A strange background crackling opened last night’s show. And as the lights rose, the first thing to note was the striking contrast between Bowers’ bright red and Meredith’s black boiler suits. The movement began simply with repetitive ‘wave’ motions, as the dancers rolled down and up through their spines. Complimenting the monotonous drones of Piper’s soundtrack, the choreography was mechanical in nature; depicting machines, trapped in a habitual routine. Eye contact played a key role in this piece, showing the disparity between ‘human-like’ connection and ‘machine-like’ detachment. On the whole, it seemed to capture the idea of escapism, discovery and the power of emotion in a piece that offered much to reflect on.
In stark contrast to Quinque, Sloth Richter staged a comedic, playful and quirky performance. As the dancers lit up with chaotic energy, I almost felt as if I was watching a group of toddlers at play! So much went on at once that this piece could be viewed multiple times without ever looking the same. The movement material oddly complimented the classical soundtrack extremely well; offering a contemporary take on traditional theatre. The piece was enhanced by the remarkable facial expressions that the dancers sustained throughout. Despite a slightly sombre ending, the overall performance was thoroughly enjoyable and left the entire audience smiling.
The third offering was a poignant piece about the power of human connection. In an almost extra-terrestrial setting, the dancers traipsed through piles of newspaper that rustled in the background. Dressed in shades of grey, their bodies seemed to emerge from the newspaper piles, as they writhed in and out of the floor. The simple power of human touch was enough to emanate a feeling of interdependence between the dancers, who moved in response to each other’s energy. As they shifted each other across the stage, there was a clear display of care and trust between them. Even as the lights fell and the soundtrack faded, the dancers sustained this sense of connection through the residing sound of their breath.
It began quietly with Emma Stanworth’s Quinque, a duet interpreting the crowded swirls and splashes of Jackson Pollock’s No. 5: once the most expensive painting in the world. Tali F Bowers and Leo Meredith developed sequences of spiralling, dipping and popping movement - encouraged by the mechanical sounds of Hugo Piper’s Mustard and Ketchup; their bodies initially undulating and diving from a standing position and then increasingly mobile, running around each other, apparently kept apart as if by the opposing polarity of magnets. Dressed in utilitarian overalls – perhaps, like painters themselves – it was a work that made absolute sense when considered alongside the image of Pollock’s painting. Even without that key, here was an appropriately fascinating form of abstract expressionism.
This good start in pure dance led to an inventive stab at tanztheater in Natalie Sloth Richter’s SPEKTAKEL, made on a cohesive group of six women performers. From the early experience of Svenja Buhl’s hand appearing out of a suitcase, Richter’s imagery was ever-absorbing with highlights including a long, sensual floor-based duet (romantically surrounded by candles) for Johanna Merceron and Irene Ingebretsen; a comic battle for occupancy of a tiny square of carpet; and a game of human ten-pin bowls led by the ever-watchable Gaia Cicolani. Richter had the courage to set several sequences running simultaneously, which caused a surfeit of ideas, competing for attention; but, overall, it was a strong piece.
Anna Katherine Noonan presented Common Ground on a cast of eight, performing on a sea of crumpled newspaper with a small square of uncluttered stage as their refuge. It could have been an environmental statement or – as it turned out – a piece about community and inter-connectivity. Some movement devices – dancers crawling through the paper, for example – were overplayed but the overall structure, including an arresting female solo, provided for a satisfying and thoughtful end to an evening in which, for once, the women were firmly in control.