Inspired by skin-shedding snakes, in Sombre Sloughing, Mirabelle Gremaud is an exotic creature in transformation. The lights rise and she’s an upended torso, planted tree-like in the stage, legs bent at knee, stiletto-clad feet at jaunty angles. Through a series of slow, back-arching bends, her upper body emerges from a pool of clothing, to the sound of Italian 1940s movie tune Tu, musica divina. Gremaud’s fluid, graceful movement is rooted in circus artistry. Her body seems to surprise her with sudden little jerky movements, a series of acrobatic flips and handstands, floor-swimming, or crab-walking across the space. Finally, she stands, back towards us, in a doorway of light projected onto the back wall. She appears to be performing to another audience – a soft shoe shuffle, hip wiggles, a suggestion of jazz hands – altogether less remarkable than the journey we’ve just witnessed ‘behind the scenes’.
Giulia Avino and Paola Drera perform Giulia Iurza’s The Other Self, a sensitive exploration of a developing relationship, to Noto and Sakamoto’s ambient soundtrack. Initially they move independently, before coming together in a central square of light. They explore each other’s presence tentatively, circling, apart, the space between them alive with potential. Actual contact brings complication; hands clasped, they pull apart, fall away. In seconds an embrace becomes a tender dance, then a skirmish; folding into each other’s arms, one is suddenly a dead weight falling. An outstretched, open palmed hand, fingers unfurling, is a recurring motif - suggesting unrealised possibilities. There is depth here – and a sense that it’s not yet fully reached.
In Occupation: RUGGED, collective Rugged Estate vividly demonstrate the power of krump. The atmosphere crackles with energy. Whether in drilled unison or solo centre-pieces, the eight performers’ staccato taut movement is enhanced by clever lighting, expanding the sense of space with a series of white boxes projected in the darkness, highlighting performers, now at the front up close, then small at the suddenly cavernous back. The soundtrack of electronic music, culminating in Konkrete’s thumping Pounds of Raw, adds to the epic scale. There are themes of individuals disturbed or inspired by inner thoughts and impulses, but as the energy builds and the movement inhabits the performers, it’s like ‘duende’ – the experience of transcendence, a feeling of being in a unique moment, that, when you’re lucky, you see in flamenco. Intense and thrilling.
Mirabelle Gremaud kick-started the evening with Sombre Sloughing, a striking solo that explored the journey of a transformation and the effects of the mind on the body. Beginning in a head stand, wearing stilettos, legs bent in opposing directions was just a taste of the impeccable skill and finesse that Gremaud performed with as she continued to effortlessly contort her body into shapes beyond the imagination. Not a sound could be heard as the audience was dazzled by her grace. Her movement quality – somewhat animalistic – complimented the seamless blend of her part-human part-creature character. More development with regard to structure would be beneficial as the contrasting sections from beginning, middle to end were witnessed in isolation rather than wholeness but this did not distract from Gremaud’s skilful ability.
The Other Self spoke to me in a way that no other choreography has done before. Guila Avino and Paola Drera captivated the audience with their heart-felt performance, a stunningly physical representation of the paradoxical emotions we experience when forming new relationships – comfort/distress, trust/doubt, curiosity/fear. Their inquisitiveness was delightful and resembled that of children interacting with each other – a natural curiosity and playfulness that unfortunately seems to disappear as we age and fear becomes its replacement. The side-lighting framed the duet, resembling traffic lights, a symbol of the internal start-stop battle we feel as we learn to trust in letting someone become “The Other Self”. An authentic duet that took the audience on an emotional journey.
The variety continued when Rugged Estate took to the stage with electrifying energy. Krump, a style of street dance that originates from Los Angeles, is characterised by its expressive and exaggerated movements, often performed at rapid speed and intensity. Occupation: RUGGED exceeded expectations; the choreography was articulate, punctuated with vibrancy and each dancer brought their individuality to the form. A striking moment was captured when Jordan Franklin occupied the stage alone, his shadow projecting onto the back wall, amplifying his fierce presence and focus. Rightly so, Rugged Estate received a standing ovation and an additional round of applause after they vacated the stage. Tonight was a phenomenal celebration of the diverse nature of dance and a reminder as to why I devote my energy to it.
Emma Boxall @emmabox14