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Subhash Viman Dance Company Shan

Wayward Thread Finding Words

MAZPOD Rhythmic Stories Mad Meg

 

Under a single light bulb, Subhash Viman writhes restlessly on the floor. Limbs trembling, contorted, he is like a man learning to inhabit his own body. It’s a sense of searching that knits together the otherwise disparate triple-bill on the third night of Resolution 2016. Drawing on the ancient Chinese poem San Zi Jhing, Shan contrasts these jerking, shuddering movements with the fluidity and control of learnt gestures, suggesting the forces that society exerts on the body. Though the progression of the piece fails to match its startling opening, it’s a showcase for an astonishing talent in the form of Viman.

The evening’s second offering, to borrow its title, is Finding Words – or, rather, struggling to track them down. The programme note promises an exploration of ‘the urgency of language’, but there’s little that is urgent about Wayward Thread’s muddled piece. In a disjointed series of sequences, break tussles with contemporary dance, as the red-swathed company of seven creates shapes and images that struggle to speak to one another. There are occasional, tantalising hints of the epic, but the work as a whole never quite discovers what it’s looking for.

Closing the night in riotous style, Mad Meg is a search for its eponymous protagonist. Fragmenting and subverting the fairytale genre, this marriage of dance, narration and live folk music reclaims the story of a woman serially ignored. Defiant, joyous and often brilliantly grotesque in its use of movement, MAZPOD’s feminist fable is also bags of fun. It helps that performers and choreographers Marianne Tuckman and Phoebe Ophelia Douthwaite have a fizzing onstage chemistry, reminiscent of sparky physical theatre duo RashDash. The structure needs some work and the storytelling lacks clarity at times, but with energy and wit like MAZPOD’s such flaws are easy to forgive.

Catherine Love


The third night at Resolution began with truly rising expectations. Shan, based on a poem by the philosopher Confucius, started with a call-response dialogue between spasmodic movements and perfect stillness inside a man´s body, Subhash Viman. Like a child learning how to work the mechanics of a human body, the dancer began to fight the clumsiness of an early mover. The solo developed into animal qualities that revealed a body reaching control. At that point the viewer was engaged and ready to get to the next level, the climax. However, the piece then stepped back to its initial stage, leaving a feeling of a missing cherry on top of the cake.

Finding Words brought to the stage a large group with outstanding break- dancing technique. The body control of the performers was remarkable, and they managed to sustain the standard of virtuosity during the whole piece. However, the brave attempt to mix urban technique with contemporary based quality was not quite reached. Whereas some dancers were successfully achieving beautiful style fusion and showing space awareness and deep expression, others seemed more like amazing gymnasts than performers. The project offered several aesthetic images that were just mentioned but not explained, making the connection between sections indecipherable due to the lack of a clear leitmotiv.

Mad Meg was without doubt the night’s sensation. Marianne Tuckman and Phoebe Ophelia Douthwaite are troubadours for the 21st century. Getting into the audience smoothly, the company tells a sad story through a multidisciplinary and well-connected work. The piece was a cleverly structured duet that plaited live music, amazing folk singing, fantastic oratorical and percussive dance into a tragicomic lullaby. The lighting, by Barnaby Booth, became the perfect passe-partout to frame a magical atmosphere with subtle yet refined taste. Altogether, the piece gave the complete sense of speaking with both personality and professionalism.

Anna Cabre

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