Friday, 22 May 2015

REVIEW: FOOTPRINT DANCE FESTIVAL: Overlooking Looking in Courtney Draddy's 'Ma'

Footprint Dance Festival
Lulham Studio
University of Roehampton
Thursday 14th May 2015

Undergraduate BA Dance Studies student Courtney Draddy presented her dissertation choreography, Ma on Footprint Dance Festival's Thursday night Barefoot performances. Ma, meaning the space between two structures of compositional elements in Japanese, explores the nature of seeing and experiencing. Interestingly, what is seen by the dancers and what the audience chooses to see are just as important as each other. Draddy creates a work that questions both how and what the audience sees.

Draddy creates a stark white landscape, reminiscent of the Japanese dance form of Butoh. The three dancers are painted white: their arms, legs, feet, hands, necks and faces streaked with white paint. Only their eyes are revealed. In addition, the dancers are dressed simply, wearing plain white vest tops and loose fitting, sheer white skirts. The lack of colour seems to strip the dancers of identity or individuality, creating a 'blank canvas' for Draddy. Yet, amongst the bleakness of the setting, a large circle on the floor is created using red string, creating a harsh contrast to the white landscape.

As well as connecting through the movement, the dancers appear to use eye contact to sustain connection. They sit and watch one another, catch each other's eyes, inspect each other's bodies, while scrutinising their own limbs. This intense 'looking' consumes Ma, captivating the audience and drawing them in from the outset.

The dancers move slowly and deliberately, calculating each movement with precision. The dancers move slowly with a sense of regality, before sudden bursts of energy shift the trio more frantically. Flexed feet and angular arm lines, with sustained transfers of weight exemplify Draddy's careful construction of the work. Additionally, delicious contact work sees the dancers connecting using their heads, backs, arms and necks as they carefully slide, lean and roll across one another. The organic quality of the movement reflects Draddy's deep and profound choreographic research. Ma is not a lighthearted or breezy work of dance.

As the work draws to a close, dancer Emily Robinson slowly picks up the red string, wrapping it carefully around her arm. The crimson string against her white skin is a striking reminder of Draddy's construction (or indeed, deconstruction) of landscape and identity. Ma demands that the audience stop and fully experience Draddy's internal and intense world of movement, without watching passively. Draddy comments on the everyday-habit of looking, but failing to see.

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