In Cul de Sac a man and a woman sit next to each other yet seem worlds apart. Each tries to attract the other's attention using circus skills. She shins up a Chinese pole and flings herself downwards in spectacularly controlled drops, finally gaining his interest. He attempts to impress her with advanced juggling skills but she's comatose after her efforts. He even drags her round the floor by her head (a slightly alarming stunt) and gradually she responds. They move and intertwine, eventually sitting back on their chairs and, this time, pulsating to the same beat. Not awesome but nice.
Kate Jackson's solo - an excerpt from The Sense of an Ending – depicts one of three real-life stories of Northern women. This is effectively portrayed at the start as Jackson dances with abandon to Do It Like a Rock Star, only to be regularly knocked off balance, emotionally and physically, by the invisible force of domestic violence. But she keeps getting up, a testament to the victim’s resilience and courage. We next see her in reflective mode intoning positive mantras from therapy. In the second half, her feelings of overwhelming despair need to be more rawly portrayed to do full justice to this gritty extract. When she finally picks up her suitcases to leave home, though, I wanted to cheer. Not gut-wrenching but engaging.
In Egress six bodies lay in a heap on the floor, a silent scrum of arms and legs. Extricating themselves one by one, the dancers start to move around, finding their feet and shaking out their limbs. As two musicians play a syncopated rhythm on cajon and guitar, the cast responds, dancing in a loose line with their backs turned. As they spin round you get the sense that their lives are improving. Whirling and swirling, together and separately,they increase energy and momentum. The music gathers pace and volume, encouraging the six into riotous free motion. Finally they lower three bright globes, bursting them open to release masses of tickertape, then gyrate joyfully through these multi-coloured symbols of life’s possibilities, now within their reach. Not earth-shattering but good fun.
You can see the potential in circus company Efecto Chopped whose likeable, well thought-out two-hander Cul de Sac opened a fairly enjoyably varied evening. It began with glimpses, separated by black-outs, of a disconnected relationship. Small, supple Gemma Palomar then swivels in heels above Jose Triguero as he quietly humps the floor. Like fluid glue she repeatedly climbs up and slides down a Chinese pole; he’s her brayingly vulgar coach/audience. Exhausted, she passes out. He takes over regardless, neatly mocking his character’s male ego while soft-juggling three balls in a deftly multi-directional manner. Eventually the pair jibe in a closing movement-based sequence that could be more polished. The skilled performers have personality. As someone behind me remarked, ‘Nice!’
Kate Jackson was genuinely interesting in an excerpt from Red Road Dance Theatre’s The Sense of an Ending, but a tad frustrating too. Embodying someone who’s been domestically abused, in the best scene of this would-be sensitive solo portrait of fragility and survival, she resists succumbing to the punchy (and ironic) rhythms of the galvanising Do it with a Rockstar. Even then there’s something Jackson seems to hold back from us as a performer. Nothing she did surprised or moved me (although she dealt well with the front-row male who – inexplicably yet with a kind of perfect timing, especially given the subject matter – left mid-way through). Consequently this extract from Nadia Iftkhar’s possibly gutsy full-length work lacked edge and true illumination. Still, my curiosity was piqued.
Conceived and choreographed by Daniel Persson, Humanah Productions’ Egress was in many ways the night’s most purely pleasurable experience. Gradually rising from a corporeal clump, six loose-limbed, semi-improvisational dancers (plus two upstage musicians) shared what amounted to a self-indulgent yet pretty sweet neo-hippie folk dance party capped by the breaking of two globe-like, confetti-filled piñatas. Idealistic and possibly even naïve the group may be, but they nonetheless left the sense of a positive world-view in their wake.