Tonight begins with Aimee Dulake’s, How un-catholic of you - a solo in an evening of unusually large group numbers. Dulake is instantly appealing, guiding us through her experience of a Catholic upbringing with a humorous, charismatic performance. Initial choreography hints towards the obvious religious connotations, while simultaneously offering enjoyably unexpected rebellious quirks. The introduction of a spotlight and Madonna’s, Like a Prayer, sees the careful choreography halted. Movement becomes almost reminiscent of a 2am, inebriated nightclub boogie, Dulake playfully interpreting the lyrics with a series of uninhibited sways and twerks.
Following on - and similarly compelling - Sketch Dance Company present their meticulously performed, To Have & to Hold, with five dancers slipping into a hypnotic array of group sequences, duets, trios and solos. The choreography, by Jasmine Andrews, uses spoken word and a repetitive, non-obtrusive beat to explore the effect different influences have on an upbringing. Curiously, the movement remains compact, purposefully avoiding using the full space; an invisible grid seemingly beneath the dancer’s feet, restricting their boundaries. The quality and quantity of choreography is impressive and of a professional level. The performers are strikingly precise while entirely emotionless, conveying an eerie robotic imitation of humanity. Every movement is executed to an identical degree, essentially soundless, never explosive, but instead deliberately withheld.
The evening concludes with Mass Hysteria’s, Yoga in the Park, which looks to break free of social conformity and which cannot boast a similar level of rehearsal and precision as Sketch. A line of bodies writhe and caterpiller their way on stage in semi-darkness. The lighting intensifies and the on-stage live sound increases with overlayed fragments of speech, beats and breath. The stage is strewn with an assortment of objects; a small paddling pool, an umbrella, a selection of ties, a fruit bowl, even a shopping trolly. The performance is equally as bizarre, each dancer improvising of their own accord, an endless onslaught of random activity.
Aimee Dulake’s solo piece is both personal and entertaining. She was surely the class clown at her Catholic school, and her struggle to come to terms with that education is presented with self-knowing humour. Traversing the space in a rapid shuffle, her upper body tells the story in small, frenetic gestures and head jerks. Easier to decode is the transgressive glee with with she shouts expletives. Madonna’s Like a Prayer sets her off on another tack, grinding her hips and mouthing the lyrics, challenging anyone to say she can’t or shouldn’t. Gracie Fields’ unctuous At the End of the Day returns Dulake to the opening shuffle - her daily reality, messy and trammelled.
Jasmine Andrews’ To Have & to Hold for Sketch Dance Company uses five dancers to explore not dissimilar ideas about influences on young lives. Drawing from a range of disciplines including yoga and streetdance, the slow-paced movement accumulates resonances from the original soundtrack. This takes the form of spoken-word ruminations and spare, strange music co-devised by Andrews herself. A persistent vocal motif resembling a baby’s cry haunts much of the piece. The muscular control of the dancers, often working in unison, is impressive, though it’s a shame that the choreography used so little of the available space.
The best thing about Mass Hysteria Collective, on the strength of this offering, is its name. The second best thing is the opening and closing segment of Yoga In the Park in which the eight-women troupe create what can best be described as a human worm-run. In semi-darkness, dressed in pale satin nightwear, bodies slither over and under one another to a sound collage of snores, slurps and whimpers. What the group’s mission statement - “physical curiosity and making a mess” - does not prepare you for is the unexciting chaos of the work’s central section in which the dancers run circuits and lark about with large props. Might Resolution 2021 consider imposing a moratorium on shopping trolleys?