Jacob Hobbs, Project 51
Jessie Brett, Woolgatherer
Kip Johnson, Birthday
Billed as an homage to science fiction film, Project 51 riffs on several stereotypes of the genre (the berserk cyborg figure, the slow motion battle/victory scene), with sharp, syncopated movement and silver swimming caps. Light-hearted overall, the piece had its moments, particularly in the accomplished handling of the aforementioned slow motion scene and the remarkable plasticity of the performers’ facial expressions. Ultimately, though, it failed to engage me, with predictable choreography and a flat narrative.
From futuristic robot homicide to the bucolic calm of a park scene, Jessie Brett’s Woolgatherer opens with a woman seated on a bench performing a succinct distillation of the gestures that frame discomfited waiting. This seems to be Brett’s strong point - communicating an element of the everyday with a single, boiled-down gesture. A ‘down the rabbit hole’ section (signaled by an abrupt pencil roll across the floor) would be an anthem to disinhibition (the dancer removes several pairs of knickers), but for the puppet-on-a-string quality of the movements undermining any sense of freedom. The final section of the piece felt oddly redundant; Woolgatherer surprises and compels, with an intriguing and potentially rich premise, but loses momentum at moments.
And so to the end of the night, where there’s always one lousy drunk at the party who ruins it for everyone. A study in self-destruction, Kip Johnson’s Birthday sees a plasticine-headed monster debasing himself at a club whilst embarrassed friends look on. Kip uses his top-heavy, multi-coloured cranium (a prop that works well as a symbol of a drug-addled brain) to good advantage, punctuating his floor sequences with many, pendulum-like tumbles. A strenuous-looking duet with Eleonor Sikorski concludes with the removal of the headgear; divested of his figurative narcotic armour, the dancer seems suddenly pathetic rather than destructive. The end sequence, in which Kip worms his way, spotlit, across the floor, was the most affecting part of the performance, concluding the top contribution of the night.
Tonight’s bill was almost a textbook example of what Resolution! does best: provide a platform for diversely talented young choreographers to test out ideas while, ideally, engaging us in the process.
Jacob Hobbs’s consistently amusing Project 51 was first out of the gate. Fashioned in lovingly tongue-in-cheek tribute to a host of chest-beating Hollywood sci-fi adventures, it cast Elisabeth Connor, Anna Kaszuba and Lucy Starkey as Sigourney-esque space warriors caught in potentially deadly battle with an unseen (by us) monster. But beware of short-circuiting androids… Fuelled by a kick-arse score (by David Ibbett) fusing quasi-big screen bombast and club grooves, the grimacing threesome threw themselves into a series of stealthy, bellicose and OTT slow-mo macho moves that yielded wittily knowing juvenile pleasure.
In Woolgatherer, Jessie Brett played a young woman waiting on a public park bench for an assignation that never happens. And so she dreams… Brett effectively juxtaposed choreographed gestures and props (mainly her own casually retro-stylish costume) with some pretty full-out motion (slides, lunges, lush backbends). Although hardly careless, she didn’t always invest quite enough in the movement to make every moment count. Nevertheless this deft little character vignette showed that Brett has presence, facility and flair.
The evening’s bravest, rawest work was Kip Johnson’s Birthday. Head encased in a gouged-out, rainbow-hued blob of material, like some modern-day version of the Elephant Man, this slithering beanpole of a dancer was the writhing centrepiece of what could’ve been viewed as one of the saddest parties imaginable. In attendance were six mainly inert, vaguely hostile witnesses plus a strangely slick DJ (Matt Winston) whose ironically joyless exhortations to have a good time only helped perpetuate an atmosphere of grim unease. Dealing with various psycho-emotional states – shame, pain, isolation – that many budding dance-makers might shy away from, Johnson’s simultaneously exposing yet enigmatic study of (post-adolescent male) masochism courted ambiguity while seeming to offer (physicalised) tough love as a partial solution at best. Bleak? You bet. Dramatically naïve? Maybe. But, however bluntly or inarticulately expressed, there was definitely something going on here.
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