Naomi Reynolds The Sob in the Spine

Mansoor Ali and Ellen Johansson You wave your dusty hands hello

B-Hybrid Dance Pace

Dressed in everyman grey, the six dancers in Pace  eat up the stage, beautifully interpreting the uptempo electro-jazz score, to examine the speed at which we live our hectic lives. One dancer rolls and writhes on the floor, stretching and withdrawing, struggling to wake up, before two others rise from their chairs and become locked in a repetitive duet – the monotony of office life. Later, all six edge across the stage in a tight group repeating a jerky, head-rolling motif in loose canon, dropping off and being jolted awake on a busy Tube train home. Even when the lights dim and the music ends, one dancer can’t quite make it off the stage; her slow passage interrupted by bursts of frantic movement, just as the restless mind accelerates when all you want is to sleep.

Mansoor Ali and Ellen Johansson’s curious duet is another fast-paced performance. Like a silent movie, Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz provides the soundtrack to their energetic, exaggerated movement that seems at times almost improvised and impulsive. But what’s going on? Are they overexcited children playing? Or lovestruck adults canoodling? Or perhaps something else entirely. The chasing and embracing is punctuated by moments where, through mime and vaguely comical sound effects, some kind of story is being told. But it’s impossible to know what it’s about.

A little less complicated, Naomi Reynolds’ The Sob in the Spine  explores the link between art and pain, inspired by her great uncle, the composer Robert Simpson, who suffered terribly after a severe stroke. It’s an interesting concept, and the ingredients are all there for a great piece. Accompanied by an award-winning live string quartet, five powerful, sinewy performers support, lift, hold and comfort each other in polished, lyrical sequences. Yet, there’s something missing. Perhaps it’s a little too careful, a little over-rehearsed – but very beautiful to watch all the same.

Samantha Whitaker

Pointe shoes made a rare appearance at The Place in The Sob in the Spine,  a contemplative and profound work by former Royal Ballet dancer Naomi Reynolds. It began what proved to be an unusually diverse programme, even for the catch-all openness of Resolution! Reynolds deserves a bonus prize for the most evocatively relevant title given that her work was inspired by the severely debilitating stroke suffered by her great uncle, the composer Robert Simpson. She uses choreography to the music of his String Quartet No 7  to investigate connections between creativity and pain and delivers a fully-fledged work of intimacy and softness. It radiated polished maturity from the high quality musicianship of the Dante Quartet to the professional proficiency of five excellent dancers. The comparative lack of female choreographers working at the highest level is often rightly lamented but here’s one ready and able to make that quantum leap.

Valentine’s Day was celebrated by the sequential skits of Mansoor Ali and Ellen Johansson larking around to various recordings of Django Reinhardt. They gambolled, engaged in a romantic bout of Greco-Roman wrestling, levered each other about in cartwheel circles and indulged in a copious amount of cuddling. This scene was the most effective, creating dance theatre from an ever-changing set of reclining embraces, including the cradled imagery of the Pietà, although the Virgin Mary in green adidas track pants stretched the perception. While the obvious sense of fun in their frolicking was engaging, I felt the work ran out of ideas and steam before the end.

B-Hybrid dance is exactly what it says on the tin and credit must go to choreographer Brian Gillespie for making a piece that attempts to say something new by mixing movement in a style that also seeks to be distinctive. One senses an ambitious urgency in the group’s creative force, which fires the relevance of this work’s examination of the pace of life. One dancer struggles to keep up with the flow as others twist quickly across the stage, her thwarted efforts to leave protracting the end. Gillespie, however, seems to be in the fast lane.

Graham Watts


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