Joss Arnott’s work is characterised by a precise, athletic movement style that pushes both the technique and stamina of his dancers. A Movement in 3, the opening work of his triple bill at Laban Theatre, is typical of this signature style.
From the agile, thrillingly fast-paced movement of the opening to the work’s darker mid-section where strong and sustained movement emanates from floor-brushing plies, a trio of female dancers exhibit the endless capabilities of their bodies. It’s a work that feels alive, shifting with the dynamics of the music, while the changing patterns of the lights bring snippets of movement into action.
There’s a close relationship between the trio on stage and they emanate a sense of joy as they dance. Yet for a work that so bursts into life, A Movement in 3 continues too long before ending abruptly. It’s one of many dance works which, if more succinct, would be stronger.
As with much of Arnott’s work movement and music are intrinsically connected. V may be a work for a solo dancer but ultimately it is a duet – a duet between dancer and musician, between movement and music. Dancer Emily Pottage and violinist Fra Rustumji watch each other intently, a matter of necessity when even the minute details of the choreography catch at each subtle inflection of the accompanying music.
Arnott has an impressive attention to choreographic detail and Pottage expertly captures both the quality and complexity of this precise movement. While it is a striking and calculated work, the consistently steady pace of V feels somewhat restrained. In its brief moments of flight the work truly soars, but it almost longs for a greater variation in pace.
In a triple bill, a repetitive formula of clean lines and high legs can quickly become overworked. It’s a relief that in new creation RUSH, Arnott finds a depth to his choreography absent in the preceding works.
RUSH opens with a solo dancer (Emilie Karlsen), her earthbound, grounded movement driven by the deep bass of James Keane’s original music. When the other dancers join her on stage the work explodes with a literal rush of movement, echoed in a rising crescendo of strings.
As RUSH shifts through solos, duets and ensemble sections, the long lines and extensions typical of Arnott’s style fuse with sharp isolations, drawing a more instinctive and guttural quality from the dancers that is channelled into their weighted movement. It’s a quality intensified by the heavy chords and amplified sound of Keane’s score.
As the work progresses, Arnott’s choreography seems to repeatedly draw to an end; and repeatedly Arnott resists. It’s a fine line to tread between creating a work that becomes tedious and finding that illusive moment of revelation. Here, Arnott clings to the sense of pushing for something more and the result is a fierce, dramatic climax fuelled by the strength and power of these exceptional dancers.
Arnott’s work is pure movement, but through his intricate and detailed style of choreography the body says all it needs too. In RUSH Arnott has both created a compelling work and found a freshness within his signature style.
Joss Arnott: Triple Bill was at Trinity Laban on March 1st. For more details, including future dates, click here.