One of the most fun things about a night at Resolution, the UK’s biggest festival for new and emerging dance makers, is that you can never be quite sure what you’re getting, not even after you’ve read the (sometimes near-incomprehensible) programme notes. This is fortunately not one of the incomprehensible nights, and the audience are promised three pieces that explore, in different ways, relationships and identities formed by relativity or intimacy.
The evening opens with Symbiotic, a duet choreographed by James Muller. Monique Jonas, encased in an eggshell-coloured sack, writhes against her bounds and eventually hatches. Her movements are delicate and exploratory, punctuated by the twitching spasms of something newborn.
The arrival of Nikolas Shikkis confusingly interrupts Jonas’s solo. She is in a beige leotard, he is in a grey t-shirt and maroon trousers. They dance, Jonas leaves, returns in a maroon top and grey slacks, they dance a little longer, and end with Shikkis overpowering Jonas.
It’s not that the duet is bad – it is dynamic, bright, and Muller effectively evokes the idea of symbiosis through weight exchange, as Jonas and Shikkis carry, lean on and push at one another. It’s also inescapably cool – the two dancers have a chic energy and Muller’s use of Radiohead in the soundtrack is glibly moody. But the pacing is abrupt and the scene development is puzzling at best. There’s not quite enough to Symbiotic for it to be a full success.
By contrast, Unravel, le Bolero is packed with stories, context and inspiration. Inspired by Maurice Ravel’s BolÃ©ro (of course), it is an ambitious ensemble piece that sees ten dancers of RAE Dance Collective forming and breaking from a circle. They tangle themselves off to one side in fluid duets and trios before returning to the group, where their brisk unison gestures form a semaphore language, a shared description of love, anxiety, and trust.
Choreographer Camilla Isola has effectively drawn out the poetry behind the prosaic in this extensive investigation into gesticulation and the physical signalling of intimacy. Certain gestures appear again and again, either in the circle or in the ‘side’ dances – the full body embrace, the neck nuzzle and the face caress are notable as they’re immediately recognisable as romantic gestures, but here they appear as part of entire sentences of romantic gesture that don’t have such obvious everyday translations.
There are some fine performances in Unravel, le Bolero, with Laura Calcagno especially standing out as an expressive and boldly dramatic lynchpin. The piece does, admittedly, suffer from a lack of tension that renders it more pensive than vibrant, despite the bold primary colour projections on a back screen. Towards the end, as the choreography expands away from the circle into spatially loose and somewhat unsatisfying group work, there is a sense that it has lost its focus, but its semaphore language stays bravely signalling to the last.
The crowning achievement of the evening is ZERO (extract) by Humanhood (Rudi Cole and Julia Robert). Part whirling dervishes, part Matrix assassins, Cole and Robert spin and cut the air in rigorous unison. The energy is thrilling, and the perfect synchronicity of the performance has the effect of doubling and mirroring that thrill.
Almost never moving beyond the parallel lines of their mystic, martial progress, Cole and Robert nevertheless suggest they are dancing according to some huger, wilder, all-consuming intelligence of which they are merely a fragment. This is partly suggested by an enticingly abstruse quote that opens the piece – contentious physicist Nassim Haramein on the nature of action within a receptive universe – but also by Horne Horneman’s outstanding lighting design, which is a prowling, interrogatory thing that flashes and smooths, confronts and softens. It is practically a third performer.
Though ZERO is doubtless a meticulously rehearsed and researched piece, there’s also no getting away from the fact that quite a lot of the pleasure of watching the extract comes from its dead serious sci-fi kung fu aesthetic, crisply executed by the Humanhood duo. Nevertheless, this doesn’t count against it, and promises good things for a full-length piece. It’s always pleasing to see pieces at Resolution that demonstrate potential for longer works, and every piece shown tonight has a germ of that potential.
Resolution is The Place’s annual festival of new dance works. For more details, click here.