I have a friend who has trained as a dancer, and by all accounts he’s very good. I met him when he was in a large-scale production and he had The Moves. However, since then, in the three years that I’ve known him, I’ve seen him dance exactly twice, and once was in a piece he had choreographed. The rest of the time he is teaching workshops, or company repertoire, or choreographing his own work, or – horror of horrors – filling out endless application for funding. It occasionally comes as a surprise to me to remember that he is a dancer.
This isn’t a particularly surprising route for emerging dance artists, many of whom have to be their own producer, PR agency and admin assistant. Actually making work and dancing in it is almost a happy extra. This is why Nora – comprising Eleanor Sikorski, Flora Wellesley Wesley and Stephanie McMann – seems like such an exciting and radical idea. They invite artists to make work on them, and they perform. The pieces necessarily take their own dynamic, their particular and personal energies, into account, and have a pleasingly intimate and individual feel. The triple bill Nora Invites is a cheering example of this alternative dance-making model, and a very fun evening. Performed by Sikorski and her ironic eyebrows, and Wesley and her unpredictable grin, the three pieces of Nora Invites are sufficiently varied in subject and execution that the duo feel brand new every time.
Eleanor and Flora Music is ‘an entirely new translation’ of composer Morton Feldman’s score For John Cage, itself the source of Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion’s Both Sitting Duet. If this sounds too complicated, just know that, under Burrows and Fargion’s direction, the duo interpret the score using their bodies as instruments. There is no music, except for occasional goose-like exclamations from either performer and a mild male voice repeating, ‘Flora. Eleanor. Music.’ Heavily gestural, with the delineated phrasework of a jigsaw puzzle and some delicious fluid floorwork, the piece reads like a humorous conversation between the two performers. It is not a work of exact timing or clean cut lines; rather, it is a sort of physical chat.
The chattiness of their bodies, and their evident rapport, is taken to another level in Simon Tanguy’s Digging. Sikorski and Wesley are literally in (humorous) conversation – about their bodies, about the experience of having and manipulating a body, about feminism and personhood, about a human self in society – and move in staggered fragments across the stage. As with Eleanor And Flora Music, the real fun of this piece is not in the technique or the virtuosity of the work itself, but rather their mutuality, reflected in their words and in the choreography, which often sees them manipulating and coaxing one another.
The real ruby in the crown, though, is the final piece, BLOODY NORA!, written, choreographed and directed by the incomparable Liz Aggiss. It’s an alarming, wickedly hilarious vaudevillian nightmare, with a music hall jukebox of a soundtrack, as Richard Strauss bumps up against ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’. Sikorski and Wesley shed their selves and become characters in a gag-filled, grotesque fairytale about periods and female friendship. It is a whiplash change of aesthetic that jars the audience like a slap on the arse.
Dressed in outlandish red outfits, complete with swimming caps (for front crawling up the red tide?), looking like something between chorus girls, synchronised swimmers and 1920s It Girls, its crude cabaret – which includes shouting euphemisms for menstruation at one another and the audience – is rounded off with a furiously executed hornpipe.
Nora is an appealing and inspired concept, and Nora Invites, as an early execution of that concept, has a lot of potential and a lot of fun for the audience. Following Nora Invites and the fruits of their research, Nora Talks, Nora will be commissioning a new series of work in 2018, which is certainly something to look forward to.
Nora Invites was on at Sadler’s Wells. Click here for more details.