The boundaries of ‘new choreography’ can be surprisingly fluid. Collide Theatre’s Ms Julie, a half hour adaptation of August Stringberg’s classic Miss Julie, is not so much dance theatre as theatre with a little dance. Loli Filippakopoulou’s movement direction is rough-edged and pleasing. An erotic encounter between Miss Julie (Jodie Sully) and her father’s servant Jean (Gabriel Akuwudike) features tumbles and topples of a decidedly sensual nature. But the play itself falls short of Strindberg’s famous naturalism, cut through with barked, declamatory dialogue. Sully slings her shoulders and back around in an awkward parody of upper-class languidness; Akuwudike careens between stilted restraint and a rather more believable boyish viciousness; overall, Ms Julie disappoints.
Dan Thatcher Company’s Cenedl Heb Iaith, an exploration of the colonial suppression of the Welsh language, is more cohesive, seemingly taking inspiration from choreographers like Hofesh Shechter: low centre of gravity, surly leaps, dropping limbs, rhythmic stomping. The ensemble pieces are chunky and satisfying, as the tracksuit-clad performers flip their bodies lightly through the air to meet the ground again with bruising force. The use of untranslated spoken Welsh on stage feels exciting and transgressive. A final, sung solo is a little sentimental, but overall this is a solid work.
The baffling JUNGLE, choreographed and performed by Diamanto Hadjizacharia, is either an uncooked failure or – as I choose to believe – a somewhat brilliant, subtle absurdist comedy. Its borderline nonsense programme note gives nothing away, so it is up to the viewer to decide what they are seeing. Hadjizacharia paces and twists in ritual patterns among potted plants. A male voiceover recites a terrible poem, but mocks its own delivery with throat-clearing. Offstage, two women shove more plants towards Hadjizacharia, their arms and heads visible; their presence irresistibly recalls the vaudeville hook trope. The real icing on the cake are the potted plants that are snuck off the stage by means of invisible thread – the funniest of all being a tiny cactus on a tiny skateboard. Choreographically, JUNGLE leaves no impression, but its bizarreness is actually rather delightful.
Race/class relations, anglocentrism and its crimes, and internal habitats: tonight offers artistry in three impressive, unconventional choreographic offerings.
A curious, oppressive entanglement between master and servant, portrayed through clever dramaturgy, Ms Julie is less like choreography and more like a play. A secret waltz in the shadows and some light flirtation early on is followed by a brief, riotous solo where Ms Julie’s ambivalence and frustration overcomes her as she scrapes, claws and fights invisible, oppositional forces which both hold her back from and push her towards her desires. However, after this short, satisfying outburst of movement, dance within the work is very limited. Collide Theatre combines bold, conceptual scenography with a naturalistic performance - as a play, it had a very captive audience.
In Dan Thatcher’s Cenedl Heb Iaith - A Nation Without Language, the beauty of the Welsh language, though unfamiliar and without translation, conjures meaning over time through repetition, helped by its rolling syllables and cadences - the unfamiliarity highlighting its erasure within English culture. Mingling with text, near death defying movement gallops skillfully as duets appear to scramble, splash and sprawl spontaneously, the entire ensemble demonstrating a ferocious aptitude for full bodied, synchronous articulacy. Movement and language meet in wildly unrestrained encounters, as a mob violently silences and suffocates those who dare to use their voice. And yet, beneath the stifling crowd, A Nation Without Language, continues to speak.
Diamanto Hadjizacharia’s performance is exuberant and playful, however, rather than ‘displaying the unbearable need for constant movement’, the work actually shows a lone figure amidst potted house and garden plants, dancing, resting, exploring and rearranging. A subtle and serene work, rather than removing ‘every trace of stillness’, JUNGLE seems to emphasise and meditate on the need we each sometimes have to stay in and be still; to move at our own pace; reorganise our habitats; and reconnect with ourselves and nature. A tranquil space for amusing oneself with one's own devices, away from all the madness outside, JUNGLE explores the absurdity that can arise from staying home alone and experiencing the joys of cabin fever.