26 January 2017
Author: Lyndsey Winship & Fergus McIntosh

Wed 25 Jan:Jessica Nina Barlow/Limb Dance Co./Awake Dance Company

Jessica Nina Barlow All in Minor

Limb Dance Co. Abstract Romanticism

Awake Dance Company Lost and Found

Jessica Nina Barlow presents to us All in Minor, a physicalized musing on Francois Bouchier’s works. The scene for this performance is striking for its contemporaneous slant on period costume, posing with familiar dance postures and positions, the turns and épaulement reminiscent of Classical ballet – the baroque soundtrack solidifies this effort. The two performers execute fast-paced and complex symmetry and dissonance. This is a light-hearted sketch; an eager, yet somewhat misguided brushstroke that does not quite elicit the deeper thematic subversion of Bouchier’s art.

Abstract Romanticism is presented next by Limb Dance Co. Three bodies in space assume a formidable and tenuous pose; standing upon one leg, each dancer battles against balance and gravity. Successively, each diminishes the effort and what follows is a building cascade of effort and endurance. Bright colours adorn their rapidly tiring repetitions, audible heaving breath; they execute increasingly exhausting iterations akin to ideas of Mark Rothko's abstract expressions. Limb Dance Co. show strength and fortitude, and, utilising their skilled control, make a trip to the gym seem like sweet slumber.

Awake Dance Company plunge us into a thick smog, a hunched collective are just visible in brilliantly minimal lighting. We see the group shift and writhe with animalistic intent, any usurpers - lone wolves - acting out are quickly suppressed and re-assimilated into the group. A struggle of Id and Super Ego seems to take us through the acrobatic and fluidic transitions that the performers display. The pace is consistently driven; at times it breaks into a mess that somehow is absolutely a part of the system that these effortless movers have engendered. We witness a spectacle of force here - the natural performance is fierce and commands our senses to excite the most primal feelings and question who we are in an intelligent and surprising vision.

Fergus McIntosh

One of the pleasures of the lucky-dip nature of Resolution is that you never know what you're going to get. But it can be baffling to dip into new works with, in some cases, just ten minutes of dance in which to try to crack open a choreographer's thinking. Jessica Nina Barlow's All in Minor is one such enigmatic piece. On the subject of 18th century artists' patron Madame de Pompadour, two dancers make bold strides and idiosyncratic gestures to a backdrop of baroque music. But are they two sides of the same woman? Gossiping ladies of the French court? An abstract idea about femininity and art? Who knows.

There's more artistic inspiration in Kaia Goodenough's Abstract Romanticism, and this time it's Mark Rothko, although the sharp lines of the dancers' strokes do not imitate the fuzzy corners of a Rothko canvas. There are three really interesting things about this piece: the use of the trio, with a sense of changing allegiances between the dancers; the use of focus, with the dancers eyeballing each other as they move – the effect of both of these things is a bit Mean Girls – and thirdly, the expression of effort. The dancers attempt lengthy balances, with concentration, peril and pain etched on their faces. Or a riff is repeated, pointlessly, to exhaustion. Something about personal pressures and unattainable ideals, perhaps?

Roxy Bryant's Lost and Found is the most accomplished work of the evening, a group of eight dancers caught in some kind of bleak crisis. Bodies writhe, grasp and struggle in the gloom of the stage, with sudden releases of momentum like the spark of a struck match. We don't know what the oppression or the fear is here, but it's real. You can feel the cortisol rising as the soundtrack's glitching pulse quickens. Bryant has succeeded in sowing a common identity across the company and there's vision and style on show.

Lyndsey Winship


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