Desiderium begins powerfully. Dancer Laura Pendle traverses a narrow corridor of light, over the hands of fellow performers, while the echoes of a far-off choir reverberate across stage. It’s haunting with a sense of ‘otherness’, almost ominous. The rest of Olivia Lockwood’s choreography doesn’t quite live up to these first moments however. The dancers excel in the moments of precise gesture, but often it feels as though movement isn’t fulfilled to its total potential. Commanding moments appear periodically, but emerge only for an instant before disappearing again.
Jack Stinton’s Theory flits between musings on love and existential wondering; ‘maybe… we exist’, Chris Brinklow states blankly as Claire Burrell towers above him. There’s something distinctly enjoyable about watching these two dance, the more I see the more likeable they become. Their fluidity and shared chemistry is undeniable. However this is often broken by the interventions of another voice through the sound system, offering its clichéd views on love in an almost dictatorial way. The dancers are good enough to ignore it, but next time hopefully they’ll be left to speak for themselves.
Love Me Tender brings a raw world of sensitivity and desire to life. Flowers are strewn across the stage as the obsessive Rosie Terry breathlessly struggles to bend Joachim Maudet’s limp body to her will, chattering incessantly, perhaps bordering on mania. It’s impossible not to relate to this exaggerated and hilarious embodiment of unrequited love. When we finally see hints of reciprocation, Maudet lip-syncs to Elvis Presley’s Only You as the pair strip down to the underwear. It’s funny, but refreshingly tender too. This feeling permeates the rest of the choreography as the dancers explore each other, and the sincerity of their performance makes them captivating to watch. Effortlessly charming from start to finish, Léa Tirabasso’s work is a delight to behold.
Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Is a relationship a prison or a playground? Fascinating contrasts emerged in the pairing of Jack Stinton’s Theory and Léa Tirabasso’s love me tender: successive duets examining a heterosexual relationship but seen through opposite ends of the telescope. Stinton focused on the dark side, emphasising the boundary constraints imposed by societal conformity. Articulated through text - spoken live and recorded - and highly-physical partnering, this union is viewed as literally 'tying the knot'. Left alone on stage at the end, the man (Chris Brinklow) blames “society” for his life of confinement. In love me tender, the female choreographer emphasises the relationship as a life adventure of intimacy and love, regularly enlivened by sweetness and fantasy. Here, that same knot is cherished as the key to human survival.
Both journeys were presented as engaging works of dance theatre. Theory was marginally undermined by over-indulgent text, largely spoken without dramatic impact (notably in the recordings) and the self-consciousness of otherwise excellent performers. Léa Tirabasso’s work was poignant; often very funny; visually and aurally appealing; and entertainingly enriched by the uninhibited sincerity of the two protagonists, Joachim Maudet and Rosie Terry. Utterly immersed in her role, Terry performed the final minutes (and took her curtain call) wearing red socks, blue pants and an off-white bra that has seen better days. It aptly summarised the uninhibited everyday freedoms afforded by a truly intimate relationship. I’ll settle for the glass half-full.
Olivia Lockwood’s Desiderium was a mathematical exercise in movement patterns for four dancers, starting with one girl walking a line formed by a human treadmill of the others’ palms and ending with two pairs stepping on each other’s hands. In between were many other sequential episodic patterns of walking backwards, running forwards and so on. It had an academic rigor and four impressive dancers but it ran down my interest well before the end.