To be honest, I came very close to bolting for the exit nearly two minutes into the latest in Sadler’s Wells’ Wild Card series. The performances themselves were yet to properly kick off, when Tim Casson casually strolled on stage to introduce the evening’s programme and dropped the bombshell that no-one with two left-feet and a complete absence of rhythm wants to hear: this would be an evening of ‘participatory’ dance.
So, it was with a nagging sense of anxiety that I sat through the evening’s triptych of performances. First up was Nina Kov’s playful and sinister Copter, which I watched in a state of mild distress. In Copter, Kov performs opposite a remote-controlled miniature helicopter that zips and orbits her in various dizzying formations, accompanied by the constant, whirling drone of it’s propeller slicing through the air. Kov’s choreography oscillates between a playful game of cat-and-mouse and a more hostile, antagonistic battle of wills with the whirring device hovering above her. Copter’s playing out of our relationship to systems of surveillance is echoed in Kov’s choreography, which shifts between sporadic and flighty attempts to escape to the more pained and contorted movements that embody the paranoid fears of pursuit.
Cornelia Voglmayr’s Sonata in 3 Movements follows next and I’m still panicking about having to get up at the end of this thing and do my best Dad dance routine. Sonata in 3 Movements continues the thread begun with Copter – the interplay between man and machine – though this time it’s in the form of vaudevillian double-act between a violinist and choreographer. Curiously, it’s light on actual dance, preferring instead to focus on the loose, physical comedy between the musician and dancer as they spur each other on through all manner of strange, abstract instruction. It’s humorous, if somewhat light, and represents the first real dip in the evening.
I’m sweating now. Are they going to make us get up on stage at the end of this thing? Or will it be a sort of audience Mexican wave situation? After a thirty-minute interval in which a team of blue-shirted dancers encourage the audience to submit their own dance-routine in miniature, we re-enter the auditorium for Tim Casson’s piece, Fiend. I relax slightly; was that it? Is that the extent of the ‘participation’? I sincerely hope so. Tim Casson takes to the stage for the third piece, Fiend, in which he is joined by the multimedia visuals of Tom Butterworth and a pulsating electronic soundscape. Based loosely on Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun, Casson finds himself replicated and multiplied via Butterworth’s multimedia screen; the effect is startling for the ripple effect it creates in Casson’s choreography, as each sequence of moves gives rise to a multitude of virtual ‘selves’ each echoing Casson’s own physical action. As implied by its title, Fiend takes on somewhat sinister overtones as the ‘virtual’ self begins to fight for dominance of the performance with the flesh-and-blood Casson.
As the evening draws to a close, my fears are finally assuaged. Casson & Friends ‘participatory’ element is far from obtrusive; the various routines, moves and physical patterns submitted by the audience in the interval are synthesized and embodied by Casson’s own troupe of dancers, and the evening ends on a light and amusing note of collaboration. And I didn’t even have to do any Dad-dancing.
Exeunt reviews Wild Card: Eva Recacha – Dear Devil
Exeunt reviews Wild Card: Vicki Igbokwe