Blogs

22 February 2017
Author: Maria Hardcastle & Josephine Leask

Tue 21 Feb: Watts Dance/John Livingstone Dance/Alice Weber and Ben Saffer

 Watts Dance WLA No.657005

John Livingston Dance Am I a waste of space?

Alice Weber and Ben Saffer Inter/action

Watts Dance offers a refreshing change to the Resolution line up with their period piece WLA No.657005. Cecilia Watts, her five female dancers, and their live pianist, Robin Porter, transport us to the depths of the Second World War with a nostalgic portrayal of the Women’s Land Army. The dancers transform into a living production line, with mechanical movement that steadily zigzags around the space. Watt’s choreographic skill shines through in the complex tangles of group contact work where the dancers react to one another with a caring response. This emotive mood encompasses the piece and reveals the support system that the women have formed through these uncertain times.

John Livingston confronts prejudice against his disability of Down’s syndrome with his latest work Am I a waste of space? This brave and exposing performance is created with improvised movement to pursue a validation of life. He explores different facets of his identity with impulses that are driven from a raw and emotive place. There is great variation in the musical accompaniment from classical operatic sounds to heavy drum beats. Livingston’s emotions intensify with the progression in sound, but the choreographic content struggles to change pace due to the meandering nature of his improvisation.

Alice Weber and Ben Saffer explore the interplay between live and film in Inter/action. Weber performs with both dancers and recorded images in three scenes to reveal the relationships between the digital and the living. The initial setting projects a recorded double of Weber as they dance a playful duet, dipping in and out of synchronisation, testing their connection. It advances to physical interaction with the introduction of Merritt Millman who dynamically opposes Weber. Projected natural imagery dominates the closing scene which Weber instinctively reacts to with a mesmerising movement vocabulary. The work proves that living and virtual interaction form intriguing relationships, but ultimately the piece lacks flow due to the segregation in its structure.

Maria Hardcastle


How brilliant to have a special spotlight on the women’s effort during World War II in tonight’s Resolution! We are so clearly in a competent pair of hands as Cecilia Watts’s WLA No.657005 unfolds to Robin Porter’s thrilling live playing and piano compositions. The equally effective group of female performers embody resilience, determination and empathy through Watt’s engaging choreography, full of variety and texture. Exuberant lifts, joyful boogie-woogie partnering, grief-stricken repetitive falls and wrenching hand-gestures suggest the emotional extremes experienced by the 'Land Girls' left at home. While functional, unison actions expressed through beefy dynamics indicate the tough manual labouring roles that members of the Women's Land Army had to fulfil. This mini dance-narrative is a delightful, creative acknowledgment of women’s contribution and the dancers bask in a warm glow of comraderie and empowerment.

Themes of bravery continue in John Livingston’s partially improvised solo, Am I a waste of space? It’s a striking contrast to Watt's piece in terms of mood, but not intention. Livingstone embraces his vulnerability and anger, showing us through powerful, if overly- dramatic moves, that he is defiant against disability prejudice: blood- red lighting, heavy emotive music by Bjork and Anna Calvi, pounding hands on chest, crumpling legs, crushed spirit. Livingstone staggers and falls. Immediately, however, he’s up, regains composure and courageously meets the audience’s gaze. Although the solo operates on a limited palette of dynamics, Livingstone’s presence is commanding and moving.

Choreographer and dancer Alice Weber struggles to find herself. Through investigative, yet halting movement she confronts her double, displayed on a screen. Dressed in white, she’s intriguingly insecure, unable to finish any one step, held back by something. When her alter-ego arrives in the form of Merritt Millman wearing a little black dress, she regains confidence, controlled by the former’s thrilling force. They dance an arresting duet before Millman, all subtle destruction and ill- intent overpowers Weber recalling Aronofsky’s horror movie, Black Swan. Rich in psychological metaphors, Inter/action holds our curiosity but the projections of speeded up storms and botanical awakenings make for a confusing ending.

Josephine Leask

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