Searching for the Dead sees two live accompanists take to the stage alongside three dancers in a combination of music, speech and dance. Faith Prendagast’s opening solo mixes subtle choreography – playing with her hair and clothing – and vocal work: “This is a list of people in my family”. Group 11’s exploration of how the people we encounter affect our lives begins promisingly with this all complimented by the live musicians. However, the piece ironically seems to say less the louder it gets: with the music, vocals, and increasingly frantic choreography, as well as a slightly macabre element of audience interaction, helping to let the air out of the personal scene we begin with.
Far From the Norm, however, deliver a wonderfully polished and professional piece with Rek. A sparsely lit, murky stage sees the dancers use their astonishingly articulate backs in a series of sinuous, predatory solos. However, the performers also show off an impressive range of qualities – from the excitable, simian qualities of a tribal community, to a blisteringly fast solo that seems simultaneously alien and primal. In addition, the titular music by Torben Lars Sylvest is matched both physically and vocally by the dancers: they grunt, hiss and whoop while skittering across the stage in a frenzy. Overall, the strong technical direction with lighting and music is equally supported by an outstandingly compelling performance.
Force, being both the title and central theme of Co_Motion’s piece, is something that the opening stops slightly short of – appearing more bumpy than bruising. Flashes of light and musical cues accompany snapshots of balance and power, yet don’t allow us to experience a real punch. Fortunately, the dancers become more gutsy as they get into the (literal) swing of it – longer group sections and duets allowing them to build up some exciting moments with rolls, jumps and deft traverses into the floor and each other. It takes a while to find it’s momentum, but it does pack a good amount of punch by it’s finish.
Temitose Ajose-Cutting’s Searching for the Dead is both tantalisingly close to and frustratingly far from something revelatory. A woman toys with her hair and twitches her toes while reciting names of relatives; it’s as if those people were fleetingly embodied in her gestures. That idea – the presence of absence – suffuses this work like a spirit. There are several lists of names – teenage crushes, people lost touch with, people no longer alive. Two musicians sing bedsit-melancholy songs that mix live and recorded (dead?) sound. The three women dancers often seem like somnambulists, hands stretching into an imaginary world, their actions haunted, their encounters only semi-conscious. It’s an atmospheric and very thoughtful piece, but the elements just don’t gel. It needs – it deserves – a good edit: a tightening of focus, a honing of means.
Botis Seva’s Rek is polished, well-rehearsed and sure of its stagecraft. It opens with chiaroscuro lights and dorsal dancing: we see only the backs of the five performers, and the tensile ripple of spines and scapulae is gripping. The performers morph into an ape-like tribe, sometimes gunning in squadrons, more often marauding in primordial groups who jostle and grope. The feel is a Morlockish mix of dystopian future with primitive past. It’s very well done, but it is also black dancers with bow-legged runs, handflaps and mouth-gapes – basically, playing the role of monkeys – without making that racialised imagery an issue. I couldn’t stomach it.
In Force, choreographers Catherine Ibbotson and Amy Lovelock get four female dancers into high-energy combat mode. Flashes of light intermittenly catch the women as they launch, lunge and plummet. The lights come up on rough-edged formation moves: more heaves, more hurtling. The action is scrappy, but packs a punch. The slow-motion leans and tugs – demanding more control than force – are less convincing, but it’s not long before the dancers are back to toppling headlong, vaulting each other for position and dive-bombing the ground. Not deep, but it gives you a kick.