Theo Clinkard & Leah Marojevic’s new work, Elsewhen Series – review

Words by Adam Moore.

We go to the back of a not so long snaking line from the glass doors to the tapestries, back through the room and into the adjacent gallery. The queue (there’s a queue?), cuts across the room. Perhaps 45/50 people deep. Friends tell me we need a sticker and the last person to get one was the woman in the stripy top in front. I’m meant to review this, I say; I look at the front of the queue and see some friends of the museum. I wait while they chat.

Theo Clinkard’s cuter-than-cute father, who is like a lean, cleaner silhouette of Santa with a beaming pink face explains how the programme didn’t say you needed a ticket or that you’d have to queue, ‘it’s terrible’ he says (or something like that). Well, Theo and Leah are very popular and clearly people have been looking forward to seeing this, I say. He smiles – what a beaut. Dance dads are everything. The 30 people go in, 32 with me and my friend (no stickers).

People did cry

The sun went down

The sun came up

Orange and grey

Orange and Grey

The sound from the laptop lighting their naked bodies beneath a fog of lilac is perhaps distorted, or maybe I’ve been sat here so long amidst the tapestry watching and listening that my brain adjusts the clarity. I wish I heard and remembered more. Romantic and poetic and slow and soft and forlorn. Longing, lingering on the past, an elegy of sorts, two long since gone human beings in not quite suspended animation connect with themselves through gentle touch. This is dance. Leah looks like Venus. Theo looks like Venus. It is human and humane. It goes on and on. I’m comfortable watching and listening for longer than we’re given; they’re generous performers and they’re giving a lot, it’s not a test in endurance, the more you watch the more you get.

The performance of the Elsewhen Series is supposed to have a kind of quiet guerilla tactic about it – spontaneous, unannounced. The museum is a beautiful setting and there are resonances with the series and the spaces they enliven which you can extrapolate from at depth. However, some of the museum’s solutions to how these dances were experienced, rendered the Elsewhen Series a little flatter than intended. The ticketed performance in the tapestries excluded all but 32 visitors, contradicting the ‘Elsewhen’ of it all. The idea being that these dances might be stumbled upon in various places at various times.

Clinkard and Marojevic take this notion further, creating different planes of reality: a realm of Trisha Brown-esque, skirt-swoosh articulacy; another, an unruly dimension conjuring womble-human hybrid beings dropping into the splits outside.

I see two-out-of-five dances. I like the idea of various pockets of reality slipping by. A version of the dynamic duo with gas masks and goggles might still be scuttling elsewhen in the museum while I watch Leah and Theo now, at the ground floor staircase leading to the library, as they sensually slow-mo their way through air like treacle, urban ninjas on a bloody, wipe-down flying carpet that ends up crumpled like the way I feel sat amongst the masses. It’s sensate: they sing, they move, again they look smashing. The varied aesthetic of the five dances overall is well thought out – no head-to-toe-black or earth tones. I feel in this last dance of the series they are de-mystified. Leah and Theo dancing before us, here and now, singing to us between breaks in a thumping, pulsing instrumental how they ‘feeel aaand feeel — to move’. To move anywhere from our current state of affairs, we need to feel. I’m feeling it.

It’s pretty luxe – five dances, five aesthetics, one grand museum. All credit to Marojevic and Clinkard – their presence rivalled that of the V&A, its institutional history and artefacts.

Leah Marojevic and Theo Clinkard’s new work in many ways made sense, though perhaps rethinking the durational aspect and how these dances might be resolved could have left audiences clearer on when a dance had ended. That said, people just did not leave. Crowds gathered uncomfortably for the last dance. Cute, polite, institutionalised audiences not knowing whether they had permission to leave or if they were making a faux pas by doing so was amusing. My assumption was, these dances were supposed to sprawl away, so it felt okay to leave after a point. But like a Marvel movie with post credit scenes, nobody wanted to miss a thing.

I don’t know how the Elsewhen Series will materialise next, but I’d recommend stumbling upon it if dance, design and performance are ‘your thing’. If, like I did, you arrive late and miss one or two, the series allows you to conceptually reframe your tardiness as part of the experience of never quite knowing when one dance finishes and another has started. You arrive. Elsewhen.

Header image: Roswitha Chesher.