If you’ve ever had Jungian therapy, Maria Fonseca’s duet Red Tears is like a physical manifestation of archetypal images that you work with in order to find your ‘inner self’. Dressed in red, Fonseca is a vital life force, possessing a grounded yet exuberant energy in her struggles to reach the light. Her shadow, the sinister black- clad Ekin Bernay, is a looming presence who attempts to suppress and trap Fonseca; the side of ourselves that we’d rather not know about. The spot light on the darkened stage, draws attention to the ferocious intensity of Fonseca’s performance. From tiny finger twitches to huge waves of shuddering motion which emanate from her centre, Fonseca’s body is a limitless palette of choreographic invention. A woman both possessed by and in possession of her choreography.
Anaish Nathan Parmar, as we hear from his new date Somita Basak, is an ‘Asian Brad Pitt’. When we see him exchanging awkward platitudes with her on their first date or dancing like an Asian John Travolta’, we too are seduced by his various understated charms. Basak, juxtaposing hyper-expressive Kathak with her casual, undemonstrative manner is equally alluring. Chai Paani is a winning combination of live flute music (by Phoebe Kidson), theatre and dance of the Bollywood variety, flavoured with lashings of irony and Parmar has found his forte in creating this kind of work.
There is little charm or entertainment in UnderTone. It’s a gloomy, strange atmosphere that the five dancers depict. They each explore their own stories, through investigative, testing movements. Only when they’ve found some cryptic formula do they move as a gang, apart from the guy who hasn’t got it. I share his frustration as he prances around them, trying to understand, desperate to connect. He later dances a riveting solo with the determination of an athlete setting himself some punishing endurance task. Georgia Tegou is successful in conveying a human landscape that problematizes communication through creative interventions but her world is a desolate one.
Sometimes it only takes one tiny thing to really drag down an otherwise good piece of dance. More often I’m seeing dancers opting to tell rather than show, and Georgia Tegou’s UnderTone is no exception. In a repetitive, grating section, one dancer frantically skirts around the others, uttering ‘I don’t understand’ to the point where, if it had gone on any longer, I may well have been in serious danger of dragging him off of the stage. The group redeemed itself though in a series of fluid moves that followed. Each of the performers retained a distinct style throughout which littered the piece with moments of humour, particularly through the comedic tableaux they formed together.
Porkpie Dance Theatre certainly stole the evening though with a vivid comedy that forced us all to experience an awkward first date. It runs the fine line between theatre and dance, with clever overlaps of the two – there’s a neat moment where Somita Basak chats to us whilst applying her makeup and keeping a steady rhythm with her feet. Anaish Nathan Parmar has found the ideal balance of the two forms, although the use of other mediums seems somewhat unjustified; there are a number of projections which don’t appear to serve any purpose, and a further actor who multiroles a few minor characters when this could have been left to Parmar and Basak to fill in the gaps. After all, they are both clearly adept at forming a strong rapport with the audience, and could easily hold the stage with Chai Paani for much longer than their short 17 minutes.
Maria Fonseca’s Red Tears was as an engaging opener. Fonseca carried herself so fluidly that she gave the illusion that each step was an instinctive reaction to the move before. It was a natural and affecting performance that saw Fonseca tumble beautifully with Ekin Bernay. Their spacing was insightful and offered a delicate tension between the light and dark.