News & Blogs

19 January 2019
Author: Wen Amanda Koh & Sanjoy Roy

Fri 18 Jan: Physical Language/Amy Morvell Dance/Emily Robinson

Physical Language She Holds Me Up

Amy Morvell Dance Turtle Dove

Emily Robinson Dance Leave me one

She Holds Me Up performed by female duo Vidal-Hall and Cook, revolves around a rope and a pole, placed side by side. Vidal-Hall clings onto the precarious rope like it’s her lifeline, creating a striking image of a twisted body in the air as if it is dangling from a noose. She struggles as she climbs the rope, attempting to defy gravity and escape her unfortunate fate – “consent” she narrates. Cook gives her support and security; and an anchored pole. The rope is then intertwined with the pole, revealing the extraordinary connection the two women have. While the piece delivered strong imagery, the movements lacked focus and did not add much to the overall composition.

Turtle Dove is an intimate and thoughtful duet. Set to the voiceover recordings of individuals recalling heart-warming, funny, and tear-jerkingly sweet moments shared with their partners, the piece highlights the unique universality of “love”. The stories are handled with care; as Morvell’s and Darby’s movements are never forced or intimidatingly technical, but are organic in a way that brings out their innate human qualities. I’d usually find some of the movements clichéd: the push- and-pulls, the twirls and the embraces. But it was all performed so well, with great sincerity, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Five dancers perform a dynamic choreography in Emily Robinson Dance’s Leave me one. Compared with the other works, this piece allows more room for interpretation. There is an interesting play with internal and external space of movement; perhaps reflective of the internal dialogues and external forces that constitute the “imposter syndrome” that the work claims to explore. Regardless of the intent, the choreography itself was enjoyable to watch as it showcased the high technical skills of the dancers, and their strong sense of unity when they moved in sync. On the whole, however, the piece seemed to lack something special.

Wen Amanda Koh


The #metoo movement made connections not only between different incidents of sexual harassment, but between the women experiencing them. For every individual story, others would answer: me too. Willow Vidal-Hall’s She Holds Me Up is rooted in that lived reality. She recounts being stalked one night, finding safety through a passing stranger who, being a woman, instinctively understood the situation. The tale is hers, but joining her on stage is Gabbie Cook – #shetoo, if you like – and together they enter into aerial duets on a rope and pole. The psycho-physics are wonderfully suggestive of rising up through trust, exploration, strength, care and support, but the choreography itself is underdeveloped. The message is powerful, the medium less so.

Amy Morvell’s Turtle Dove, a duet with Joe Darby, is about romantic love. Its first dance parped my cliché klaxon: beautifully done, but pretty normatively gendered in terms of partnering, and ending with him gifting her a red balloon covered in hearts. Soon I was disarmed. To voiceovers from people of different genders, ages and sexual orientations, the dancers take up different roles until they seem unbound from their own bodies, instead channelling love itself. “Love itself” becomes rather a practical matter: responding to another, keeping connection, accepting difference. It appears in a memory recalled, in a shiver of anticipation, in energy and in space (“I’m very up and down, he’s more level”). Lovely but not laboured, Turtle Dove is genuinely heart-warming.

Unusual for emerging choreographers, Emily Robinson’s Leave me one is a group piece, about group relations. Her five dancers walk and weave, checking each other and checking themselves, in a kind of fluid social web. Various forms merge and melt: a ring around a centrepoint, individuals set against clusters, actions in step and out of line. It’s full of interest and promise but it does runs out of steam, in the end relying more on the rhythmic swells of its score than on its own ideas.

Sanjoy Roy

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