Sliding Doors Penthouse Hickies
Julia Costa La Renaissance de la Femme
Caterina Danzico x Jeph Vanger Attachment Non-Attachment
This evening of dance opened and closed with a grappling tangle of two women, beginning as a prelude to a comedic take on the female view of modern dating; and ending with an enigmatic, elemental exploration of touch. Clara Cowen and Rachel Laird brought an intuitive sense of comic timing to their mutual creation of Penthouse Hickies, two friends sharing a tub of popcorn while comparing notes on that week’s Tinder surprise (or several). Their spoken text was so natural as to appear improvised and the occasional indistinct word was worth the absence of intrusive microphones. They were refreshingly unafraid of silent moments and abrupt endings and when they danced it was with descriptive flair – Laird’s solo to interpret Cowen reading a schmaltzy WhatsApp message full of emojis was humorously observed. The work was delivered with such an endearing chemistry between the “besties” that we could have been eavesdropping on a flat-share. Some judicious editing of small sequences where that momentum was lost would give it even greater potential.
More serious was La Renaissance de la Femme, Julia Costa’s polemic on her perception of the voyeuristic gaze of men and how it permeates the history of dance. Snatched and indistinct images of the female form peppered her own film that was juxtaposed with the onstage performance of an all-female dance quartet. That this sibylline visual effect lifted the work above the ordinary was largely through the impactful lighting design of Berta Pibernat Trias. Her innovative use of a pendulous neon strip, almost as if a non-human partner, led to a climactic final solo.
Enigma was also writ large throughout Attachment Non-Attachment, with concept and choreography by Caterina Danzico. Two strong and undaunted performers – Nyssa Song and Linjiao Zhang – conquered the audacious challenges of this slow-moving interpretation of mimicry and autonomy; dependence and isolation. The strong interaction of music and choreography merited Danzico generously sharing headline co-credit with her composer Jeph Vanger, the only male interloper in a whole evening of diverse dance ideas otherwise exclusively seen through a female lens.
Woman is the muse of each of Friday night’s choreographers. Penthouse Hickies rides the rich tangents that spiral out of a conversation between two friends. Clara Cowen and Rachel Laird’s chin wag about dating in your twenties sparks a flirty duet with a lamp and the bouncy, punch-filled embodiment of a romantic text message, complete with exclamation marks. Tight hugs and changeable moods radiate the closeness that is reached when contemporaries are three subjects deep and find comfort in shared experiences. The women relish their sexual liberation, but the tone is casual; the friends are young and free and the effect is refreshing and funny.
From the happy-go-lucky to the haunting, Attachment Non-Attachment’s study of two females’ collective psyche is worlds apart from the escapades of Cowen and Laird and fuelled by the remarkable partnership of Linjiao Zhang and Nyssa Song. On a bed of torn-up paper, low lighting warms their hard arm circles and soft gallops as they master the paradox of sensitive, non-mechanical yet immaculate unison. Caterina Danzico’s choreographic strength lies in her transformation of the jazzy into the menacing; hands on hips, they pop their chests aggressively and glare at the audience. In a conclusive amalgamation of their intimate then animalistic games, Zhang staggers under the weight of Song’s limp body whose gaping-mouth eeriness fills every corner of the theatre. Danzico knows how to maximise the pair’s chord-striking chemistry and their future collaboration will be worth looking out for.
The thumping soundtrack and pink haze of Julia Costa’s mix of film and live performance forms a noisy interlude between the two duet pieces. Sentiment and vulnerability have no place in the four women’s rocking hips, undulating torsos and power stances, as Costa favours an in-your-face approach to femininity for La Renaissance de la Femme. It is certainly unapologetic; the image of hand on crotch evoking the conversation on women’s sexual pleasure is projected, though fleetingly, on the back wall and a swinging rod of pink light illuminates the posing dancers. Is woman reborn as the title suggests? There is potential in Costa’s agenda, but no coherent answer.