14 February 2016
Author: Sarah Crompton & Amelia Forsbrook
“Thank you. This really is too much,” chimes Sofia Edstrand. With a tone wavering between humility and despair, the dancer spouts expressions taken from your typical acceptance speech, to fuel a piece that is anything but accepting. The performers begin in tight uniformity, taking their seats before we do and locking their eyes on the growing audience. Once the lights dim, the women bring a Stepford chill to their identical utterances, before breaking out into commercial, contemporary and classical dance – bringing, with each new style of movement, a fresh critique on the state of modern femininity. Gracefool works well as an ensemble, but Rachel Fullegars claims the most memorable scene as she clashes a pageant tiara with a politician’s vocabulary to show there’s more to Britain than the “genetic makeup of the people”.
Manipulation is also alive in tonight’s second piece. Mimicking movements made by women spotted across London, Sasha Milavic Davies and Lucy Railton compose an ode to the everyday, their work taking organic actions to build a compelling piece that is at once meditative and mechanical. The framing of this piece is significant. Everything That Rises Must Dance is book-ended by near-darkness, where all that can be seen of the assembled dancers is the occasional flash of bright clothing. The filling is a sophisticated mime that illuminates and makes art out of our most meaningful yet disposable moments.
You won’t find such subtly in The Other F Word. While you can’t fault the idealism here, the approach is a little disjointed, and there’s an unresolved conflict between the “we” of the congealed collective and the “I” who sets out against it. That said, armed with chalk, protest slogans and a sprinkle of audience interaction, A(r)CT reworks the performance space into a collage of calls for freedom – a transformation that, while promising, is somewhat undermined when a well-meaning member of staff tells curious exiting ticketholders to get off the stage.
The yearly arrival of Resolution is like a blast of fresh air, full of idealistic enthusiasm. In the two nights I’ve been watching, women’s voices have been to the fore – doubly cheering at a point when so few female choreographers find a platform.
For Sasha Milavic Davies and Lucy Railton, it’s women’s gestures that actually form the choreography. Each movement in Everything That Rises Must Dance is forged from something they have seen women do. The results are often astonishingly touching – the hand cupping the chin, the fingers brushing the cheek, the elbow folded beneath the head in a quiet repose. The simple patting of a chest or the stretching of an arm becomes part of an elaborate pattern. Intricate, engrossing and beautiful, only the inexplicable decision to begin and end in darkness mars an outstanding piece. This is pure dance, making everyday actions profoundly communicative.
Gracefool Collective, on the other hand, use words as well as actions to make their points – and do so with aplomb. This really is too much is sharply funny about the way in which women are pigeon-holed into different roles, undercutting easy assumptions with scenes that show a beauty queen making a speech about socialist economics, and a harassed job-seeker refusing to tick a single box. Such moments are punctuated by the four women cavorting in bikinis, selling products, a clever visual reminder of the Bridget Christie gag about women in advertising always “either coming on a window-pane or laughing at salads.” Everything is performed with striking discipline and skill.
In contrast, The Other F Word by A(r)CT feels almost touchingly naïve as it explores concepts of freedom. It begins well with an image of dispossession, as the dancers rush across the stage and one of them screams “We don’t belong here”. But as the work progresses, its energy dissipates. It ends with the performers scrawling slogans in chalk on the floor; admirable but not exactly interesting to watch.