Rising Tides: 01 a celebration of modern femininity – review

Words by Izzy Rogers.

Rising Tides: 01 at the Rosemary Branch Theatre brings eight waves of fresh, female-led work curated by GBworks. The new platform presents emerging contemporary dance and music artists, with a smidge of east London insouciance.

The audience of happy young creatives collect in the compact black-box this warm Friday night.

In Cabbages and Queens, two raven-haired women in gold ruff-neck shirts fidget their way sideways, ‘inspired by the nonsense of Lewis Carroll’. They sigh and tick through the silence. The work is avant-garde and intentionally elusive. Yule and McKenzie are compelling performers. Their deadpan faces set off amusing scenes, but we need more meat on these artistic bones to enjoy the absurd revelry. 

Burright’s turn it on, turn it off is a focused, modern solo of body-slapping, sounded breath and sinuous movement. She grimaces; trying out faces with her hands, as the soundtrack croons a tinny love song. I want to see more tangibly the trauma and detachment to which she alludes in the notes.

Choreographic duo Sliding Doors present a cheeky, honest and confrontational romp through female friendship and love lives. As they chat with popcorn in hand, the wry Scottish humour feels fun and confessional. The ‘text messages in movement’ is genius comedy. Laird and Cowen achieve the near-impossible feat of making dance feel integral to the moody tenderness of their relationship. ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ plays as they tangle together in a fierce clutch. They own the space decisively. Charming and original.

Cry Baby is a wonderful, arch research piece by Amy Toner. Performer Bethany Edwards, standing at the mic in a bun, heels and black dress, mimics a collection of public displays of emotional tears for our enjoyment – we hear Theresa May’s splutter through her final PM speech. Edwards is majestic; playfully fearless, ugly-crying through drenching herself with buckets of water. Her arm shakes a spilling tea cup, a brilliant metaphor for the way we regard those who dare let their emotional stability falter.

Lexi Wells re-starts the second half with recently-penned break-up songs ‘Next Time’ and ‘Close’; bluesy pop which is equal parts human and fresh, with easy vocal delivery. Wells’ nerves are unfounded and she can wear her immense talent more proudly than she does.

Gwynne Bilski is gloriously long-limbed in her calm, self-choregraphed solo on nostalgia and memory, which is titled and the wind. Audible seagulls and linen clothing create a sense of holiday and the tranquil Outer Hebrides. Her attention is skyward as she spins tightly without leaving the ground and sets out pebbles on multicoloured ribbons. Graceful and refreshing, Bilski has room still to explore the reasons this moment haunts her.

Alive Dance Company present bold groupwork by Grace Keeble in excerpts from Triptych. Six women stand in formation in graded shades of yellow to upbeat guitar strums – an ‘attempt to form cohesion out of chaos’. These weary nymphs are survivors of something untold. I hope the full piece sustains the undeniable power of these masterful extracts. I’m keen to witness its longer incarnation.  

Kore by Ariana Daub is a Persephone myth re-telling. A hint of Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring pervades in the earthy imagery. Two figures in silky slips mirror each other on an angle in intriguing synchronicity. They complete the piece draped in flowers and covered in soil. There’s something missing in this short duet, but the visual remnants are utterly memorable.

This event is the perfect safe-space for these unafraid new makers and dancers. I can’t wait to watch Rising Tides: 02, which I hope is already in the pipeline.

Image Simon M. Scott.

Rising Tides is a platform developed by GBworks to support performance-based artists making unique work that prioritises collaboration, equality and openness. Rising Tides: 01 features work from dance makers Gwynne Bilski, Gianna Burright, Ariana Daub, Grace Keeble (Alive Contemporary Dance Company), Rachel Laird and Clara Cowen (Sliding Doors), Amy Toner, and Jay Yule, as well as singer/songwriter Lexi Wells. 

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