‘Nearly’ by Kayla McClellan – review

Words by Sophie Chinner.

Kayla McCellan’s self-choreographed, self-isolation performance Nearly, streamed live from a sunny tennis court in Brixton, portrays something we all might be experiencing right now; distance and the desire for connectedness.

The outdoor, solo dance piece captures the uncertainties and perhaps problematic effect on the mind and body that may arise from isolation and the restriction of movement. The use of chalk to draw self-enclosing circles on the tarmac as well as playing with camera perspectives are just some of the indications towards the entrapment of the performer.

For Kayla who lives between countries (America, the UK and the Netherlands), there are physical restrictions currently enforced on her which are suggested in this performance. Towards the end of the ten minute creation, the camera pans to the other side of the court walls, looking through the bars to a dancer who flickers in and out of focus. Whether it is accepted or resisted by the dancer, it is symbolic of a cage trapping her to this one place — possibly a hint towards Kayla’s own lockdown.

However, the work also delves into internal distances, that intrinsic and innate craving for connection and the boundaries we can feel in a somewhat meta-physical sense. A gestural sequence, where Kayla rubs her body quite harshly with her palms, demonstrates the rooted desire for touch, and another section where she stands solitary, waving one hand in an attempt to be noticed by someone, again reverberates the human need for togetherness.

There are also some subtle moments; the passing of a very cute dog in the background and birds fluttering through the sky that offer a sense of reality and hope amongst the flurry of confusion and confinement. Despite some technical glitches due to the unpredictable nature of the internet, her evocative solo seemed to resonate with the online audience.

Kayla states she was partially motivated by Anne Carson’s poetic novel Autobiography of Red when creating her piece Nearly. I was not familiar with Carson’s work, but looking at this quote, I can see why Kayla was inspired:

“How does distance look?” is a simple direct question. It extends from a spaceless within to the edge of what can be loved.”
– Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

Review originally published on Sophie’s website.