A young woman sits alone behind a shimmering screen. Marie Yagami’s piece Little Girl Inside Me is an often visually striking exploration of trauma, inspired by the Kobe earthquake of 1995. Beyond the screen four figures writhe and contort, their faces veiled in gauzy black fabric. When the woman emerges they surround her, bunching together to become commuters on a packed subway train, their movements increasingly urbanised, mechanised. While the final image, in which the performers invade the space behind screen is an eerie and memorable one, the use of movement throughout is less distinctive.
In Baby Plus Two, choreographer Lise Smith and performer Jodie Adele Cole draw on personal experience to present an amusing, if wispy, piece about new motherhood. It begins with Cole on her back in the throes of labour before morphing into a dance-theatre take on the Why Mommy Drinks school of motherhood memoir. But while Smith’s choreography touches on the physical and emotional cost of sleep deprivation and the relearning of one’s body after childbirth, too often the humour feels generic, and the piece as a whole lacks in structural rigour.
Courtney Scheu’s I would do it differently is the most opaque piece of the three. Snatches of a man’s voice, presumably Israeli, can be heard as the quartet of dancers engage with each other. Two women in quasi-military blue shirts tussle with one another, their movements alternatively tender and hostile, while the sole male dancer remains on the periphery, looking on. The fourth performer, a woman in a red shift finds herself pinioned between the two women in blue, her body horizontal, rotated. The use of voices, while atmospheric, creates a division of attention between the heard and the seen, the one distracting from the other.
While an incredibly varied program, all three pieces included told the story of a person trying to cope with a new and somehow traumatic situation.
The first work, Little Girl Inside Me choreographed by Marie Yagami, chronicled her own experience in the Kobe earthquake and the lasting effects it had on her life. The work centered around a white rectangular prism of fabric which fostered a lot of very striking images throughout the piece, and was used fairly literally to show her struggling inside of herself to come to terms with what has happened. It was refreshing to see a directly narrative work in contemporary dance, and it was successful in elating the story in a clear way while remaining abstract. The movement, however, did not seem to have a distinctive style in itself, and often felt secondary to the overall composition.
Baby Plus Two choreographed by Lise Smith was a solo work describing the joys and difficulties of parenting for the first time. Motherhood was presented in a humorous and relatable way, yet text was often used where dance would have sufficed which left the movement feeling redundant or sometimes even forced. Still, the mommy-parody of Single Ladies at the end will surely be in my head for the rest of the week.
Courtney Scheu’s I would do it differently left me with a lot of questions, which could be both a good or a bad thing. Perhaps creating a sense of uncertainty was part of the attempt to show the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or global conflicts in general, but it was hard to say exactly what was meant to be drawn from the work. There were some very dynamic moments where different characters came together or superimposed on one another, and the interview text was very intriguing in the fragmented story it told.