Sunday, 24 April 2016

REVIEW: BalletBoyz - Life

Fri 22 April 2016
Sadler's Wells
BalletBoyz - Life
Pontus Lidberg - Rabbit
Javier de Frutos - Fiction

Returning to Sadler's Wells after Young Men, Artist Directors Michael Nunn and Willam Trevitt commission another brilliant double bill. Structured like two ends of the same argument, Rabbit and Fiction are brimming with rabbit imagery and tragicomedy.  

Swedish choreographer, Pontus Lidberg's Rabbit marries surrealism and loneliness, against the cool landscape of gently wafting lengths of cloth and tolling bells. Clad in vaguely 1940s shirts, vests and braces, dancers with furry rabbit heads invade the space, hopping, skipping and cartwheeling. The tone is tender, with sudden outbursts in  Górecki's score, which seem to initiate an exaggerated running motif that rocks back and forth. Later, a couple of rabbits linked hand to ankle, roll by like tumbleweed, as a fragile and inward solo unfolds in front of us. 

We can't escape the niggling feeling that Lidberg's rather nordic choice of imagery in Rabbit is far more significant. As in Watership Down, The Animals of Farthing Wood and Of Mice and Men, Lidberg's rabbits seem to connote persecution and death. Coupled with the images of men draped over the shoulders of rabbits, like parachutes caught in treetops, there are poignant undertones of anguish as the bells toll over Lidberg's stage.

From Lidberg's surreal realm, we move to Fiction, by Venezuelan choreographer Javier de Frutos. Wanting to create a work about the death of a choreographer, de Frutos imagined his own (rather inventive) death, since it 'seems impolite to kill anyone but himself'. Fiction sees a stark change in its stripped set design and the welcome use of comedy.

The dancers move with confused expressions to critic Ismene Brown's words, unfurling a canon of rippling arms and torsos beneath a large ballet barre. A throbbing mass of bodies follows shell-shocked dancer Marc Galvez, as he struggles to come to terms with the fictitious death of his choreographer. De Frutos creates gorgeous kaleidoscopic formations around the ballet barre, as the men slice the air with blade-like arms. He takes full advantage of the BalletBoyz's precision, and risk-taking athleticism.

The curtain comes down on de Frutos' work with Galvez spinning, arms open to Donna Summer's anthem Last Dance. De Frutos is at once dead, resurrected and alive. 

Maya Pindar

Life is at Sadler's Wells until Sunday 24 April.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

REVIEW: Zoi Dimitriou's The Chapter House Returns to Laban Theatre

Athens-born Zoi Dimitriou brings The Chapter House back to Laban for a fresh perspective on choreographic processes, meaning and digital media. Combining pieces from previous works, Dimitriou's The Chapter House is nostalgic while still boldly unique.

Before the work has even begun, we know minimalism will be key. The stage is strung with washing lines, piles of linen and paper are neatly stacked and a music stand sits expectantly downstage.

Mark Coniglio, inventor of Isadora Software (real-time interactive software) creates the digital structure of the work. Coniglio films Dimitriou's spoken word and snappy poses, before transferring the images to a laptop onstage. He shifts quickly as she dips in and out of floor work, and speaks in a strange foreign tongue in front of the music stand. He pushes the camera invasively close to her and then suddenly darts backwards, capturing Dimitriou from different angles.

Her phrase of snappy poses is later repeated and developed, this time the movements are sinuous and gooey against the backdrop of Caccini's Ave Maria. We can see Dimitriou layering repetition and mirroring- a clear open window into her choreographic process. But none of this makes sense yet. 

The Chapter House may not be for the easily distracted, but for those of us who do feel lost finding meaning in the choreography, Dimitriou's dynamic range is simply something else. Her lines are clean and crisp, and then suddenly she curls her spine into creature-like undulations and contortions. If nothing else, we are happy just watching her move.

In deafening silence, Conigilio pegs sheets onto suspended washing lines, forming five makeshift screens. Onto these, pulsing images of Dimitriou's repeated poses, curling spines and sinuous floor work are projected. Deafening silence turns to rumbling electronic whirring and pounding mechanical sounds, interrupted by a recording of Dimitriou's voice. She explains, disjointedly, the five 'chapters' of the work- mythos, agape, love, ptosis, and crisis, while broken sentences are projected onto a moving washing line of pegged paper. 

All at once, Coniglio's invasive filming, the strange spoken word, and repeated motifs make perfect sense. The unknown language is simply Dimitriou's playful experimentation with sounds and words. And Coniglio's nostalgic images appear like flashing memories, muddled by an unfaithful mind. In an age that consumes and obsesses with technology, The Chapter House breathes life into minimalism and digital media. Dimitriou creates a multifaceted and highly detailed work that opens up new avenues in British post-modern dance. 

If you can accept the challenge of The Chapter House, Dimitriou is well worth watching.

Maya Pindar