and emotions.
Shelley Owen’s This Clear Haze begins in a thick cover of white mist. Something glitters promisingly in the dark. Three figures walk towards us in slow motion, and then retreat, expressionless. They are measured and slow on a widely-lit stage. Whilst the obscurity is pleasing, I wonder what they’re emoting, what Owen is saying with the sheer presence of these seemingly-unconnected individuals, whose eyes barely meet. ‘Uncertainty’ is the aim, but a hint of place, time or relationships might spark our imaginations.
Loose triangular formations are satisfying, as is the repetitious jigging, slouching and learning forward on an outstretched leg. With its arrhythmic pulsating, the work maintains a puzzling disconnection. (What’s with the sequined hot pants — are we at a warehouse party?). It feels like an installation, and could dazzle us more with a greater assurance in the material.
NOWhere by Greta Gauhe brings us swinging balls of light and audible clicks: each of the six dancers switches their bulb on in turn, red cords hanging down in visual symmetry. Conversations about identity and discrimination are exchanged in layers of tuneful, overlapping voices in different languages.
Gauhe makes unobvious, strangely-affecting choreographic choices to present the most cohesive group work I have seen in a while. One dancer, weak or dying, back arched towards the ground, is propped up tenderly by the rest. The men and women are entirely interchangeable, creating a neutral shared identity, three in orange T-shirts, three in green.
I love the more combative material too: the face slapping and the many hands covering one of the dancers. Extended laughter turns to crying as Andy Trewren’s live piano builds in intensity behind. With a childlike sense of play and adventure, motifs of climbing and supporting each other bring a beautiful poignancy. I’m so sad when the final lightbulb is extinguished.
We return from the interval for Be fruitful and multiply by Alicja Nauman. Four elegant women, dressed in a palette of icy blue and blush pink, move serenely across the fully-lit space. In silence, they glide towards a mass of electric blue plastic bags messily adorning the floor: an ugly oil spill on the calm, feminine landscape. They pass bags between them in a slow-mo conveyor belt, possessing each in turn, discovering they can fix the bags around their mouths or swinging them on their wrists.
The goddesses luxuriate in this sea of unnecessary waste. Clinging to the bags, they stuff them down their fronts, collecting them like precious objects. The bags are now so numerous they protrude comically, great bulges under their neat clothing. One dancer cradles her plastic-bag baby-bump; the others devotedly tend to her lying between them. Then they release the bags, shaped as if they are little birds. I’m amazed at the many incarnations found by Nauman and how evocative this material is.
The dancers mime regally to operatic song played overhead. The audience collapse with laughter at the absurdity of it all and Nauman’s environmental agenda is pointedly fulfilled — our obsession with plastic is ridiculously out of hand. I enjoyed the slowness and poise of this gallery-fit longitudinal work, which confronts modern issues with such an arch, ironic gaze.
Image from the Alicja Nauman.