Rosalind Masson’s duet defines itself in silence locating us in a slow, soft world. Fernando Balsera and Maria Giulia Serantonis’ focussed sensitivity sustained Between and quietened our nagging desire for climax. The dancers listen, finding the fulcrum of each phrase together. Their movement remained independent (some would say random) to Jan Henrickse’s fossilised sound score (distant voices, flutes and feedback). Abstract work this quiet has a tendency to be alienating but when Masson spoke through her physically intelligent performers, we connected to her whispers.
Ellie Harulow and Lauren Anthony supplied the evening with grit, presenting Major Changes: an intelligent contemporary choreography with bags of attitude. Beginning in bold blocks of light, the young women ( the makers and performers of this duet) moved with precision and care; their restrained-yet-effective use of unison and repeated motifs revealing an educated understanding of choreography. When Debussy’s Clair De Lune drifted in my stomach dropped. It’s difficult to stay on the edible side of cheese with music this well known but somehow the Middlesex graduates’ fresh perspective re-discovered its romance.
Jennifer Fox’s troupe of Laban graduates began A Chair is a Piece of Furniture promisingly. Playful text describing the function of a chair was confidently delivered though unfortunately immediately dismissed and never returned to. Everyday objects were explored in the context of a teenage slumber party complete with pillows, blankets and a blaring Friday night Spotify playlist. Strong moments included mirroring dancers' movements with a mattress and the finale image of a sad boy holding a red balloon. Although the performers approach was serious it often felt futile; a to-do list designed to waste time. Did any of it actually matter? A more light hearted tone would serve this piece better.
It may be overstating it to say Ellen Harulow and Lauren Anthony went from zeroes to heroes in their piece Major Changes, but I'll admit my heart sank when their duet began. Two women being self-consciously quirky in two separate strips of light. Oh dear, so far, so wearily derivative. But slowly, possibly too slowly, the intention of the choreography became clear. An understanding was forged, bodies aligned, souls found a musical symmetry. The first section needs work to draw us in to the journey but, by the time the last haunting note of Debussy's Clair de Lune had ebbed away, Major Changes had cast a hypnotic spell.
Between, choreographed by Rosalind Masson and performed by Fernando Balsera and Maria Giulia Serantoni, evolved from a series of journeys and there was certainly a sense of restless transit as these two intense performers passed like ships in the night, their paths occasionally crossing. But the movement travelled inwards not outeards, with windmilling arms the default position. It had a fleeting intensity, but for us to join them on the journey, the performers need to engage.
Was it brave or foolish of Jennifer Fox to fill the stage with that much abused choerographic prop, the chair? Many have been sat on, fallen off, straddled and Scandal-posed in recent times and Fox struggled to find anything fresh to express in the pragmatically titled A Chair Is A Piece Of Furniture. To be fair she also enlisted the aid of pillows, mattresses and stretchy knitwear in an odd, jokey piece that at one point resembled a gang rumble in the middle of IKEA. There were flashes of offbeat humour, but Fox's seating plan needed a sharper focus.