It’s late February. My plan to launch into 2018 as a card-carrying minimalist has been somewhat thwarted. Dresser drawers lie rudely open having belched out torpid gym-wear since January 3rd, and sealed packs of chopsticks that came with half a dozen takeaways stand alert in the kitchen, waiting for either a spontaneous mass noodle cook-off or – an admittedly more likely prospect – the next annual decluttering session.
On the kitchen table, however, taking pride of place above the cast-aside vegan cookbooks and back issues of the international cultural magazine I promise I’ll either read or cancel, there’s a sign of a new year goal well-made and well-realised. The item in question is a programme for the annual Resolution festival – my roadmap for this celebration of fresh starts, not just of new calendars, but also of careers, ideas and pieces.
Resolution is an ambitious prospect, and it comes with its risks. The folks at The Place have made playful attempts to ease audiences in: there’s a Buzzfeed-style quiz on the venue’s website, where wary festival attendees can find their best dance match from a cycle of 81 new works – but, regardless, risk lies at the very centre of this programme. It’s a place for artists to tread new ground, and tease out new ideas in front of an audience primed to dish out honest feedback. And it’s not just artists who are putting themselves on the line; each night features three very different works – making it virtually impossible to leave without first trying out something new.
So engrossed was I in my own, personal, failed resolutions, I didn’t make it to this Resolution until its final week – where, in two nights, I caught six very differing performances. The first, Out of Order’s Once Standing, resolutely ambitious and infused with an indie charm, was certainly the most accomplished. In this duet, Jesus Capel Luna and Angeliki Nikolakaki bring a sweetly practical intimacy to the couple tasked with building a society from scratch. Sally Somerville-Woodiwis’s sparse set – surreally indicating domesticity, playgrounds and funfairs, draped in bright lights and broad stokes – locates our characters in a dreamy, imaginative world where they are free to engage in both creation and recreation.
In the beginning, to a Devendra Banhart soundtrack, the pair eases into movement – Capel Luna shakes himself awake, as Nikolakaki rolls gently out of a ball pit and into an evening gown. Their codependency, while ever-present, is constantly changing its shape. First, our post-apocalyptic Adam and Eve fold into each other, Nikolakaki dressing her companion by sitting down on the crotch of his Adidas joggers as he pivots them up his legs. There’s a lightness to these earlier movements, but things soon take a darker turn. After binding her partner’s hands and mounting the aerial ropes, Nikolakaki gains perceived mastery over both dancers’ movements; as she climbs, his limp body is jerked into action. Such electrifying puppetry renders her the Frankenstein to Capel Luna’s monster. Visually, it engineers a doubling of her physical force – and that is a thrill to watch.
The second piece of the night, Sara Augieras’s Paris-Texas or the Woman of the box, performed by Augieras and co-created by Jessie Roberts-Smith, is a collage of loosely-articulated influence. Programme notes reference the relationship between Auguste Rodin and his muse, alongside the missing woman in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas – but it would take a very perceptive viewer to pick this up from the performance alone. Sadly, Augieras’s notion of the muse’s creative freedom is reductive, the cry of ‘She was made to dance for him all night’ undermining the clout of her character’s escape from the plinth.
That said, this short production is infused with the assertive bite of flamenco and the discipline of yoga, as the solo performer expands her bodily and stylistic limits to explore her character’s humble quest for love. Augieras brings a romance to the hazy line between muse and lover, with consuming, thrusting motions that bring to mind both sex and sculpture. This is a workplace relationship that has long been fetishised (see: Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s romantic history, or Anaïs Nin’s Artists and Models) and at the height of the #MeToo movement, a more critical interpretation of this tension would make for very welcome choreography.
Joss Carter appears a little more personally invested in the predicament of the lovesick, as he flails his way, naked and covered in red paint, through a strikingly undignified performance titled Anatomy of the Heart. “The devil sits on my shoulders, and I can hear his whispering words,” moans a heavily-distorted voice on the speakers. A spotlight fades on and off above the naked body as if powered by slow breathing – a dying flame fighting for oxygen, as our performer struggles to depict life after love. Unfortunately, with a voiceover infused by the lyricism of 80s synth-pop ballads alongside discarded roses, fake blood, anguished screams and a noose, this wickedly contrived and painfully melodramatic performance, ripe with insensitive gore and ritualistic humiliation, generates as many suppressed giggles as trigger warnings. As I left, I contemplated my own resolution; sometimes, it’s true – less is more.
Resolution is held each year at The Place. Click here for more of their programme.