Dance.Film. Performance showcase a dynamic evening of performance

Words by Katie Hagan.

Recently I’ve been thinking about, and this might sound a bit scary so bear with me, what age of dance we’re in. I feel kind of uncomfortable putting forward any suggestions purely because putting things into epochs and other classifications feels reductive, and doesn’t leave room for dance to breathe and be what it is by nature – in motion and all-encompassing. 

What I am perhaps conscious of at the minute, and it isn’t an original thought, is how our social and political environments are shaping the work that’s being performed (both onstage and on social media) regardless of whether choreographers/collaborators are cognisant of it or include that dimension in their work with intentionality. Identity for instance feels so important and present right now, and so does futurism and escapism. This is unsurprising given the bizarre political environment in the UK and certain structures in the arts i.e. funding which feel like they’re fracturing. Do or can these creep into dance work? And to what degrees?

The 10 dance works that myself and fellow artist and writer Francesca Matthys saw last weekend as part of the Dance.Film.Performance showcase at Big Sky Studios all pretty much felt connected to these ideas – of identity, escapism, bodies in space, the self, politics, ambition. Although the pieces were all very different, some more abstract, some more narrative, seeing 10 works all together did make me consider the commonalities at play. 

The great expanse of the Big Sky Studios space felt like the perfect canvas for the dance works to speak for themselves.

I’m going to kick off by saying that this was a super evening featuring truly amazing artists. But I start with my reflections on the Sadler’s Wells Young Associates films, all directed by Camilla Greenwell, that were screened at the event. Each film by each artist encapsulated their energies and the statements they want to make. Blue Makwana’s film sees Blue dancing to beaty music sampling this ‘Oh my god’ Vine. It’s ancestral, sexy, assertive and powerful. Elisabeth Mulenga’s film follows and feels like a reclamation of sorts; wearing a hoop skirt cage, she moves with trepidation, uncertainty, floats in water like the Ophelia painting all the while to the ghostly chimes of the music. Cloaked in light pink organza, Maiya Leeke is on a dock by an expanse of water. Immersed in nature and its escapism, within a beautiful summer setting, Maiya and the strawberry colour fabric whirl. Shifting between being together and coming apart, Roseann and Sula of Tough Boys Dance Collective boldly examine who they are in this film and their identity as one unit versus two individuals. 

N25, a film by Valetina Khodnevitch featuring performer Leon Di Domenico abstracted the moving body on screen. Zooming in on certain body parts, the stomach and nape, we saw the sinews of the body on display. The body is the tool for movement in N25, and the film emphasises how we must always value it. 

This complemented the first work FATUM by Ana Isabel Casquilho, in which two dancers (Ana together with Miguel Esteves) envelop each other and stretch their bodies to their physical limits. It’s sensual, there’s moments of release, and moments they look like statues or gods. 

Speaking of mythology, ICARUS by New Media Artist AMIANGELIKA and music by 1100 is dark and dystopic. Perhaps showing what happens after the fated character flies too close to the sun and falls, this group piece features some oil slick moves by the performers Zakarius Harry, Artemis Stamouli, Dan Baines, Hsinyu Wu and Felicity Chadwick. Flickering around like dark energy balls in a vortex, the performers crash into and disturb one another. ICARUS features some really cool choreography and movement.

SPLICE by Faye Stoeser and Hannah Ekholm (who have now formed ekleido) interlock and lock each other’s limbs as if they’re trying to solve a human rubix cube. In some ways SPLICE kind of connects to the earlier work FATUM which to me felt like an exploration of what happens in the performance space when two bodies come together and apart, and the possibilities from this. Faye and Hannah first started collaborating in 2018, and I’m looking forward to seeing what ekleido brings in the future…

A development of its first creation at The Place’s Choreodrome programme in 2009, Mickael Marso Riviere’s work Eteins Pas fuses contemporary and hip hop dance elements to explore what happens in the afterlife. Under a dimly lit spotlight, Marso starts to move cautiously, with small hand flicks. Brief flicks gradually become larger limb jerks until he loses his body to convulsive movements. He seems to regain himself only to lose again. One of the evening’s more narrative-based works, Eteins Pas is a very moving piece that leaves lots to wonder on what holds for our bodies when they’re reborn.

Joshie Hariette’s piercing red lighting is the scene for Jose Agudo’s HERO. A rich hybrid of Jose’s contemporary, flamenco and kathak training, HERO took us on a collective journey of discovery that was introspective and totally absorbing. Featuring moments of calm and solitude but also battle and grit, Jose Agudo’s HERO ended the evening on a powerful call for perseverance and togetherness in times of great challenges.