The Place’s annual choreographic platform kicked off with Crystal Zillwood’s excellent solo Evolutio. Choreographed and performed with confidence and subtlety, the piece explores the titular concept of evolution as well as drawing on physical inspiration from primates and the development of life. Zillwood’s movement is riveting: clean lines suddenly devolving into primal stances or easy lopes across the stage, combined with impressively dextrous feet, created an image of something simian but sophisticated. Accompanied by an understated score and lighting, this performance was physical yet thoughtful.
With Jazz Scene, the international arts project Traceworks promised an upbeat and invigorating performance but ultimately didn’t quite get there. Choreographed as a response to the vibrant music of the Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, the dancers presented a medley of short pieces, ranging from ensemble numbers to solos, all with undeniable energy. The performance, however, suffered from a lack of clarity: in both intention and execution, and the quirky and inventive choreography that we were treated to was lost in the lack of focus. I came away more confused than energised.
Sarah Louise Kristiansen closed the evening with An Apple a Day, performed by seven female dancers and featuring a guest appearance by said fruit. Unfortunately the dance got bogged down in a quagmire of high leg kicks and melodrama – relying too heavily on the cast’s training and flexibility, and an almost unintelligible pre-recorded monologue to open and close the dance. On the other hand, some imaginative lighting and set design (namely the introduction of several hundred apples) added a sense of depth and dynamic to the production. Overall, though, some neat ideas were often weighed down by unnecessary choreography.
Featuring solos, ensembles and even jazz, the opening evening of Resolution 2016 couldn’t have been more diverse. There were two group pieces, the first, Tracework's Jazz Scene was a unexpected surprise with dancers bursting into the space to a blaring brass filled jazz score. The energy of the sound was certainly channelled in the movement, which was contemporary in style, but executed rather franticly by the dancers as they chased the music. A breath of fresh air was the solo in the middle of the piece performed by Sabrina Gargano. Her playful facial expressions paired with quirky and curious movement was an element that would have also been welcome if elaborated on elsewhere in the piece as this was a real spark in the work.
An Apple a Day, by Sarah Louise Kristiansen was a stark contrast to Jazz Scene, due to its far darker thematic content exploring love, loss and emotion. Sadly these ideas got lost throughout the flurries of technical movement, but did emerge at points through some beautiful solo moments performed by strong dancers. Indeed all the dancers of the company were aesthetically pleasing in their movement, but the choreography may have been too pretty at times to carry the weight of what Kristiansen intended to convey.
Evolutio, performed and choreographed by Crystal Zillwood kicked off the evening in a dynamic way. An incredibly athletic performer and inquisitive choreographer, Zillwood's dexterity was truly hypnotic. Here she explored the theme of evolution and the development of life, fluidly transitioning between both animalistic forms and pedestrian and functional movement. This gripping piece could have gone on for twice the length and Zillwood would have continued to mesmerise with her skilled and thoughtful performance.
Resolution’s 27th edition got off to fine start with the aptly-named Crystal (as in clear) Zillwood’s Evolutio, a revelatory solo that set a high benchmark both for the season as a whole and, alas, an evening of gradually diminishing returns. Cued to Goran Bregovic’s plangent Ederlezi, this beautifully considered, artfully anthropological work is a simply staged and physical charting of human/animal nature and civilisation’s progress. Articulate down to her toes, Zillwood conjures worlds out of thin air. Performing with luminous, unhurried confidence, she brought a lightness of touch and a concomitant focused weight to every move. If this was Zillwood at low ebb (a programme note referred to post-virus fatigue) I’d love to see Evolutio when she’s on top form.
Hats off to Tracework, i.e., Julian David Lewis and five onstage collaborators, for trying to fuse a zesty link between contemporary dance’s angularly abstract expressivity and a string of bubblingly hot tracks by Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra. The cast has the chops to tear into and lick the juicy score, but Jazz Scene doesn’t feel fully thought-through. Their general resistance to revelling in the music is most pronounced via the admirably adroit Sabrina Gargano, whose gurning solo smack in the middle of the piece came out of left field. Lewis and co are still figuring it all out. More power to them. As it now stands (or flies but then stumbles), their work is both energising and enervating.
Tailored to a capable all-female ensemble, Sarah Louise Kristiansen’s An Apple a Day indulges in the misery of unrequited love. Although seven dancers are afforded ample opportunity to show off their technique (especially Alice Oakley Jones’ outstanding if too-brief solo), the piece itself has little edge. For me it was an ambitious but off-putting wallow in pretentious emotionalism, kinetically busy but thematically ponderous. An unintelligible opening voice-over was of no more help than the eventual placement of an army of apples, discreetly done but profligate. Altogether not to my taste.