penny & jules dance company, Greyscale
TYDC, Breaking Point
James Loffler, LFO
Two upturned palms are often a symbol of exasperation, and this features prominently in penny & jules dance company’s Greyscale. Choreographers and performers Lisa ‘penny’ Gillam and Kate ‘jules’ Szkolar were committed in their portrayal of a deeply found exasperation with life that is devoid of meaning and joy – life without colour. They look heavenward, seemingly seeking divine intervention, and curl up tightly, closing themselves off from the world. Both dancers are on different paths to the same destination, yet when they turn to each other for support in their increasing frustration, they find temporal comfort in each other’s embrace. However this is to no avail, as they eventually surrender in resignation to their grave decision.
In more ways than one, Tomos Young’s choreography reaches Breaking Point, and surpasses it. An extreme test of physical and mental stamina, Young has five female dancers on stage for most of the piece, performing countless repetitions of highly physical sequences. As a result, the work began to feel overlong as it came undone amidst valiant gasps of breath and weakening bodies in surrender to the sheer exhaustion. The glitchy 80’s style soundtrack did not serve to drive the dancers, not even if it had the most motivational aerobics' instructor doing a voice-over.
From afar, the dancers in James Loffler’s LFO might look like a bunch of teenagers bopping to music playing on their iPods. Look closer and discover that these extremely athletic dancers are pulsing and jerking with remarkable precision, allowing the cacophony of sounds on Loffler’s soundtrack to inform their internal rhythm, while retaining their individual identities. They vibrate as though they are the air particles through which a sound wave passes. Loffler effectively depicts various situations from the aural perspective, visually reproducing the tension and inflection of the voices at play.
A strange, random connection threaded through this programme, creating an unusual, frequently compelling triptych. The dice fell kindly since this holistic bond would not have worked if performed in any other order. An intimate duet about the thought patterns leading to suicide segued into a work about reaching 'breaking point' through exhaustion and the programme ended with another ensemble piece exploring the idea of frequency (illustrated by pulsating screen shots of flickering thought patterns) as the choreographic impulse. Craft and ingenuity was shown in expressing each concept well - without need of extraneous explanation - and creating a symbiotic collaboration between choreography, well-chosen music and diverse lighting effects.
Greyscale was conceived and performed by former LCDS students Kate Szkola (aka Jules) and Lisa Gillam (Penny), returning to their alma mater for a second successive Resolution! There were strong moments, especially in their floor work and in a quasi-contest where they danced consecutively within a mosaic pattern of light, and the work sustained well through fifteen minutes of introspective movement analysis of such a sombre subject. It failed only by ending so unconvincingly that the audience took a while to realise it was done.
TYDC's Breaking Point also unravelled towards the end but it seemed to be the point as the five dancers repeated simple actions in complex patterns until reaching the point of exhaustion, harried along by the insistent beat of Chris Huntley's retro score. Music that was hard to get rid off on the way home.
The best of the trio was James Löffler's sophisticated LFO, enhanced by an ensemble of excellent dancers from diverse professional backgrounds. Löffler also mixed a powerful score and engaged his seven dancers in varied combinations, maintaining a high energy for the full 24 minutes. Royal Ballet School graduate, Sonoya Mizuno – dressed as a dancing Lara Croft – concluded LFO with a riveting solo, showing that Löffler not only understands how to pace a work but how to end it in style.