25 January 2017
Author: Erin Whitcroft & Graham Watts

Tue 24 Jan: Jannick Moth and Company/Cindy Claes Productions/MCDC

Jannick Moth and Company Cold Mountain

Cindy Claes Productions Things Aren’t Always Black or White


Here were three choreographers striving to diversify the envelope of a dance performance in differing ways; each succeeding to some extent, although, in consequence, their choreography was often overshadowed by other creative contributions.

Smoke haze and the accelerating rumble of an avalanche dominated the opening sequences of Cold Mountain (an enigmatic title that served double-duty for Jannick Moth’s choreography and accompanying soundscape). Sudden bursts of largely unified movement, punctuated by contemplative pauses, accompanied the deafening roar of the mountain disassembling and – to Moth’s credit – just as the impact began to pall, a sudden change of pace, starker lighting and the shock of silence brought the work to a concluding section where the all-male trio accelerated through repetitive, lactose-sapping movements; each tiring to a different degree but refusing to stop. It gave a humorous ending to an otherwise bleak work that was never short of impact.

Cindy Claes is a powerful performer who uses an acute sense of theatre to make significant statements. Using her own poetic, spoken text, alongside rapid isolation moves, Claes unwinds a discursive reflection on the abuse of police power in the US; concluding with reference to the tragic case of Sandra Bland, a Black Lives Matters activist, brutally arrested – in Texas, July 2015 - for a minor traffic infringement, dying in custody, three days later. Contemporary news recordings including a notably eloquent and emotionless account by Bland’s mother gave a harrowing emphasis to this explosive and polished solo.

Cudos to Michaela Cisarikova for attempting the challenge of large-scale performance in Riah, utilising nine dancers (one bearded guy hiding amongst eight women) in a work that sought to forge a link between memory and hair. I liked her exploration of structure, perspective and space and the added production values of impactful costume and lighting designs, but, much less the movement quality of choreography in need of an edit.

Graham Watts

Police coercion, muscles clenched and rippling, the constant flux of bodies negotiating for dominance; power was everywhere tonight at Resolution.

Exploring power wielded by institutions, Cindy Claes’ Things aren’t always black and white melded drama, poetry and dance to imagine mass incarceration in the US. Often addressing the audience directly, Claes is a confident performer; it takes courage to occupy a dark stage on your own. The piece’s power arises from collisions between delicate piano music; Claes’ writhing movements face down on the floor and audio recordings of Sandra Bland’s arrest in Texas. However, it needs to be streamlined and the police officer’s interjections clarified. With careful edits, Claes could have a piece of dance theatre as powerful as its subject matter.

In contrast, Jannick Moth and Company’s Cold Mountain explored the overwhelming power of nature. Cold Mountain began with three male dancers in the middle of the stage braced in anticipation. Their muscles tighten, their eyes stare as sounds of real earthquakes and storms erupted around us. Moth effectively embodied the struggle of survival through a vocabulary of movements including scuttling on all fours across the stage, contrasting these with statuesque seated positions and gestural motifs. While at times the piece could have further developed the inherent violence lingering in the dancers' play-fights, its exploration of the human capacity to survive against the elements created a real sense of urgency.

Power clearly articulated in Moth and Claes’ work sizzles under the surface of MCDC’s Riah which finds movement inspiration in unusual places: the hair on our head. Riah was the largest scale piece of the evening, constructed for nine dancers with luxurious costumes and sophisticated lighting design. Cisarikova created a symphonic architecture of movement pivoting around a long chiffon scarf symbolising flowing strands of hair. As a structural conceit the scarf was effective as it allowed dancers to weave and unfold around each other emphasising both their inter-connectedness and play for dominance.

Erin Whitcroft


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