The lungs of the accordion sustained the first piece and transported us to dream land. Unfortunately the performer’s physicality didn’t quite fulfil the potential of Martina Schwarz’s score. Sochaj chose to use pure dance to take the audience to a realm of sleepy nonsense; a valid choice but in order to have been successful we needed more sensitivity of touch and mature embodiment. There were however lovely moments including a childish scuffle duet between Sochaj and Nashia Santanatalia Gómez and times when the dancers and musician shared an authentic sense of togetherness.
There was a lot of substance in Nuding’s performance. After the interval everyone was given a knot of rope that smelled of wood smoke. Absent-mindedly my fingers played with it while watching her dance, adding welcome depth to the audience/performer relationship. The rhythm between on-stage humming to the same sound through the speakers was beautiful. Unfortunately though the pace was alienating and would be better suited for a gallery. Not enough happened. Nuding had evidently researched her textured movement meticulously but I question whether some of the pauses should have stayed in the studio. Referencing Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto is fine, essential even, but if dance wants to burst from its self-sustaining bubble we are going to have to stop quoting it word by word.
For Celia, an Italian student new to contemporary dance, the bubble-gum pink backdrop behind Lecoq trained Yann Allsopp was a welcome change. ‘Finally some colours! I like dancing this style but I’m not sure about it in performance, it seems so boring.’ The combination of ridiculous movement underneath politician speak, is now established (DV8,NAVARIDAS & DEUTINGER) but Allsopp manages to find his original voice. The general election approaches and these capable performers use effective physical metaphors to remind us of promises made this time four years ago which have not been kept.
We start by being sent to sleep. The heavy breathing of Martina Schwarz's accordion, filling and emptying its lungs opens Justyna Sochaj's Sonámbulas. Three dancers trip between sleep states, from snoozy swaying to somnambulant hyperactivity, acting out fragments of memories. But their inner worlds remain opaque, and the outer ones don't give us quite enough to get our teeth into. With the effervescence of a dream it bubbles up and then it's gone.
It's brave of Elise Nuding to come on stage and do so little. Shift, Spin, Warp, Twine is a slow, still, quiet piece. It's boring, you could say. And yet, I wasn't bored. An artist who can create a distinctive and thoughtful space on stage is onto something. Nuding sits with a pile of twine, tying endless knots, knots (like life) that can be tight and ordered, or tangled and undone. She tucks herself inside a tall neat coil of rope, as if she's the filling in a Walnut Whip, then covers herself with a squiggling pile of rope, looking like Mr Messy. Her fingers curl like crochet hooks, dexterous hands tracing loops that might be the reef or the bowline. 'Working through these knots of mine,' she sings, to herself more than to us. It's an introspective piece, but it's intriguing.
It's always good to end with a laugh, courtesy of Yann Allsopp in the amusing Vote For Me! With fellow performer Jess Williams, he provides a sort of contemporary dance version of The Thick of It: two electioneering MPs dancing for our votes, like party leaders pushed into an ill- advised PR gimmick. A Millibandian Allsopp nails the awkward strut of a man out of his comfort zone, desperate to get out of populist prancing and back to the earnestly empty statements he knows best. 'There's only so much you can say through dance,' he says. And that gets the biggest laugh of the night.