A night of highs and lows with three dramatic works that varied from the outright perplexing to the clearly obvious. Gender Creative from Non-binary, a group of three individuals that define themselves as choreographers and dancers, was about challenging society’s norms on gender. It featured a pregnant man, a tomboy and an 'amateur' who was dressed as a young lady - and a collapsible garden gazebo on wheels. Among other things two characters scurried around, wobbling on their arses and the tomboy took an age to assemble a tripod upside down. Eventually the peripatetic gazebo was stripped down to shroud the tomboy who fought his way out, took his trousers off and started to shave his head. The end. Strange and surreal, it just didn't seem to connect or provide illumination.
Natasha Sturgis' The Land of Her rapidly restored some good karma, if I didn't get from the off what this had to say about a world where only women exist, its premise. No problem, because taken just as abstract movement, for Sturgis and two other quality dancers, it all proved mesmerising as they twisted, turned, bobbed and weaved expansively across the whole stage - think Maliphant. Later more obvious womanly motifs and togetherness emerge, underpinned well by Alicia Jane Turner's minimalist and at times driving soundscape. At seventeen minutes, a solid professional piece and I'll look out for more by Sturgis.
I rather warmed to Taira Foo's Hinged Dance Co for their chutzpah in putting on a narrative work with eight dancers, clear characters, ten diverse musical excerpts, all in just 25 minutes. Also that SICK tacked depression and mental health, as the central character descends to suicide, pushed on by his sad thoughts in the form of a joker character. Contemporary and street-dance infused, there was a lot of terrific acting, if the compelling high-energy of the work could sometimes feel at odds with the insular nature of depression. The postscript projected texts, about depression and how we might all help, were thoughtful. Bravo for looking to create a mainstream work that would speak to anybody with clarity.
Non-binary present a jumble of uncannily nebulous ideas beneath a tent of discombobulation on wheels (literally). Two performers sit in stillness for what seems like an age, until a pregnant man in pajamas and a woman in red emerge back-to-back, scuttling on their haunches, legs spread in the air. A cryptic figure spotlit in the audience with a camera projects dim, indistinct images. The sound of being submerged under water is perhaps the only intelligible feature of the work. I stopped asking myself why and let it wash over me.
Centre stage, a trio arcs and dives, the group's limbs radiating strength and poise, until they are spiralling through space to a generic, minimalist score. Sturgis executes nuanced motifs of gentle, sensual wriggles; sputters, sways, and small tremors; blockages interrupting threads of beguiling phrases, with presence and precision. A dancer carelessly rushes small gesticulations miming the unnecessarily literal and stale ‘creation of woman’, an obvious, overbaked and immature contrivance. The work returns to its earlier formulas eventually, with an exceptional lighting cue ending the work, rocketing The Land Of Her back to a territory of some consequence.
Hinge Dance Co depict depression - the symptoms of which can manifest as broadly and as diversely as those who experience it - without nuance. A superficial exploration, SICK crudely draws attention to and simultaneously glamorizes depression manifesting in suicidal ideation. Choreographic ensemble work without precision/definition balters off target, fusing obvious narrative cliches with gratuitous scenes - all of which I imagine the audience have seen before. A well intentioned but laborious powerpoint tacked on the end of the performance emotes some sadness. However, the lack of awareness evident within the work makes it hard to take seriously, underneath the various distractions.