Modern day reality: it’s usually something we go to the theatre to escape. In fact, as Thursday night’s triple bill demonstrated it’s the playful contrast between the mundane and marvellous, embodied in the dancers’ bodies, that create moments of transcendence.
Jair Ramirez’s Sugarman self-consciously contrasts monotonous routines with acrobatic stunts which literally and figuratively allow him to rise above the pressures of modern life. Through clever use of straps and stagecraft (a briefcase becomes a typewriter, mist embodies the commuter’s drudgery) Ramirez creates a series of lasting, symbolically charged, images. For me, I still see him as he spins in a circle dangling by his head from the aerial strap: is he playing a childish game or is this the rope he will hang himself from?
Reuben Parker is similarly concerned with the nature of reality and our attempts to escape it. With a large and infectiously enthusiastic cast The Rebirth Network uses multimedia and narration to create an ambitious hip-hop dance drama about a man who can shape his own reality. This conceit is effectively translated into puppet-master duets where the hero directs the movements of those around him. Both touching and uncomfortable, the hero’s will and physical mastery cannot transform the sick and deformed body of his mother. It’s this moral undercurrent, reinforced by the super-hero style of narration, which is left unresolved by an abrupt ending.
Can you hear the sound of the flowers? by Maria Lothe & Co uses the idea of ecosystems and sustainability as both movement inspiration and a way to consider the ethics of the everyday. Shifting across the stage on their backs, three dancers hold up potted plants as though they are a sacred source of power. However, collaboration breaks down into guttural grunts and isolated jarring movements as Lothe &Co struggle to find a suitably sophisticated vocabulary for a concept as abstract as permaculture.
Ecosystems, biodiversity and the functions of plants are not topics that often inspire dance. However Maria Lothe and her three dancers use the principles of permaculture to do just that. Explorative, sometimes violent movement and visceral pre-linguistic utterings suggest the turbulent life-cycles of plants trying to survive on a planet ravaged by humans. However, through supportive contact work and interactive team-work the plant/people show us the benefits of small actions and working together to create change. It’s a clever piece if you can get beyond the silliness (three tiny plants held over the dancers’ genitals as they lie prone, inching down stage), and the absurdity of their excruciating noises. The collaborative strength of the protagonists is impressive and their quirky, idiosyncratic physicalities a novelty.
Jair Ramirez slips into aerial work as if it was a set of clothing. In fact, it is - as the noose around his head from which he dangles is a tie. Ramirez takes us on a surreal journey of his day, which is far from the normal daily grind: salsa steps with teeth- brushing, skimming above the ground in spirals on his commute to the office and full levitation during his nap at work, (suspended only at his angle and wrist). Ramirez finds witty reasons for getting into his ropes and his subtle use of aerial is as refreshing as his facial expressions are enchanting.
Sarah Lister’s animation is an arresting visual backdrop to The Rebirth Network’s Reuben Parker and deftly frames the theme of this fresh piece of hip- hop theatre: an isolated, dejected boy whose gift for sketching gives him supernatural powers to shape his own reality. Although Daniel 7’s choreography feels a bit crammed into 23 minutes, the sharp crowd of sixteen dancers develop the story through frozen gestures, fizzing attitude and imaginative popping and locking which match the fluid transmission of Lister’s monochrome animations.