News & Blogs

2 February 2018
Author: Natalie Russett & Teresa Guerreiro

Thu 1 Feb: 180 degrees/Irene Cioni/Simple Dance Company

180 degrees Kinetic Being

Irene Cioni Standing Up

Simple Dance Company Keep Digging

Kinetic Being, the first of the evening, was polished and thought-provoking, albeit not perhaps, for the traditionalist audience member. Dressed (literally) head to toe in black, a single balloon attached on a string to each of the four performer’s necks, they move almost imperceptibly for the duration of the piece, the slowness sometimes punctuated by stiff falls. Their statuesque bodies draw attention to the comparatively incessant movement of the balloons. Kinetic Being delves directly into dialogue with Posthuman conceptions of the body – at once unsettling and soothing to watch these dehumanised bodies. The black silhouettes against a white backdrop is visually satisfying and accompanied sporadically by live piano, it certainly takes the audience to a surreal place.

Keep Digging was presented to us as a series of brooding, dark vignettes, each set within a confined part of the stage, highlighted by the lighting. Frustrated energy, mechanistic repetition and isolation were clear ideas in the movement – the three performers wholly embodied and expressive. The combination of multiple blackout transitions with the music gave the piece a flatness, despite the felt energy of the three dancers. The theme of being “stuck in a rut” is dealt with quite simplistically, and the final speech about reaching out to people who are struggling made it all feel a little didactic.

Matter-of-factly, two women walk onto stage for Standing Up, in their everyday clothing they look out at us pleasantly. They go and quickly return, this time in leotard and tights, Jessica Latowicki snaps the elastic of her leotard – setting the light-hearted tone. Latowicki’s role is comically down-to-earth and awkward, meanwhile I was unsure of Irene Cioni’s character. The beginning is well-paced and for me, the most humorous part. The bulk of the performance entails a piece of stand-up comedy and a parallel translation of that into movement, performed by Cioni. Expecting the boundaries of text and dance to be ‘exploded’, I found their relationship quite basic and wished for variation or switching of roles.

Natalie Russett

There was a lot of dancing from Simple Dance Company’s Keep Digging. That reads like a statement of the obvious in a festival that is, after all, about dance; but put against the two preceding numbers it’s apposite.

Keep Digging explores the soul-destroying effects of aimless routine. Three women in loose pants and baggy T-shirts dance in a well-structured piece: as a prologue we see a single dancer whose movement is so earthbound she graphically expresses the pain of being trapped in a rut; she’s followed by two grappling women who raise anguish to despair. In the latter sequences the three dance together performing a series of coordinated and mechanical arm gestures and dipping steps, all denoting routine gone crazy. By way of an epilogue, one dancer takes to the microphone with a speech about “the pressures of society dragging you into this man-made mine-hole.” This was earnest, but perhaps unnecessary, as the choreography had eloquently done all the talking.

Kinetic Being was the first piece of the evening. The Oxford English Dictionary defines kinetic as, “relating to or resulting from motion;” but these four figures ensconced in dark grey hooded overalls each with a balloon floating above his/her head were practically motionless throughout. The point of this exercise, if indeed there was one, seems to have escaped most of the audience - it certainly escaped this reviewer.

Equally perplexing was Irene Cioni’s Standing Up, which seemed to me little more than an unfunny, juvenile and vaguely aggravating stand up routine from the American performer Jessica Latowicki. She started the evening by gulping down a can of coke and then belching lustily and repeatedly into the microphone. I’m all for pushing the borders of dance or any other art form; but nobody, but nobody can persuade me that random belching has a place in something still calling itself dance!

Teresa Guerreiro


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