I had a great deal of hope for Sigh tonight. A theatrical opening sees a performer gliding through a bright corridor of light with a Japanese oil-paper umbrella. Light hearted expressions of surprise with toothy smiles charm us. But sequences of desperate clutching, unrelenting longing gazes, and the ascension of the umbrella on a wire cable soon indicate the subject of dark obsession. Yet, despite the potential within Kasa’s themes, a solid connection between the dancers is needed for the themes to be fully realised.
In a narrow band of light, which illuminates only their bare legs, dancers Amy Foskett and Giovanna Piccolo flex, flick and pad their feet in slick unison. Pealing their t-shirts over their heads, Woven attempts to explore connections and relationships in the body. Again however, the message needs a little more direction and coherence before we can fully believe in the performance.
Finally, sandwiched between Kasa and Woven, French choreographer Pauline Raineri presents an incredibly honest investigation into the depths of despair and the reality of escape. At the back of the dark, smoke filled stage dancer Erin O’Reilly is a writhing mass of unfurling arms and trembling limbs. Composer Louis Richard's bleak landscape of static noice couples fittingly with O'Reilly's lost expression. She tugs anxiously at her clothes and fingers, stumbling about the stage as she flees an inevitable confrontation. Si/ Si is intensely experienced and lived by both soloist and audience. O’Reilly offers a performance with total conviction, which resonates profoundly with everyone.
There's a neat and highly original concept at the heart of Sigh's Kasa: a mash-up of Japanese kabuki and hip hop; five guys in tracksuits plus a beautiful painted parasol. The prop acts as a kind of talisman, its invisible force transporting the dancers out of their usual mode. There's a great early sequence with one dancer slo-mo popping, parasol primly over his shoulder as he scrolls through kabuki-inspired facial expressions – from coy smile to Louis Armstrong cheeks. From there, though, the piece loses its way, and could do with more content. With much of the movement at a drawn-out pace, you need real muscularity and conviction to pull that off.
As it happens, conviction in the face of minimal movement is exactly what we get in Pauline Raineri's Si/Si, a remarkable solo for dancer Erin O'Reilly. Her hunched body rolls in waves, alone on the stage, but even with her back to us, the energy of her focus holds us captive. When we do see her face, it's held in staring-eyed fear. She seems to be a woman hunted or possessed by outside forces, but stoically unperturbable. There's fine attention to detail picked up by the spotlight as O'Reilly pinches at her clothes or pulls at the ends of her fingers. A bold and compelling work, and a performer to watch.
Amy Foskett and Giovanna Piccolo's Woven is based on Kahil Gibran's poem Clothes, but its message doesn't quite come through. The clothes in question are layers unpeeled by the two dancers, stretched and twisted between them in a co-dependent duet danced to the metallic rhythms of composer Simone Sistarelli (live on stage with his laptop). There's an intriguing scene where only the pair's legs are visible, isolated in a beam of light, tangling and tangoing with each other, but overall this is a work that still needs development.