There’s three women, two chairs and one lamp on a rug. One of the women fiddles with a switch, another picks at the carpet. Offstage sounds (cat yowl, door knock) and easy-on-the-ear songs galvanise them into distracted action: bops, gesticulations, a coffee-percolator impersonation. In turn, each strays from this domestic space into outside solos, the first all swoops and arcs (freedom at last), the second flighty and indecisive, the last a flop-haired trance. Caldonia Walton’s Living… in the Living Room is accessible and clear – almost to the point of becoming formulaic. You can all but hear the eights being counted.
There’s no dancing in Sofie Burgoyne’s Dancing together apart/Dancing apart together. No performers, really. Just an empty stage, and Burgoyne seated among us. This is less a piece than a guided visualisation: everything happens in our heads. Burgoyne is good at getting us there: two assistants draw an imaginary “blanket” over us, and then it’s just darkness and her voice – first soft, then more sing-songy – conjuring up a curtain, a waterfall, a surreal body with splitting limbs. We sit in the dark, engulfed by a rising tide of sound, our experiences unknowably different; yet connected. I got easily into its headspace; once there, I felt it could easily be more adventurous with its story.
Julie Cunningham has danced with both Merce Cunningham (no relation) and Michael Clark. Those bloodlines are clear in her quartet Guts, a stylised, highly technical composition (gawp at those arabesques and planted stances, those tilts and hinges) that begins with Merce-style animal abstraction – bird-like pivots, inquisitive crouches, mermaid reclines – and ends with a Clarkish ballet of stiff springs and controlled pitches, to deadpan rap music. Derivative, maybe; but mesmerising. While “guts” may have provided the source ideas, any semblance of viscera or involuntary reflex are transmuted into clarity and structure: clusterings, chain- reactions, the passage of material from one place to another, accompanied by noises reminiscent of burps and gurgles. Guts is clean, highly ordered, and mysteriously beautiful.
The stage is set familiarly for Caldonia Walton’s Living…in the Living Room. Two chairs, a lamp, and three individuals are all confined to a large rug and all seem equally a part of the ‘room’. Initially sticking to the parameters of the rug, the dancers eventually venture further in a series of snapshots exposing the traits of the characters. The first instigates the escape from the room. The second, a scatty character, flits on and off the rug whilst delivering a confused monologue of words and movement, energetically performed by Walton herself. The last, a lamenting solo, which sadly dampened the energy of the piece just as it had peaked.
A clue was in the programme note in Sofie Burgoyne’s Dancing together apart/Dancing apart together. There were no listed performers, which turned out to be the role the audience took in this surreal piece. The audience were plunged into darkness and Burgoyne took us on a semantic journey. With soothing and repetitive narrative she conjured bizarre descriptions resulting in the imagining of a Dali-esque landscape – a magenta velvet curtain, bubbling waterfall, and twelve feet dancing - before returning the audience/performers to reality but leaving us in darkness to dwell on the experience. This moment of reflection was perhaps too long, as our mutual experiences would certainly have instigated immediate discussion from the audience had the lights returned sooner.
Julie Cunningham’s Guts was an incredibly satisfying piece to watch in familiar codified Cunningham technique. Performed with such precision and accuracy by each dancer, the four-part piece explored the feelings and anatomical features of the gut. The tilts and curves of the technique’s vocabulary lent themselves well to the ideas of ‘looking inwards’ and exploring the ‘labyrinth’ of the anatomy. Moments of contact between all four performers, moving as one, evoked the idea of a pumping, living organ with all anatomical parts combining to function as perfectly as the movements of the dancers.