One lone figure holds centre stage in a portrayal of mental anguish and entrapment. A barely delineated square lights the floor, her prison cell, accentuating a confused and misty internal world. Hand gestures played over her mouth add to the claustrophobia and loss of communication. Her confusion is palpable. Although she reaches out, her isolation is evident, her small world is getting smaller. The sound track however, was disappointingly distracting and overproduced. Perhaps it was intended to deepen the alienation of the dancer, but it got in the way of engaging us fully in this poignant personal struggle.
With barely a pause for breath in 25 minutes this was a piece of exhausting, energetic dance theatre. A battle of dominance and masculinity, with references to slavery and brotherhood. An empty chair, the only prop, served as a cold onlooker, a dispassionate controller. Two shadows appeared intermittently on the screen behind; alter egos perhaps reminding us of our own. This was, it seemed, another inner world of entrapment and estrangement where communication worked on a different level. Although I was left out in the cold this was evidently a well-considered work which was appreciated by many of the young audience.
A screen with a door and window divided the stage, creating a sense of an inner and outer world. What is this place? Is it another cell or a place of safety? Who is the sitting sixth person controlling the scene, his face lit by a computer screen? The other five dancers work together to create a tense atmosphere of dis- ease, control and fractured relationships. This is another dark piece of work where both the sound track and the choreography weave their magic. We are pulled in and pushed out, inside then outside, safe and then cast adrift, free to make our interpretation but left insecure and unsure.
Brooding unease characterises Resolution 2019’s opening bill, with three sombre studies in identity. Jane Chan’s compelling and compassionate solo Void is a dance of faltering memory, infirmity and dignity. Initially a hunched figure in off-white, surrounded by gloom, Chan moves with a flickering, tentative uncertainty that modulates into thwarted thrashing of the upper body. Clutching at her throat, she’s a figure seemingly straitjacketed by the disrepair of both body and mind, the air around her molasses-thick with frustration. Yet, a vista of illuminated space opens around her. A physical eloquence emerges – percussive footwork, the ceremonial arc of arms that paint the air with wrists as aqueous as ink. Though the cinematic score is a little overly-insistent on surging sentimentality, Chan’s choreographic voice is nuanced and humane.
Up next is Joshua Nash’s Blacklist, performed by the choreographer and Jordan Douglas to an effectively murky score of swampy beats, ominous clangs and distorted voices. Bare-chested, the men start out with a sluggish, slumped energy, sloping across the space on a strangely aimless quest. Then the krump kicks in. There’s excellent detail and control in the synchronised snap of their heads, the muscular ornamentation and kinetic surge through the shoulders and torso. They move with skittering grace and belligerent stomps, from combative brawniness to looser, brotherly badinage. A single touch speaks of struggle and support. Though occasionally diffuse (25 minutes is a long time to fill), Blacklist contains passages of thrilling intensity.
Finishing the bill is No Sudden Moves, a piece for five raggedly-clad dancers by Victoria Fox, accompanied by an onstage DJ sending out bass vibrations heavy enough to charm all the earthworms in Islington. It’s a sonic effect reminiscent of Hofesh Shechter’s work and Shechterish physical tropes punctuate the dance of this restless, huddling tribe – folky inflections of the wrists, the loosely rolling groove of the hips. There’s impressive floorwork and full-bodied urgency, with changing dynamics suggestive of the group’s viciousness (a writhing scrap breaks out) and vulnerability.