“You probably expect me to get on the trapeze,” says Tilly Lee-Kronick, standing coyly beneath the apparatus, wearing a showgirl outfit. She looks dubious. And as Ripe progresses, she keeps up a stream of statements about expectations and ambitions that hit on the hot button topic of the gender gap with a sweetly provocative and charmingly constructed insouciance. Gently prodding fun at us and herself as she teasingly gurns and mock-struggles through small displays of aerial dance and an extended, increasingly odd riff on bananas and body image, Lee-Kronick has by the end literally shrugged off her limitations – shaking out her limbs, ascending the trapeze and announcing we can keep watching if we want but “I’m just doing this bit for me”. It’s a piece that fizzes with fun and fresh ideas.
Expectations and resultant pressures also fill SkogDans’s Gravity bears the truth. Its five dancers arrive on stage with a flourish in peacock-bright waistcoats and elbow-length gloves, and strut in formation to Mozart with high-camp drama before descending into an energetic chaos. But, taking turns at a microphone, they then reveal a morass of insecurities, each offering evermore outlandish markers for success (“If only I could be Kim Kardashian West, that would be enough”). And a considerably more dour second half has them stumbling and falling around the stage, locked in co-dependent duets or struggling alone. Sadly, this dramatic juxtaposition makes the piece seem rather unfocused.
In contrast, Rikkai Scott and Ashley Goosey (aka BDblaq Dance) find a mesmerising fluidity together in SENSE, choreographed by Scott in response to experiences related by blind people. The pair have a wonderfully engaging dynamic as they follow a beat-driven score with their mix of hip-hop and locking moves, tap dance (in socks) and contemporary stylings. Dance and soundtrack together cleverly give a powerful sense of negotiating the world through touch and sound. But although Scott in particular emphasises a sense of vulnerability, this is not a downbeat piece – and when the pair inhabit a red spotlight and go freestyle with a set of cheeky dancehall moves, it’s positively joyous.
Was 2017 truly the year of uncertainty? With many of us unsure where we stand in a seemingly unstable world, this sentiment was prevalent within the evening's trio of works.
Tilly Lee-Kronick tackles the well-trodden theme of female objectification in her work Ripe. However, hers is a refreshingly new take. Clearly a strong and capable aerialist, her aim is not to impress us. She struggles, twists and contorts as she challenges her audience to subvert their expectations of what a beautiful young woman in a burlesque styled costume ‘should’ be expected to do. I did not expect to see a grown woman hanging by her ankles in a banana costume tonight, but I was certainly left hoping to see more of this weirdly wonderful performer.
The overwhelming pressure of appearing young and beautiful was continued by SkogDans, led by recent EDGE graduate Yasmin Lindskog. In Gravity bears the truth, the falling pendulum of a Newton’s Cradle reinforces this image of time as a prevalent concern for the ageing performer. Her dancers desperately parade the stage to the overwhelming Mozart score, more elaborate and overdramatic with each rising crescendo. We are bombarded with declarations of what is needed to be ‘enough’, as the dancers struggle to reach their own absurd expectations. Although transitioning from one section to the next certainly requires more attention, this piece holds promise.
With an incredible original music score, SENSE also seems to hint at a world of confusion and uncertainty. Inspired by The Royal National Institute of Blind People, BDblaq Dance present a work where the dancers attempt to connect with the world around them. But the result is a much more uplifting one. Performers Rikkai Scott and Ashley Goosey are exceptional, with an effortless fusion of contemporary, tap and hip Hop. In a central moment, as both dancers release into freestyle, reminiscent of a club scene, it is a moment of pure enjoyment for both performer and audience, leaving us with a much- needed sense of hope.