The last night of the Resolution festival showcases three pieces of such distinct and discrete influences and lineages that it almost functions as a critical response to what dance ‘is’. Though these pieces can sometimes feel scrappy and so freshly hatched that they are still staggering uncertainly through their own choreography, this energy – which makes platforms like Resolution such an important presence in the dance world – runs through them all like a current.
Cul de Sac’s The Ordinary Life of Lilly Lesloyd takes a fairly familiar theme and brings a Studio Ghibli air of whimsy and magical realism to the proceedings. The eponymous Lilly Lesloyd is prettily portrayed by Leila Bakhtali, in a papier mâché mask that gives her a marionette air, emphasized by the heavily mime-influenced choreography. Her progression – from school to workplace, childhood to adulthood, love of parents to love of her husband – is easy to follow, although some strange extended scenes involving throwing sheets of paper, and a giant floating face made of a bin lid, cups and two balloons, puzzle more than they intrigue.
The Ordinary Life of Lilly Lesloyd does tend to suffer from a sense of theatrical scrapbooking; elements of the performance feel as if they have been pasted in more for their individual aesthetic value than their contribution to the work overall. Ishtar Bakhtali’s remarkable soundtrack, performed live, is a haunting mixture of tongue clicks, rich, melancholy singing and cleverly looped sound effects, but her unmasked presence uncertainly straddles that of narrator and contributor. The aforementioned giant floating face – carried by third masked performer, Niko van Harlekin – is fun but its purpose is hazy.
Lumo Company’s ‘dark contemporary circus’ piece, Lola, goes in the opposite direction. They work with a single, simple theme – memory loss – and push it for everything it’s worth. Hanna Moisala and Heidi Niemi skitter their way through a two-person skipping set, some feats of weight bearing (one lies down and the other stands on her, both with deadpan faces) and an impressive tightrope routine performed by Moisala alone.
To be brutally honest, the routines feel rough-edged, and the soundtrack is far too dramatic, but Lola is carried by the dynamic between the two performers. Niemi, who has several pieces of string knotted around her fingers (a memory technique advised by string-collecting grandmothers everywhere), is the anxious beta, struggling to recall her routines, eating a piece of string before the beginning of each with the air of a nervous squirrel. Moisala is the bold, brassy alpha, alternately mothering and bullying her other half. The choice to work with rope-based routines that recall the knotted string reminders is elegant and simple. It is impossible not to like the duo or be drawn to their gruff exploration, however floppy it is in its current incarnation, and as Lola is a work-in-progress, there is plenty of space to polish it up.
Moving into thematic obscurity is Feet Off the Ground Dance’s The Way We Were Then. Inspired by Eduardo Galeano’s Mujeres, [Women], this pieces sees four female dancers locked in a changing, lively, violent, loving dynamic.
For anyone unfamiliar with the Galeano’s collection – as I am not – The Way We Were Then does not so much tell stories as it suggests an undercurrent of narrative. Sometimes this is frustrating, but individual ‘stories’ within the bigger piece express enough to make up for it. Sophie Thorpe and Patricia Zafra’s gentle duet, face-to-face and walking one another across the stage as a mother would a toddler balanced on her feet, aches with a tender restraint (though their relationship is never made explicit). Lucia Chocarro’s stunning solo, watched with shy and amused interest by the other three performers, is a sensuous riot (though it’s not clear why she is rioting, or why she is being watched). Lithe and bold, Chocarro evokes the adrenalin of rebellion, defiance and joy in the self through her floor-sweeping twitches.
Drawing heavily on the practice of contact improv and once again supported by a lone musician with a live soundtrack, The Way We Were Then is opaque but absorbing. As the final work of a festival devoted to allowing emerging choreographers to experiment and explore, it felt triumphantly fitting.
For more information on The Place’s programme, click here.