As you enter the auditorium, a solitary ‘soul’ (guarded by unnervingly cult-ish hooded figures) possesses the spotlight centre stage. She figuratively and literally carries weight upon her as strips of black mesh, pulled taut by the rest of the cast, suspend from the ceiling. Centred as the focal point of the audience's attention, this poignant installation coincides with the pre-recorded ominous voice, intensifying the oppressive atmosphere on stage. The solo protagonist dances desperately beneath the hanging material, her disjointed movements mirror the repetitive, jarring pounds of the accompanying sound effects. Eventually she is physically restrained; woven into the symbolic textile web, her limbs are bound and she is even blindfolded. The fabric instalment eventually drops to conclude the piece and perhaps even her life. Inspired by traditional Korean concepts, Soul elusively delves into the subject of suicide through an individual's self-destructive desolation.
The next piece in the bill is an abstract quartet of two dancers paired with a duo of trumpeters. An uncanny group contort their bodies, creating deformed shapes beneath layers of mesh fabric, their distorted stretches and sensuality suggestive of the premature movements of fetuses. Their lucidity parallels with amniotic fluid and the mesh bags reflect the amniotic sac. The whole piece is indicative of an extraterrestrial birthing, which although at times becomes a little frenzied and clumsy in its intention, remains experimental and enticing for the spectator. The final image of ripping open the remaining creatures from their sacks as the stage sinks into blackout provokes an emotive sense of mystery and leaves the resolution ambiguous.
As the title infers, there is a distinct sense of togetherness and comradery in the playful piece Common Ground. The aural accompaniment, produced by an on-stage orchestral quartet floods the auditorium with angelic symphonies. The musicians interact with the sextet of dancers heightening the prevailing sense of unity within the work. We witness a picture book of all their individual stories running synchronously as the work eloquently flicks from one eccentric conversation to the next. Choreographically, Common Ground was the most technically detailed work of the night. Fusing game, spoken word and song, the piece toys with the audience and elicits a light-hearted, comedic and inclusive atmosphere.
Three beige lumps adorn the stage, like cryptic molluscs with an 80-denier skin in American Tan or foetal incarnations of Mr Blobby. Bathed in a misty gloaming, they begin to morph and distend as a creaturely soundscape intensifies, a kind of insistent slobbery growl reminiscent of my cat’s 2am emissions, only slightly more sinister. It’s a belter of a beginning for Disaffections’ Alien Man, establishing a strange sensory universe that develops further with breathy trumpet parps from within the rear two writhing blobs, who stand like slimy sentinels as Miia Makila and Chloe Brazinskas emerge in a tangle of limbs from their amniotic pouch. What follows choreographically – jolts of frazzled kinetic energy and twitching feet – could do with a little finessing in order to build on the dramatic potential of the opening.
Follow Through Collective’s Common Ground, for six dancers and four musicians, is permeated with a sense of playful idealism and a Tanztheater aesthetic that encompasses a spectrum of tonal shifts from abstraction to confessional spoken word, from full-bodied ensemble jolliness to the disorientating discomfort of physical exchanges. A dancer picks her way across a patch of astro-turf, gazing admiringly at her cursively pointed feet, but an almost tender intermingling with another figure soon sours into a grasping bout of foot fetishism. A lilting waltz for a man and woman in a long floral dress (very Pina) becomes a spirited game of identity for all performers. It’s the most coherent and technically confident piece of the evening – choreographer Greta Gauhe is one to watch.
Yeonsoo Do’s Soul explores suicidal themes with a definite sense of dread. She begins as a hunched figure on the ground, ominously covered by a spire of six black fabric strands held by an impassive ensemble in wimples. Accompanied by an abrasive score of clock ticks and racing heartbeats, Do is a compelling presence and her physical language of pounding anguish occasionally modulates into more lyrical skeins of motion – a promise of richer emotionality that could, if developed, reach effectively beyond the footlights.