Forgive me, my smogging is going out of sequence. I haven’t yet told you about Nathan and I having a romantic Valentine’s in a dark Shoreditch alley but I’m going to skip ahead to Wednesday night’s childfree excursion to The Place, a theatre in Euston. It was a contemporary dance triple bill, as part of the Resolution Festival and some friends of mine were involved in the first piece. I’ll be honest about that now, so you know I’m biased from the start. On the flip side though, it’s the first piece of theatre I’ve been to in a long time that I’ve actually paid for, so there’s neutrality right there.
Let’s start with Group 11’s “Searching for the Dead” then , which was choreographed by our friend Temitope Ajose-Cutting and featured another friend, Adam Liston, on music and vocals. I believe he composed the score as well as performing it. So that’s my bias-disclaimers out of the way. On with the show!
The theme of “Searching for the Dead” was that we carry around with us traces of those we have known and lost – not necessarily through death, but also through friendships that have withered. The very truth of that makes for uncomfortable watching, as it makes you think about the people you’ve lost contact with and the reasons why. The performance was a mixture of dance, music, mime and spoken word with each performer contributing some of their personal “junk”. For example, singer Susie Doyle listed the women she no longer sees, with some notes on each (“Laura…I really should apologise to her…”), while the dancers acted out the feelings of loss and rejection that comes with those broken relationships.
At one point, it was curiously similar to the last mime show that I went to (“Kite“) – a dancer pulled out a suitcase and the items in it that reminded her of the past – drawings, a babygro, a scarf and (I think) some perfume. It really evoked the way that certain fabrics and smells can make someone long gone feel alive again. Then the dancers asked audience members for the names of the people they’d lost – I have to admit it was a touch too personal at that bit and Nathan and I got all British and embarrassed. But I was glad to hear Bowie and Rickman both getting a mention.
The piece concluded with a hauntingly beautiful song by Adam and Susie. I don’t know what it was called, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t get another airing very soon. Susie has a fragile kind of voice, which well suited the emotional rawness of the show. Adam’s vocals provided a rich counterpart and the two blended beautifully. It was the only show of the night to feature live music and it gave it a magical edge. It was probably my favourite but,as I said, I’m biased.
We were out for the night so we were more than happy to get a drink and enjoy the two other pieces. When we came back in from the interval, the dancers of “Far From the Norm” were already in position, backs to the audience, in the semi-dark. This was “Rek”, an exploration of revolution and how people come together to break out of their status quo. They started on the floor, showing off some very muscular back-movements, and went through a kind of awakening until they were firing on the audience. After the whimsy and delicacy of “Searching for the Dead”, it seemed far more primal and brutal but there was a certain beauty in the sheer physicality of it. I did worry for a girl in a backless top doing some very energetic moves, but it all held together so that was OK.
The third company – Co-Motion Dance – was different again. It was, I suppose, the most conventionally dance-y of the three pieces, with the four girls performing gymnastic leaps and lifts in perfect sync. For some reason, it reminded me of PE lessons at school, where we would try and lift one another up in various showy ways…but trust me, Co-Motion did the moves a lot better than my friend Naomi and I ever did. Their stage costumes of polo necks and jeans also looked like what everyone wore in the mid 90s so it made me feel terribly nostalgic. For those without weird memory associations though, you could just been impressed by the fluid and energetic moves, with the dancers falling off podiums to be caught with split-second timing. Again, there seemed to be a theme of separation and reunion, gaining friends and losing them…but I may be reading too much into that.
So, it was a very enjoyable evening at the theatre. Contemporary dance isn’t necessarily the art form that I would choose straight away but it was all very well done and, obviously, it’s always good to see a friend’s work. Sadly, it was for one night only but there’s more information on the Resolution Festival here.