Competitive teeth cleaning anyone? There’s a lot to like in Watts Dance’s witty Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Clothes are brightly coloured, there’s live music from an onstage pianist and some clever movement sequences based on everyday gestures as we follow a group of four house-sharing millennials through their day, from early morning bathroom, to late night clubbing. And repeat. We see this routine three times and in each iteration, the group become progressively more lacklustre, which jars with the overall perky feel of the piece. A scene where the dressing-gowned group sit in a row for some screen-time - fluffy slippers as mobiles– posing for selfies, swiping, snooping, shoving before being overcome in a unison surge of obeyance to their phones might be key, (according to programme notes on the impact of social media), but I didn’t quite get it.
At the start of Grov Productions Her past in their present now five dancers stand almost motionless facing away, at the back of the stage. To a soundtrack of industrial style noise, the women start to move gradually – a raised arm, a flicking of hair, involuntary spasms. As their breathing becomes louder and urgent it acts as an engine, a generator of their movement and soon they have turned, to stare defiantly at the audience. There’s a primal feel to the movement that follows - one woman hurling herself in rolling dives to the floor and bouncing back again in a way which looks physically impossible. After such intensity, the abrupt ending is a surprise.
His fist raised in the black power salute, it’s clear Duwane Taylor has something to say but it’s only towards the end of the powerful It’s Time to Speak that we hear his voice. First he lip syncs to a sampled soundtrack of politicians, from Churchill to Trump (‘I have all the best words’) via Martin Luther King, embodying some phrases with spasms of krump – notably Obama’s ‘yes we can’. It’s a relief when he gets to the lectern positioned centre stage to deliver an impassioned, poetic tirade against police brutality suffered by black people (naming Sandra Bland) and the necessity to speak out. It’s fast, furious and not always audible – with that sorted, this work would have even greater resonance.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. explores the monotonous cycle we endure due to indulgence of social media. Two dancers appear from behind a piano, comically brushing their teeth wearing dressing gowns. Joined by two others they form a horizontal line across stage, sitting on chairs. Using slippers as phones they interchangeably pose for selfies, flick through Facebook and talk on the phone. Proceeding this was a somewhat out of place movement section, contrasting the pedestrian style that came before. The four then appeared under a box of light, flashing disco lights and an upbeat song accompanying them, as they joyfully jig and bop to the beat. These scenes were repeated twice with blackouts in between, leaving the audience confused about when to clap. The group’s energy dwindled as the piece progressed – symbolising the exhaustive nature of following social media. Unfortunately, this piece lacked vibrancy and missed several opportunities for development.
Five female dancers present personal experiences of pressure on the female body in Her past in their present now. The dancers begun in a line upstage, dimly lit, their movements slowly develop and their breath intensifies as the speed grows. The initial section lost intensity, however, we were then hit with an explosion of energy as one of the dancers erupted into a series of commando rolls – bouncing in and out of the floor – her self-generated momentum shiningly visible. The audience were stunned as another dancer propelled and tumbled across the stage, the others catching and releasing her as required.
Duwane Taylor left the audience speechless with his resounding performance of It’s Time to Speak. He took to the stage in a cloud of haze and delivered an emotive solo focused on the suppression of free speech in response to the recent series of unjust black killings. The intensity built as the piece progressed and Taylor expressed the poignant frustration felt by those whose voices are being ignored – the physical exertion was visible, particularly when Taylor stood centre stage, silently screaming, perspiration glistening across his face. It’s Time to Speak culminated when Taylor stood centre stage behind a lectern and delivered a powerful rap… red light grew around him and the energy was extraordinary.