Kolesk Dance Julia Cheng The Other Side
Moxie Brawl Sarah Blanc How Odd The Girl's Life Looks
Sarah Rogers and Company Bowline
Anyone who caught artist Isaac Julien's superb film installation Ten Thousand Waves, part of London Hayward Gallery's Move: Choreographing You, couldn't help but draw parallels with The Other Side by Kolesk Dance. Choreographer Julia Cheng, like Julien, was emotionally drawn to the tragic fate of Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay in 2004.
The Other Side offered a brief sketch of bright lives cut short, of strangers in a strange land, of tentative steps towards cultural fusion. Cheng's dance dangled a foot in both Chinese and Western camps and her response to the tragedy was fleet of foot and open-hearted though not quite fully realised. Had it been danced around Julien's luminous screens it could have been heart-breaking.
Emotions were kept rather closer to the chest in How The Girl's Life Looks, a duet by Sarah Blanc inspired by Emily Dickinson's poem I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died. Garlanded in floral imagery and with half a flower shop on stage, dancers Katie Lusby and Janina Smith strove to put flesh on Dickinson's expiring bones, but their earnest interplay and despairing limbs felt secondhand when set against Dickinson's text. The words were the real thing, the dance a pale tribute.
There was an arresting moment two minutes in to Bowline. The four dancers in Sarah Rogers and Company were warming to the task of inhabiting their solo light squares on stage when a voice sang out. ‘Sorry, there's a technical hitch. You'll have to start again.' And, after a brief pause, so they did, entering a combative world where bursts of solo peace were disrupted by bullying interventions, invading their personal freedom. All well and good, but a little obvious. Oddly, it was ‘hitch' that gave Bowline its unsettling edge. If it wasn't an intentional trick (and I'm guessing not) they'd do well to keep it in.
The other side by Kolesk Dance opened with eerie sounds of the sea, coupled with laboured pedestrian gestures. With a quick change of scene, we were brought into an oriental setting, created by playful tones and martial arts' style movement. However, the backdrop of an almost cartoon sunset seemed unnecessary, and this was a distraction throughout most of the piece. Despite the highly emotive potential of the subject matter, which I had previously encountered through the Move: Choreographing You Exhibition at The Hayward Gallery, there wasn't any sign of depth in the performance. The stylistic beauty of some sections became laboured, and this resulted in the piece not reaching any kind of climax.
Moxie Brawl's How odd the girl's life looks created an instant image of delicacy and detailed beauty. The arrangement of flowers and lace framed the piece, creating an enchanting environment. Juxtaposed with this, the harsh angles and irregular rhythmic quality of the dancers snapped the suspense, their bounding energy rippling through the space. The influence of Emily Dickenson's poem I heard a fly buzz when I died was clear. The text's rhythm accented the dancers' movement, influencing their decisions. Enticing from start to end, with the ideal combination of staging and stimulating movement, the piece was intoxicating.
Despite an irritating false start, Bowline choreographed by Sarah Rogers and Company introduced sinuous, constricted movement. The cubes of light contained the dancers as their bodies strived to escape. I began to question them. Who made the choice to move? Were they triggered or was it spontaneous? As the aggression built, the dancers dragged and grappled with each other, slowly spreading the light. With dominance at the core, one fought for control over the other, however, the repetitive nature of the accompaniment initially caused the piece to tire. Yet, as monotony beckoned, the movement exploded and the lighting state gave way to shape enhancing silhouettes.