There’s a lot going on in Muti Musafiri’s ReFractions on Attachments. Perhaps too much. Four dancers enter, eating oranges and reciting juice-distorted lines of poetry, before segueing into a series of movement sequences. One performer emerges, limb by limb, from between the legs of another. Bodies move fluidly in and out of frozen poses, limbs seemingly manipulated by external forces. The dancers race – flailing as though dragged – towards the audience, stopping at the last second. Such moments are individually stunning, and the talent and control of the quartet of performers is indisputable, but the connections between these scenes remain stubbornly opaque.
In contrast with Musafiri’s soup of ideas, Richard Osborne’s rEd is all simplicity. Billed as a duet about identity, it’s just that. Performers Brita Grov and Pola Krawczuk repeatedly come together and tear apart, fiercely tussling for a sense of individuality. Red and white hazard tape ties them together like an umbilical cord, pulled taut in striking images of struggle. “This is me,” Grov insists, mantra-like, trying to break free. The piece’s simplicity, though, is its weakness as well as its strength. Ambition has been sacrificed for the sake of clarity, never allowing this investigation of identity to go more than skin deep.
The individual and the group are also two of the central concerns of Hyena, Alula Cyr’s blend of circus and contemporary dance. The three female performers, like the animal of the title, move in a pack. As they execute a series of gasp-inducing acrobatics, the women also playfully explore group dynamics, as different individuals pair off or compete for one another’s attention and approval. This aspect of the piece, while intriguing, is not yet fully developed, and the skilful trio are at their best when rotating in wheels or turning unlikely somersaults. Ultimately, spectacle wins out over storytelling.
The performers enter the empty stage, holding spherical objects that at first elude us. They’re oranges. Oranges which the dancers begin to peel and eat, scattering the skin over the stage whilst reciting the abstract poem from the programme note. Despite this seemingly meaningful opening of Muti Musafiri’s Refractions on Attachments, it is difficult to discern a relationship and cohesion between the varied episodes the company present. However, one cannot deny the evident imagination behind the movement explorations and also the power of the performers, who deliver originally choreographed movement solos with control and intent. One performer’s aggressive recitation of incomprehensible words – reminiscent of a tribal war chant – manipulating the movement of another dancer is a stand-out moment.
“This is me… this is you” is the repeated phrase that echoes through Richard Osborne’s rEd, as two female dancers engage in a series of duets, their bodies intertwining. Both dressed in black coats, it is difficult to distinguish one from the other, until Brita Grov desperately attempts to establish a separation, removing her coat to reveal a red dress… “This is me.” In this sense, the work is very clear in establishing its themes of individual identity, breaking away from social expectation and conformity. However, this clarity of intention is achieved within the first five minutes of the piece, suggesting that the work would benefit from identifying additional thematic exploration to give it further depth and complexity.
And now for something completely different. Alula Cyr’s Hyena contrasts with the previous dark, atmospheric contemporary works. Instead the audience observe a jovial, comic showcase of “acrobatics, singing and contemporary dance” accompanied by the characterful live guitar compositions of Ollie Clark. While the piece claims to explore gender norms, roles and hierarchy, it sits more comfortably in its genre of circus art. The performers’ backflips, graceful rotations on enlarged hoops and balances upon each other’s shoulders have little apparent meaning, yet succeed in amazing the audience.