At the start of the show, the festival crowd sits around the edges of one of Dance4s studios. Lucy’s lying on her back on a bed of blocky grey cushions, and she speaks into a microphone, something like:
this is Tom on drums.
Over the next forty-five minutes we’ll be doing our practice.
There’s not much content, as such,
but perhaps you might take it as a chance to undertake a practice of your own
a practice of spectating, listening, and being with others.
we’ve only got each other.
I’ll see you on the other side.”
It’s much better when she does it.
And then she starts dancing: she moves; she crouches; she lies on the floor; she repeatedly hits the ground; she listens to the drums; she throws herself into space; she rests; she watches us. It’s not just difficult to say where one thing ends and another begins: Future Dancer invites us to consider what it might mean for all of this to be one and the same activity. Future Dancer asks: what does it means to have a practice, to do a practice? What does it means to persist at something? What it means to keep dancing?
Lucy’s powerful inhabitation of the performance space feels like she’s fundamentally dissatisfied with something; a persisting restlessness, that causes her to dive to the floor in the hope that it might cool her skin, and arc back upwards with the movement of her thoughts. Her project works from the early modernist Isadora Duncan, whose manifesto for ‘The Dancer of the Future’ announces “one whose body and soul have grown so harmoniously together that the natural language of the soul will have become the movement of the body. The dancer will not belong to a nation but to all humanity. She will dance […] in the form of a woman in its greatest and purest expression.” Lucy returns to this problematic figure, but rather than seeking this truthfulness within herself – either from an authentic individuality, or in a wider yet exclusive category of womanhood – she seems to dance through, and with, the tensions and contradictions that co-exist with her body, her movement and her desires.
While her dancing is utterly committed, it never feels earnest; that would suggest she know what she’s working towards, and is keen to demonstrate to the audience her efforts. Rather than making use of any easy gestures, it seems like Lucy pins herself at each moment to her energies and desires; across flickering intensities, doubts and self-disdain. There’s a kind of virtuosic sensitivity to this, a bold commitment towards any impulse, yet being equally ready to leap into its abandonment at the next moment.
It looks like a flickering array that inhabits her whole body; causing her to throw her weight, collapse, stretch out, curl up, do something that looks like flamenco, do nothing, do something from a show twenty years ago, do something that she saw it on TV the other day. The energies and references of a whole life seem to swell through her; the dancer of the future is composed of her unique histories and circumstance. It’s not that these movement are playing catch up to some inner sensation or imagination, but that the dancing itself opens up possibilities that seem to exceed the limits of Lucy’s own recognition and understanding.
Beyond narcissism, Lucy’s introspection feels like it saturates the space in which she moves. What could be a private and symbolic struggle is turned into an electrifying and absolutely present moment for the audience. Framed by Tom Page’s soft, intricate and expansive drumming, the formal simplicity of the piece allows for nothing more or less than a very brutal display of Lucy’s dancing. What is evident throughout is her overwhelming depth of experience – an unmistakable richness that so tangibly plays itself out before us – and the particular knowledge, articulacy, questions and possibilities held by the figure of the dancer.
Writing this a few days after seeing the work, these words feel so distant. Looking back, Lucy’s dancing seems to disappear into the moment of its performance, but then manifests itself across my memories of the expansive, generous, brave and stupid days of Nottdance. In thinking of her dancing, I see Emilyn Claid, pioneer of experimental dance in the UK, running across a stage in a bright yellow boxer’s cloak; or Stephanie McMann winking at her friends as she rocks her way down a catwalk; I see Nora casually pausing in their show to redo a bit they fucked up; and Sally Doughty perched impossibly on one straight leg – all long limbs, like a spider. Future Dancer points to the impossibility of dancing in twenty-first century Britain, yet the continued evidence of the dancer exceeding the expectations or demands she places on herself; rewriting the limits of possibility.
To find out more about Future Dancer at Nottdance 2017, click here.