Somosquien Company Cristina Henriquez and Claire Dufois Da, Da, Da
Neshima Dance Company Batel Magen See What You Say
Margarita Zafrilla Two ones, here and there
A couple of cuckoo vamps (one a Spaniard), a sextet that swerves into a clap-happy fiesta, a minimalist named Margarita... Whether by accident or design, Spain was the country of choice in tonight's bill.
Absurdity was the watchword for Somosquien Company's Da,Da,Da. Clad in tight blouses, micro-minis and heels, co-creators Cristina Henriquez (Spanish) and Clair Dufois (French) first tried both verbally and physically to sell us a set of national clichés. Somehow - perhaps it was the raw egg that Dufois downed - they segued into their true theme. Maxims (‘Never look a gift horse...') and equine-related moves (head shakes, thigh slaps to simulate the pounding of hooves) were layered into some acceptably rudimentary steps. Self-indulgence, especially a protracted section involving cupped dice and counts, thinned without destroying their daft comic charm. Plus, any piece that employs ‘cheval' and ‘cheveu' as a source of active word play wins extra points from me.
The young, six-strong ensemble in See What You Say, by the Bristol-based Neshima Dance Company, was well-chosen. I believed just about everything their bodies did in Batel Magen's vigorous study of largely non-verbal communication. Although the dance lurched oddly between putative locations - the uptight UK, burdened Israel and sunny Spain - the cast invested even familiar-seeming material with honesty, passion and personality. Magen likewise demonstrated commendable compositional variety.
Courting ambiguity in the rigorously formal Two ones, here and there, soloist Margarita Zafrilla, walked a fine line between mystery and obscurity. A Scarlatti sonata was the aural vehicle for a rigid yet curiously tantalising journey from upstage (using mainly gestural, upper body movement) to down (where she wittily mouthed a silent lecture cued to speeded-up music). From there she entered into a brief romance with a suspended hula hoop followed by a final, twirling hint of liberation. The fan club was out in force, hurling flowers onto the stage amidst whoops and cheers. It was an OTT reaction. Zafrilla's self-imposed restrictions might've been more sharply, pulse-quickeningly realised. But the feeling that she's onto something unique lingers.
Call me a hopeless girly girl but as I took my seat in the auditorium, the opening set up of Somosquien Company's Da, Da, Da with red, yellow, blue and green squares of light, accessorised with colour co-ordinated stilettos, excited me. Combined with the programme notes which promised an exploration of dreams and Dadaism, I envisaged a giddy adventure through flamboyant choreography, yet I was presented something quite different. Although this culture clash of a piece was at times bizarre - dancers drank raw eggs ,spoke/sang in various languages and high kicked their way through a mish mash of gimmicks- I couldn't help but befriend the French/Spanish duo's over-exaggerated stereotypes.
Neshima Dance Company's See What You Say delved into a different realm of language, that of non verbal communication. Facially expressive and overall committed dancers performed sweeping rolls and arm swings, sprinkled with circulating and precise hand gestures. While this piece, which toed the line of ‘dance theatre', called for the dancers to act out scenarios, I felt the times where they did not speak were the most powerful. Talking torsos, as well as each and every body part, the dynamics of the movement and the ever-changing dancers' relationship spoke to one another completely revealing this piece's intention.
Ending the night's bill was Two ones, here and there by Margarita Zafrilla. The beginning of this solo showed much promise as fluent flickers of movement rebounded like a pendulum through a beautiful, partially lit stage. Barely taken in and then vanishing. However, after Zafrilla had slowly strayed across the stage the piece seemed to plateau. An extended period of stillness proceeded as a muffled, slower version of the music reminded the audience of how she had come to this point. Strangely, a hoop suspended in the air pledged to be used yet was simply tentatively swung. Despite the foundation of an intriguing idea, it felt as though it had not been exhausted to its fullest potential.