Dreamers, from NYK Dance Company is a work about dreams and reality and the world between. It felt rather innocent in its use of simple, bright light and sheet to cast silhouette images of a dancer for the dream sequences. That setup occupied a quarter of the stage, leaving the rest for more conventional noodling and slip-sliding between the two alternative presentations. Sometimes the dancers echoed each other's movement, particularly capering on the floor but I didn't see anything that grabbed my attention. Dreams can be wild, but this all felt well-meaningly insubstantial and in need of more vigorous development.
Christina Dionysopoulou's Catch 28 was about the debilitating weight of expectation on a body, and boy, did it deliver. A darkly-thrumming minimalist soundtrack created an oppressive ambience as four crouched bodies convulsed in unison, never breaking free from the unseen weight above. The movement is a mix of staccato hip-hop, snappy contemporary and what looked like the odd gym routine, but it was delivered in sharp unison that of itself created spectacle and intrigue. One of the four dancers, Hayleigh Sellors, breaks free for an angsty solo, notable for its minimal use of movement and palpable pain from strong acting. By some margin, this was the best and most communicative choreography of the evening, and I'm interested in what Dionysopoulou does next.
Martha Graham's Lamentation meets 21st-century clubbing and design in Amy Ollett's Milk. Visually this was the most glorious piece I've seen in a long time and had the startling freshness of some of Gareth Pugh's designs for Wayne McGregor's Carbon Life. The dancers' heads, when you could see them, were masked in gauze, their bodies and limbs swathed in layers of bright neoprene that had them looking like exotic alien beings or oddly painted Dartmoor tors. The clothes move and are added and removed in clever ways, but I wanted more of the choreography, then parading and animating costume. It would be interesting to see Ollett collaborate with Michael Clark who often works with challenging design and can respond in similarly spectacular ways. But Ollett is another find who I will remember.
Gramophone crackles, or is it the fireplace where the shadow of one dancer mimics another? Still, for the eponymous Dreamers, NamYoon Kim and Wai Shan Vivian Luk, the uneasy music and restless moves, the other “she” is not like “me”. One we see, while the other is a shadowgraph on a gauze. The dream is not the reality, and the dreamer is distorted in the dream. A male dancer - Ryan Charles Ledger appears, but even a Chopin nocturne cannot unravel the dream. The pas de deux has an uneasy animation: dawn has not yet come. The dreamscape of choreographer NamYoon Kim is neither a nightmare, nor quite sweet dreams.
Four figures crouch in the darkness, and then a controlled explosion of frenzied dance, a haka reforms into a tightly coordinated concatenation of constrained tension; convulsive, percussive. Christina Dionysopoulou’s compelling Catch 28 has a raw animalistic feel. It hints at street dance within contemporary dance, but there’s more than that: there is a seething anxiety of something internalised trying to get out. The performers move as one. Zack Hemsey’s adaptation of the music of Enzio Bosso with its ostinato score underpins the edginess of the dance. Sellors’ flagellatory solo is striking in all senses and highlights the work of the ensemble in all its aerobic robustness.
The visual impact of Milk is immediate, a bolt of white silk flows down and spills across the stage. Integrating textile design into music and dance, choreographer Amy Ollett makes a bold and poetic statement. Fabric and dancer are one creature, creating a talking tissue, bringing a Michelangelo-esque depiction of drapery to life. Henry Jackson Newcomb’s score expands the concept, pouring in musical milk. On this canvas, three veiled dancers paint an elegant image, yet one that tells of a struggle with innermost feelings. With a viscous fluidity, the fabric conceals, the fabric reveals. Brian J Morrison’s design is stark white and bold red; the lighting snaps between the same colours to wash out the milk … or the blood.