The opening night of Resolution 2017 fired off with Awakening from What is Written Dance Company. Choreographers and lead dancers Viviana Rocha and Jean Pierre led a striking dystopian and repressive tale. With unrelentingly menace, an army of corporate workers invaded the stage. Starting with a small group fully suited, slowly their jackets and ties were stripped or snatched off and they fell into rank with an uneasy legion of seventeen menacing trousered and shirted clones. Motion was fiercely timed, limbs snapping tightly to the heavy mechanical sounds of industry: from typewriters more akin to machine guns, to void drones and aching grinding. Workers wrestled for power in fight scenes, made breaks for freedom only to be sublimated back in-line, and all kept crossing their bodies in quasi-religious ritual, crushingly rapt in the spirit of forced labour. There was no comfort and no peace amidst the dramatic drudgery of this engrossing and highly effective piece.
In Trace Collector, Yu-Hsien Wu formed a duo with Valerie Ebuwa. Dressed in holey knitted jumpers with bare legs and nude socks, the pair hovered close as if shadows. Starting slowly and gradually picking up pace, they fluidly spiralled around, leaning in tenderly, standing on top of each other or joining in faltering shaking; they were remnants or echos of the other in a softly intimate interplay.
Finally (UN)ONES by Maria Miguel Rodrigues opened with a theme-setting kaleidoscopic projection showing coloured balls of light spinning and jerking in circles. Enter ten dancers all in black. The defining moment came when standing tightly shoulder-to-shoulder in a square of light, they hatched awkwardly as separate entities. Unzipped black tops revealing brightly (and individually) coloured t–shirts. Alternating group sequences and singular walks mapped our passage as unique individuals, who are at the same time 'strapped in' with others in a societal whole, and the resulting pressures and tensions that entails. Restless pacing characterised the scenes. The pedestrian march of life. At times swarm-like and heaving, at others chaotically disparate and dispassionate.
If the look is corporate, the language is street. The massed dancers of What is Written Dance Company’s Awakening may be kitted out in white shirts, black jackets and ties but they move with the hunched shoulders, punchy skitters and in-your-face attitude of street dance. It’s an uneasy mix – and it’s that very unease that choreographers Viviana Rocha and Jean Pierre seek to mine. Squadrons of office types encounter feral gangs. Well-dressed alpha-males circle each other like wolves. The tie becomes a talisman of an oppressive law – variously donned, rejected or submitted to. Yet the work overstays its welcome: the surface dynamism soon overpowers its underlying material.
Kuan-Yu Chen’s Trace Collector has the opposite issue: it’s a short, intriguing duet that feels like a sketch for something more substantial. Valerie Ebuwa appears in a moth-eaten woolly, undulating around the stage in measured, elastic motion: lopsided stretches, elastic rolls and backbends. When Yu-Hsien Wu enters she seems like an alter ego – in similar costume, with similar style. Shadowing, echoing and mirroring each other, the pair never quite connect personally: even a tight embrace feels less like a close encounter than an impediment to the flow of movement. It’s a thoughtful piece, but hasn’t yet come into focus.
Maria Miguel Rodrigues’s (UN)ONES has the most solid structure, binding its ideas to its material. The prologue – a somewhat redundant video of spinning red-green-blue blobs – soon gives way to a short series of scenes offsetting individuals from groups, or one group from another. Ten dancers clump into a square of light, then take off their grey tops to show individually coloured t-shirts. There are running rings, overlapping time-frames, break-outs from tight-knit clusters – all deftly handled, without straining for effect. Currently it still feels a little underdone, but it shows considerable promise.