The triple bill is set to start with a jaunt up north in Kelly-Abbott's Whose Round Is It Anyway where we see four bakerboy-hat adorned figures walk into the scene, erupting from solemnity into joyous revelry. It turns out that spirits are high – as is blood-alcohol content, apparently - as the quartet manages to convince us, through folk-dance, and skilful tumbling around with traffic-cones, that they, and an unsuspecting senior citizen taken for the ride, have enjoyed a bar-tab too long. A few knees-up unisons later and we finish in the dockyards of 20th Century Britain.
Tag is our second piece, and we are launched straight into frenetic action, consistent running to and fro and a youthful energy shared amongst the six dancers jumping and reaching. Light- hearted, we are treated to a few laughs here and there as they blow each other about, encroach on each other’s space and clamber from body to ground and back. The sextet attempt consolidated group material before finishing in a line-up reminiscent of school-days, jostling for room and eager to be seen.
Finally, Giulia Iurza gives a rich visual feast with Shikishin Funi. The audio stutters and glitches to meet us, dancers are separate; still, but connected - quickly this descends into a tumbling and rearranging of bodies and limbs across the stage. Duets, trios, solos are formed and dissipated with ease as if by sleight of hand. The richness and intricacy of each movement is not lost to us as Iurza has given space for every change in pace to be observed in its entirety - there are neither frivolous exchanges nor any cumbersome unison phrases to contend for our attention. The technical and creative depth of this piece is indebted to the seven strong dancers and slick production finish it possesses.
There's a strong sense of place in Kristin Kelly-Abbott's Whose Round is it Anyway? That place being the shipyards of the north east in their heyday, as captured by the artist Alexander Millar, whose paintings provide a characterful backdrop. The dancers embody the gait of the working man: head down, shoulders hunched, hands in pockets, on his way to the pub, where bodies heave back and forth, propelled by arms raised as if to down pints. There are drunken larks, folky jigs and a ladder strapped to someone's back like the wide wingspan of the Angel of the North. But there's a wistful mood too, as if these men know they're part of a dying industry. It's a distinctive piece, but this performance has been extracted from a longer work, and perhaps is missing out on some depth and development of character and movement as a result.
Ania Straczynska's short and sweet Tag takes its inspiration from childhood games and succeeds in capturing the rough-eded, unselfconscious movement of children, whether in a game of chase, jumping for an invisible goal or a body falling splat to the floor. Staczynska conjures the on-the-spot invention of kids using each other's bodies as climbing frames in a series of playful balances. It's a slight, literal piece, but one with charm and humour.
There's more intrigue and a bit more to chew on in Giulia Iurza's Shikishin Funi. Among the seven dancers, Iurza cultivates a fascinating movement quality in which bodies endlessly vacillate: a shoulder twitching forward, back and forward again; a couple drawn together, then away, then together. A convoluted state of flux, indecision and repetition is played out against the plinks and clunks of Mau Loseto's sparsely percussive soundtrack. Iurza's world is an ungraspable one that exists, richly, for a moment and then dissolves.