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14 February 2018
Author: Graham Watts & Coral Montejano Cantoral

Tue 13 Feb: Untold Dance Theatre/Arunima Kumar/Sketch Dance Company

Untold Dance Theatre Women-Wise

Arunima Kumar BANDEENI (...prisoner)

Sketch Dance Company My Other Half

Three works made by, for and about women: one derived from stories gathered from women's groups; another enacting injustice revealed in the poetry of a victim of domestic violence, gaoled for life for murdering her abuser; concluding with a poignant tale of sisterhood.

With thirteen female dancers, unsurprisingly, the stand-out performance was by a woman; but, not a dancer (at least, not in any conventional sense). As BANDEENI (...prisoner) opened, dim light picked out Nao Masuda, sitting cross-legged; an extraordinary, eclectic musician who played the drum with batons held by dancing arms, her percussion swinging from soft chimes to volatile, booming crescendos. Arunima Kumar is already a celebrated performer and - assisted by the dramaturgy of Shobana Jeyasingh – her new work came with significant pedigree. However, despite Masuda's commanding performance, Kumar's rich charisma and Lucy Record's effective lighting, this contemporary blend of Kuchipudi and dance theatre failed to rise to meet these weighty expectations. The concept needs more development (and, perhaps, a longer work).

Women-Wise was performed by an age-diverse group of seven women, cohesively bonded despite the generation gap. It comprised several fragmented episodes, from a quasi-Rite of Spring beginning, set to tribal beats, through a comic pregnancy and onto a poignant parody of the ageing process (with other segments that suggested issues of mental health or dementia). This random assortment of scenes nonetheless retained my attention throughout. It also featured the evening's only male contribution in a live score, composed and performed by Cam Crook.

Sketch Dance Company presented My Other Half  by Jasmine Andrews; a story of two sisters, separated at birth and meeting later in life, told in two halves by two pairs of dancers. Andrews' choreography has a theatrical flair accented with neoclassical dance, including elegant, fluid sections of movement. Sheree DuBois composed and performed some live vocals, interspersed with an excellent soundtrack. Some narrative elements were puzzling but overall it showed considerable promise. Good to see that women continue to rule this Resolution!

Graham Watts

Except for a guitarist accompanying the first piece, the rest of the bodies on stage throughout the whole night were female. The three pieces touched on themes around maternity, pregnancy, labour, struggle, domestic violence, and companionship. It seems very pertinent now, more than ever, to speak out loud and open up debates about those issues that affect women in their daily lives. But how to deliver that message through movement, through dance? It is undoubtedly a big challenge that requires courage and sensibility. Today’s performances at Resolution were three different examples of women choreographers making work with women, and about women.

Two scenes stayed with me in the first piece because of their  striking images: underneath a red fabric attached to a woman's torso, limbs of other women’s bodies slowly emerge until finally detaching completely. After, two younger women enter the stage only to put white robes on to their fellow dancers, finalising a comical and stereotypical scene of women behaving sensually, uninhibited by their older bodies. Despite unnecessary movements and actions, Women-Wise by Untold Dance Theatre has glimpses of a work that is strong and can speak by itself. Overall, it was gratifying and refreshing to observe women of different ages being represented.

The second piece, set in black and red costumes and with live musician Nao Masuda, uses classical dance (Kuchipudi) and contemporary dance languages. Based on real stories of domestic violence, Arunima Kumar presents BANDEENI, a daring and strong duet between herself and Eva Esrich Gonzales. At moments, Esrich Conzales' presence follows Kumar as a shadow or walks around her in circles. After, they perform in unison with subtle differences in quality, which make them unique. Without a doubt, I would like to see more of these encounters in the future.

My Other Half  by Sketch Dance Company is a piece about sisterhood, or at least this is what the program said. Four dancers perform familiar sequences in unisons and duets accompanied by books, and flowery bags. There is a sense of past and future, and these becomes clearer with the unraveling of the piece. However, it left me with a hint of disappointment; not because of the performers who were undoubtedly committed and technical but for the content of the piece. Why are women still being represented wearing short flowery dresses and playing with books as if they were teddy bears?

Coral Montejano Cantoral


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