There’s perhaps nothing better than live music accompanying a dance performance and in the case of Niko van Harlekin’s The Ordinary Life of Lilly Lesloyd, the music far outshines the rest of the piece. Musician, Ishtar Bakhtali, using a loop pedal and her voice sets and encapsulates the moods of the various moments. Whether she draws attention because she is the only unmasked performer is a viable consideration. The two masked dancers seem almost cartoon like with their heavily gestural movement. The piece is overloaded with props: a bin bag’s worth of plastic cups, a vase of flowers, and too much tracing paper, to name a few. There is just too much going on visually to make any sense of the thing.
Lola had a cryptic air that really pulls you in despite the stagnant pace the piece moves at. It is slow but clever. The theme of memory loss is prominent throughout and effectively displayed by Hedi Neimi’s vacant stares. She’s like a brilliant, bemused goat for the entirety as she eats string and mills about the stage. This contrasts with Hanna Moisala’s stern power as she pushes Neimi through the uncomfortably funny string eating, a reasonable skipping duet, a daring standing on each other section, and a nimble tightrope sequence.
The final piece, Feet off the Ground Dance’s The Way They Were Then, builds from dramatic stills to a strong quartet. Sophie Thorpe and Patricia Zafra then perform a playful duet, as Robyn Holder sits looking on and Lucia Chocarro intriguingly sets out origami boats. It’s Chocarro who really drives the performance home with an exquisite solo. Her movement is lithe and powerful with sexy, animalistic twitches driven by Alex Paton’s live brass. It’s the kind of solo that makes you itch to join in and as the piece comes to a close the other three do just that. Resolution 2017 definitely went out with a bang!
A programme note can be a double-edged sword. Instead of aiding comprehension, it may show how far a piece falls short of what it set out to do. “Life is short, and therefore precious” went the blurb for The Ordinary Life of Lilly Lesloyd, but I struggled to see how Niko van Harlekin’s creation bore any relation to this statement. Leila Bakhtali, in a commedia-style mask and flowered dress, was the titular character. So who was the masked man alongside her? Was he Death, the ultimate stalker? And why did he keep setting out cups and glasses which she repeatedly knocked angrily to the floor? The opaqueness quickly became irritating, because despite the watchability of Leila B’s quick, neat movements, they conveyed little. It is surely a mistake, too, in a mask show, not to mask everyone on stage. Our gaze was inevitably drawn to the unmasked face of musician Ishtar Bakhtali, standing centre stage generating melodic phrases on a loop.
Feet Off the Ground’s contribution, The Way They Were Then, was equally obscure. Again, music was provided by a lone practitioner - multi-instrumentalist Alex Paton - who accumulated a lively din by layering loops of electric guitar, piano and jazz trumpet. This provided the group-contact-improv movement with an oomph it otherwise lacked. But what were we to make of the flotilla of origami boats - or maybe birds - painstakingly set out on the floor? Baffling.
The hit of the evening came from the least likely premise: a tragicomic circus piece about memory loss. Heidi Niemi played the confused member of the duo, Hanna Moisala the bossy one, stapling reminders to a board (“Say please, Say thankyou”) and to poor Niemi’s bare bottom (ouch). Niemi’s confusion extended to what was good to eat, and we watched in mounting disbelief as she munched two metres of string. We also winced at the subtle bullying meted out by Moisala, at one point using Niemi’s upturned face as a prop for her tightwire. Poignant, understated, hugely skilled, this little number left a big impression.