Warmed Air – site-specific performance

Warmed Air 10 Aug 3pm Anatomical Museum, Teviot Place

Warmed Air is a site-specific combination of dance and the arts which takes place in the Anatomical Museum in Edinburgh. The title refers to exhaled breath, warmer after the exchange of gases inside the lungs. It is an original idea and realised collaboratively and inclusively: Ruth Pollitt, who “likes old things” is the museum’s curator and plays the shawm (a sort of medieval oboe) in the show. Simon Anderson initiated the project with his interest in Antonin Artaud, somatic movement and psychophysical performance.

We are led into the Lecture Theatre where the sound of deep breathing fills the space as we sit up high looking down onto the podium. Here a specialist delivers a lecture about Indian sun gods, Maes Howe , e=mc2 and the science of the fixed firmament which unfortunately we cannot hear in its entirety. The dancers, dressed in yellow and red, pose arabesques, crawl and scramble over seats, dangerously perch, and pivot, cranium on wood.

The second section involves a tour into the museum itself, briefly hovering in front of Paul Michael Henry, situated between dinosaur skeletons, a living specimen behind a sheet of glass. This performer has a mannered intensity.

anatomical musem 3

Thirdly, we move to a room full of display cases: bones, skulls (including a cast of Rabbie Burns exhumed for burial by his wife), and a body preserved in 1788 with flesh and sex organs. Here the four dancers alternate in presenting their solos, presumably their own personal responses to the general themes: writer and artist Laura Gonzalez with her neat feet – I liked her phrase ‘your soft architecture’); part-time lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire, Laura Bradshaw’s bone movement, sensual hand wringing and found words); and a misguided rewrite of The Cruel Mother.

There is so much material here, fascinating ideas seeking connections between disciplines. Like some conceptual art, it is intriguing on the page, but so far the ideas are more interesting than the exposition; the physical and verbal improvisation is too ambitious for the performers’ skills. There is great possibility however it is in need of tight direction, an outside eye which can contain the myriad influences and focus it. On a basic level someone is needed to stand in the audience and see if they can hear or see; on an artistic level to draw the strands together, eliminating the personal favourites if they don’t work for the good of the piece, thereby creating a coherent whole.

Overall this show uses a very wide range of fascinating ideas and seeks connections between disciplines, painting and dance for example. There is great possibility here but it is in need of tight direction, an outside eye which can contain the myriad influences and focus it. On a basic level someone is needed to stand in the audience and see if they can hear or see; on an artistic level to draw the strands together, eliminating the personal favourites if they don’t work for the good of the piece thereby creating a coherent whole.

 

 

 

L-E-V Dance Company- Love Cycle

L-E-V Dance Company, Love Cycle: OCD Love and Love Chapter 2. 9-11 Aug 2018 20.00 hrs.

These two 55-minute shows performed on consecutive nights by the Israeli L-E-V Dance Company are pure contemporary dance, as pure as it gets: five dancers, minimal lighting, an almost constantly berating soundtrack from the tick – tick of the opening to the relentless techno rhythms of the rest; and bare movement. In OCD, the performers enter one by one unobtrusively from corners or between curtains, limbs picked out of the shadows by dull light, and begin their desperate, compulsive movements. In Chapter 2, all five are onstage continuously and the dance language is almost identical with the score and repetition building to an infernal pace with no end in sight.

OCD Love is more OCD than love and you won’t necessarily get either unless you read about it first. Once you do know, it definitely is obsessive. Sharon Eyal’s choreography is highly original. Her deeply personal identification with Neil Hilborn’s poem, OCD, has resulted in an intense, strung-out and internal set of motifs which are, of course, repeated. In the same way that this ultimately destructive behaviour is an external sign of something desperate happening inside, so it is well nigh impossible to empathise. One watches with a sort of horror, but does not kinaesthetically participate in it. The audience’s initial confusion and lack of understanding may well be a reflection of the sufferers themselves being unconsciously controlled and driven.

LEV 2

The choreographic impetus for both pieces is at the centre (as you would expect from Eyal’s formative association with Martha Graham) and the torso is racked with convulsions, shudders and twitches. The endless arms and legs octopus-wave sequentially from there, then nudge with jagged elbows, sink deep with knees angular, or keep the impossibly persistent beat of soft steps. Each body is taut with tension, especially the shoulders, and the backbends are excruciating, with hands that reach so far behind, you wonder that they belong at all.

Fingers grasp and pull back the head of another, mimetic palms claw own breast and abdomen, hips jut suggestively in frequently bird-like trajectories around the stage. Very occasionally there is a breathless hiaitus, and once there is a terrible crash on drums and with fist and the audience shocks. Perhaps there is a slight tenderness between two, more likely there are empty arms where a partner should be – these beings are locked into themselves.

The performances are 100% solid, impossible to fault, which is almost unheard of. Without doubt they are drilled and dedicated. The long-standing collaboration between Eyal and composer Ori Lichtik’s grand score is perfect, and the watchers’ final cheers were surely a response to the sheer quality of the work.

WRoNGHEADED – contemporary dance review

Contemporary Dance Show Review: WRoNGHEADED by Liz Roche Company.

Aug 5, 7-12, 14-19 Dance Base, Edinburgh Fringe 2018.

WRoNGHEADED opens with beautiful images: Mary Wycherley’s film of natural landscape – iceberg, water – glides into our vision before we see any dancers (it has featured in dance film festivals around the world and won an award in Kerry in 2017). Set to Elaine Feeney’s fierce poetry, the environment is swirly and sleepy in atmosphere. An elegiac lace-clad wood nymph drifts, contrasting with the glistening, jaggedy rockface; it’s a near-monochrome palette.

A single dancer slides on from a downstage corner, back arching, arm curving over, quiet as if on snow, not disturbing, not attracting attention. Electronic music now. We recognise the woman from the film become concrete, in the breath and shadow. There is an air of seriousness.

Liz Roche Company are currently in residence at the Dublin Festival and Roche herself is an experienced choreographer. Created in 2016, it sought to “highlight the frustration that many women feel in relation to the choices that have been available to them around their bodies in Ireland”, so it is indeed serious. Happily, some monumental changes have taken place since then, but there is still a way to go obviously.

For a time, the two women share the space but do not touch. With shoulders hunched, they slip and slide in slow motion, they roll, explore, suspend. One reaches with her chest. A breast is almost touched. Later hands are thrust between thighs; fingers are splayed; sudden sinewy ripples rack the torso and there’s an abrupt change of direction. Then it starts to change: angled arms, a knee crossed over a taut leg and they join. In a Contact Improvisation-based duet, any spaces between the dancers is highly charged. They react off each other, brush against, spring away from, only to return to the crook of a knee or armpit. After a struggle one lands on top of the other, a dead weight, and it takes some wriggling for the other to extricate herself.

The poem is complex, and only snippets come through when the focus is on the action: “Sorry, sorry”, “I’m in debt to you for giving me air to live”, “Nonononono”. Attention is necessarily split between the movement language and the words. The choreographer has mined the poem for ideas, so is it necessary to use it in its entirety? Its quality and that of the steps are imbalanced: one thought provoking and direct; the other sensual and atmospheric, dreamlike. Ultimately this is the type of contemporary dance which is dense and speaks to the initiated. It is not easily accessible, but aficionados will be impressed.

wrongheaded