involuntarymovement Ali Kaviani 1+1
Scott Jennings & Lewis Wilkins Home Brew
Dylan Elmore I'll Just Go
On a day of roses, heart-shaped balloons and sugary sentiments, my evening at The Place felt like a Boy's Own adventure. Macho themes of supremacy, rivalry and visitations to the underworld dominated, and choreography was earthbound.
Alas! Our voyage towards manhood immediately hit the rocks with involuntarymovement's rather unheroic escapade: turning, with arms at each other's waist and biceps, the men half-waltzed to spoken musings on love, power... and rocks. Devoid of dynamism and humour, this routine and many others dragged. At their most rebellious, the pair beat out a percussive rhythm with shot glasses, which sat at odds with the lack of tension in the piece as a whole.
Atoning for their predecessors' shortcomings were the wholesome, laddish duo Scott Jennings & Lewis Wilkins. Unpretentious and grounded, Home Brew was nevertheless convincing. When a small plastic disk dropped from the ceiling and Jennings trapped it with his foot, pivoting possessively over the useless commodity, it gained currency, leading to a fight for supremacy. Ranging from the swashbuckling to the robotic, their choreographed battles cast them as alternate pieces of the same jigsaw. After being petty enough to hide the coveted object in a sock, a hurried back-and-forth exchange ensued in which the men recognised the boyishness of their ways - and perhaps made it up over a pint of home brew.
On the final leg of the journey Dylan Elmore's I'll Just Go evoked the prototypical poet Orpheus's quest to regain his Eurydice. Elmore's use of light was inspired - at the beginning he appeared haggard, yet looked brazenly into a flame-white light at the front of the stage, seeming to draw his strength from it. From his massive shadow which loomed behind, the spectral beloved emerged. Centred yet elusive throughout the performance, she remained a phantom. Despite slipping like quicksilver from his ever desperate grasp the ghost retained a human essence, faintly implying that she wanted to rest in his arms but was doomed not to.
Forget hearts and flowers. Love was not much in evidence during a night of contrasting (and mainly drably-garbed) duets, all featuring at least intermittently percussive soundtracks. Instead states of contention were the norm.
Ali Kaviani's programme note for !+1, created for his company involuntarymovement, refers to the ancient epic of Gilgamesh as a source of inspiration for a highly abstracted, mirror-image encounter between a king and his supposedly savage rival. What I saw was two earnest, shaven-headed men (Kaviani and Raoul Freitas Vale Germano) abandoning their places at a low, upstage table studded with shot glasses and indulging in simple choreography that shifted from delicate mimetic gestures to more aggressive, often repetitive upper body movement. Occasionally they spoke, in the manner of a poetic folk tale, about stones and stars. Alas, their ambiguous, even obscure efforts never fully engaged me.
Scott Jenkins and Lewis Wilkins employed a more varied dynamic - from poker-faced semaphore to fast, rangey, sometimes sinuous unison motion to slow, tumbling, contact-based lifts - in Home Brew, a splintery study of how a ‘conflict over territory' forms ‘an unlikely companionship.' Both men coveted a coin - or some small, round object that dropped from above. Although their work might benefit from a sharper clarity of intention, the dancing was expressive and adept and the quick finish carried a nicely surprising kick.
Dylan Elmore's note for I'll Just Go alluded to repeated mistakes and an imminent departure. An emotionally constricted man (Elmore himself) convulsively rolls up onto his feet, and soon the impassive, elusive Mara Vivas materialises like the manifestation of a wish from within his looming shadow. In the stream of close but slippery writhings that ensued she allowed herself to be manipulated by him while he, in turn, seemed magnetically drawn to someone - or something - he was unable to grasp. The result was a thoughtful, if perhaps too vague, stalemate.