The first two pieces of the evening offered us two very different explorations of human relationships and attachments. These are themes well suited to dance - so much of importance goes beyond words and defies definition - and this, after all, is what dance does best: express the inexpressible.
This was particularly captured in the first piece, Obstruct & Connect, in which the dancers weaved in and out of one another, their interactions moving seamlessly between antagonism, playfulness and affection. The intense watchfulness of the dancers gave the work a very human quality – enabling their bodies to speak, rather than being appreciated simply as a sequence of abstract shapes. It was a tribute to the breadth of expressivity of the body - this was pure dance at its best.
A different approach to the subject of attachment was taken in atma-graha, a sweet, if a little overly-sentimental piece. The incorporation of text and movement began promisingly but descended into a collection of well-worn clichés as the piece progressed. There were, however, some lovely moments – a touching and humorous scene in which a mother determinedly tucks and re-tucks her child’s shirt in being a particular highlight. Moments such as these gave glimpses into the emotional potential of the work if it could just delve a little deeper beyond the immediately apparent.
Cymatics provided a refreshing shift away from these explorations of human contact in its abstract exploration of “sound from something seemingly silent and movement from something seemingly still." Unfortunately the exploration of this intriguing concept was somewhat limited within safe and conventional expressions – never really going beyond the predictable. Nevertheless, the dancers’ geometric and angular formations of limbs, accompanied by music inspired by the sounds of the universe and planets, was both interesting and enjoyable to watch. Cymatics was perhaps not the most revolutionary of pieces but was very well executed.
34 bare feet – without a Band-Aid or bandage in sight – emphasised the joy of pure dance throughout a programme that started strongly and just about maintained my fascination until the close.
The opener was Alyssandra Katherine Wu’s debut performance in the UK with a work that premiered in Los Angeles, back in 2013. Obstruct & Connect presents varied dance miniatures, from an integrated sextet to dynamic solos, each exquisitely formed. All six dancers were onstage as the audience entered but this was no random warm-up, rather an intelligently crafted playground game of repetition and weight transference, requiring considerable mutual trust. A female dancer then replicated her own onscreen exercises against a brick wall by performing the same routines against a partner. And so it went on, leading to a final solo in a square of light (creating the illusion of a brick wall on the floor) reminiscent of Russell Maliphant’s Two. A thoroughly absorbing potpourri of dance suggests that this young Californian choreographer has a bright future.
The next work came from a little closer to home. Jo Hodson-Prior and Emma Gogan are Sussex- based dancers, choreographers and teachers and I’m guessing that the notable difference in their heights may have inspired the name of their nascent company. This contrast is used to great effect in the opening mother/daughter relationship of ātma-grāha. A great score and a strong group of dancers – the impressively bearded Adam Hood, the only guy among seven – drove this abstract piece themed around the rocky road of personal attachments, in which occasionally unconvincing spoken text was the only drawback.
The final work also featured relationships, but of the celestial type, performed to a score inspired by the throbbing sounds of the universe, created through the science of Cymatics. This fascinating concept was articulated by a well-organised female quartet wearing identical black costumes adorned by imagery of the Milky Way. It didn’t grip me quite as consistently as the earlier works but it was nonetheless a worthy end to an excellent programme.