Skirmishes - devised and performed by Hong Kong-born dancers Ghost and John - is a sequence of small revelations. It never fully declares a political theme, but by the end you can’t help but connect what you’ve seen with the Hong Kong protests. Starting in near darkness the pair are barely discernible, despite their white jumpsuits. And only slowly do we realise that the soundtrack is being generated by a third member, Angela Hui. As she drops beads into a bowl, sounds tiny chimes or twists a ratchet, the suspense is intense. The men’s movement - disciplined and audibly strenuous - seems to be inspired by martial arts until a burst of drumming sends the pair skittering and panicked like birds. Singing in Chinese - perhaps a song of solidarity - closes the piece.
Monika Blaszczak took a very different tack in How To Mimesis [sic]. Shouldn’t somebody tell her that mimesis is a noun and not a verb? Her idea, indeed her passion (as she told us in a rambling introduction) is that the artistic community needs to “practise being invisible” in order to counter an increasingly right-wing political culture. Blaszczak thus called for six volunteers to join her own six dancers in becoming “invisible” on stage. The responses were, if mildly amusing, far from sophisticated, such as crouching, staring at the floor, and hiding under a coat. When Blaszczak added a new task - “Become highly visible!” - the result was remarkable mainly for its noise level. As a conceit this piece could have worked, with more development - much more.
Gallo Rojo Gallo Negro, by Juan Sanchez Plaza, promised some heart and fire with its flamenco line-up. Gallo is Spanish for “rooster”, and the piece used the farruca, traditionally a strutting man’s dance, as a base from which to question gender identity. But the farruca’s distinctive line and crisp footwork quickly fizzled out, leaving Irene Gimenez Montes in her black trousersuit isolated and in shadow. By contrast Sanchez Plaza, totally self-absorbed and fully illuminated, made full use of a swishy red skirt to frame strange undulations of his bare torso. The gut-punch came in the short video closer in which, alone in a bedroom, staring at his shadow on a wall, Sanchez Plaza appeared to undergo some kind of mental breakdown to the song “There Was a Boy”. Quietly devastating.
Ghost and John’s Skirmishes, in collaboration with Angela Hui, opens the evening. Exploring a sensitive and intuitive relationship between the body and live sound, the 23-minute piece constantly shifts, unravelling and presenting itself steadily. Performed by Ghost and John themselves, movement rarely halts, growing from a tentative and uneasy reaction to rhythms, with robotic convulsions of the arm, into a catharsis of the entire body; Twisting, jumping, falling and catching. Overwhelmed by the volume of activity, Hui repeatedly pulls us from the seemingly bottomless pit of movement, centering our focus, with sound as simple as a stone dropping.
Next on the programme is Monika Blaszczak’s How to Mimesis. Present throughout the sharing of the work, Blaszczak takes the stage, improvising a lengthy monologue, before leading a task-based offering, that invites the audience to engage in an exploration of visibility and invisibility, alongside six performers. Where the instruction of invisibility displays static figures, working to conceal their identity and protect anonymity, the offer of visibility shows a collective in chaos, the calm being quashed with screams, shouting and exaggerated gestures. Shifting the focus over to the audience very late, a questioning of behavioural etiquette and conventions was scraped only at surface level, leaving a potentially provoking aspect of the topic, underwhelming.
Juan Sánchez Plaza’s expressive Flamenco duet, Gallo Rojo Gallo Negro, closes the show. Questioning the role of binaries through performance, Plaza is on display instantly, performing supple, yet powerful, twirling movements that liberate the satin material draping over the lower extremities, as a skirt. Irene Gimenez Montes takes the helm of the Farruca, typically danced only by men. Strong, percussive and brazen, she performs rapid footwork, complete with flare and emotion. This strength soon dissipates, with the return of Plaza, in a blood red skirt, demanding the attention of all eyes in the room for the remainder of the performance, essentially, allowing the female performer to fade away into the background. A coincidence?