Each night of Resolution 2018 at The Place, the UK’s largest dance festival for emerging artists, three new works from exciting choreographers are shown. On February 15th, the line-up included The Follow Through Collective’s Drowning, Counterpoint Dance Company’s Journeys of Internal Migration, and Mil Vukovic Smart’s HILT.
Drowning, choreographed by Greta Gauge, is a work about the sea and plastic. A group of dancers drift, lift and fluidly roll in front of two projections of watery forms, murky colours and simmering light. Caught up in the flow of waves, the dancers’ numbers grow gradually and the movement swells with a kind of silken complexity for a while. Eventually, this is interrupted by a final dancer trapped in a large plastic ball.
The earnestness of the work’s intentions and approach up to this point seem to be undermined by the introduction of this prop. It’s kind of ridiculous (and amazing) – so excessive – and gives what has been fairly sombre work, which seems to want to take itself fairly seriously, a surprisingly camp turn.
Another irony I can’t help but comment on is that the use of this big plastic ball is possibly a mark of the problem the work wants to highlight – the immense production of, often needless, plastic commodities. Perhaps this is an overly harsh criticism – and I’m not suggesting the giant ball doesn’t fulfill its function in ramming the message home within the action of the piece – but it feels important to consider how an ecological agenda might be supported by decisions at all levels of artistic production.
Simona Scotto’s Journey of Internal Migration is a playful, loose work, sort-of exploring the finding and fitting of shoes – an indirect route to its broader concern of belonging into social groups and society at large, perhaps even your own skin. With a light touch suggesting these grander issues or particular narratives, it is composed out of a series of images and vignettes.
A spotlight hits a pile of shoes. A seemingly never-ending cast of legs tap, kick, prance and shuffle their way onstage, lit by a slim shaft of light. A voiceover delivers a series of instructions, which are enacted with varying levels of commitment and precision – nuances within an intergenerational cast are drawn out without needing to be overtly demonstrated.
Slightly fragmented, this approach could come across as a little disjointed, but it’s all executed with a particular care and treated with the same irreverent touch and what seems like a keen sensitivity for simplicity. This pleasure – emanating from the style and choreography as much as the performers on stage – seems keenly felt in the audience too. It’s glee is infectious.
Mil Vukovic Smart’s HILT is a fragmented reflection on the Mad Scene from the ballet Giselle. The work has a delicious, steady simmer, within which each of the dancers has a particular nervous, haughty or erratic intensity, an attitude matched by a shifty, gently surprising choreography. After a still, almost brittle opening in which the dancers enter gradually, each with their back to the audience, a shift to the front is met with a blast of red light and the sudden, surprising introduction of Muse’s ‘Feeling Good’.
With a kind of hidden glee, a pulsating pleasure echoed by the music, the dancers move through ballet movements with a mechanic perfunctoriness. Throughout the work they seem to grip onto the structures of the discipline, the work’s rich history, as much an anchor to sanity as an inspiration for the performance of ‘madness’. At the same time, ballet’s stern civility appears as a repressive culprit – the standard against which the different might be considered ‘crazy’, or other.
The dancers move in private dialogue with this contradictory material. They seem to sift through fragments of memory and reference, their own whims, mechanical repetitions. Later on in the piece, I found myself craving a return to the Muse moment’s punchy flippancy and cohesion, or a twist into something a little more raucous or wild. This was partly met by a brilliantly strange moment in which one dancer pulls her hair up above her head, holding it there, her face in a fierce glare, before jumping onto the shoulders of the performer next to her and running, bull-like, at the rest of the cast.
The piece ends, as it had begun, with an audio extract of ballerina Beryl Goldwyn, the frankness and warmth of her comments on performing in Giselle a useful counterpoint and contextualiser. She has the final word, and some advice for dancers: “if you forget your steps, just keep spinning.”
Resolution 2018 continues at The Place until February 23rd. For more details, click here.