Review: Ben Wright/bgroup in About Around at The Place

Performance: 16 October 2010
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Tuesday 19 October 2010

Ben Wright/b group 'About Around'
Photo: Chris Nash

Ben Wright is not the type of choreographer to let his audience sit back, relax and let the performers do the work. From the moment we enter the Robin Howard Theatre, we’re part of the performance itself – close up, immersed, and intimately involved in the execution of the work. Just sixty people can be seated at each performance of About Around in a tight ring of chairs that bring us right into the heart of the work.

Involvement and participation are central themes of About Around – both from the audience, who are frequently given instructions to follow, and from the performers, who guide the audience through the performance and are required to give of themselves through a series of spoken confessions. We hear of hopes, memories, ruminations on the end of life and a very poignant tale of a woman creeping out on from her life partner in the middle of the night.

Circles are another key motif – the audience sit in one (strapped together “for safety”), the performers dance in the round, a circle is chalked on the floor, and circles as a unifying structure are mentioned in the handy “guidebooks” that the audience are provided with and often asked to refer to during the performance.The circles and the confessional theme combine to give About Around the air of a modern ritual – less a performance than a participation, the audience witnessing rather than merely observing.

The structure of the piece is episodic, a series of little meditations on such themes as growing up, owning a TV and the nature of ecstasy. The latter sequence comes complete with flashing disco lights, a thumping acid house soundtrack and the ecstatic tearing-off of clothes, leaving dancer Anna Bjerre Larsen alone on stage and naked except for a pair of tights wrapped awkwardly around her knees. Elsewhere dancers Keir Patrick and Theo Clinkard share clothes in a tender gesture of companionship, one covering the other’s nudity by denuding himself to provide clothes from his own body.

The audience is not permitted to sit still – one sequence has us trying out the Dance At A Slight Angle to the Universe (a sequence performed standing still with the eyes closed, a direct descendent of Steve Paxton’s *Small Dance*) and another invite the audience to sway together to the music of Glenn Miller. We are guided through the guidebook, and asked to change position in the ring of chairs in order to “change our point of view”. Truly there is no rest for this audience.

Wright is a trained actor and dancer, and in creating this piece functions as both choreographer and dramaturg. There are explosions of movement, legs spraying out of angled, tilting torsos and an arm-swinging motif that creates a sound on the body like the tick of time passing. Danced vignettes enact some of the stories told by the performers, dancers rolling off one another and tiptoeing away to recreate the creeping out in the night incident. But Around About is as much about monologue as movment, and as much about being in the presence of these performers, finding them among us, as it is about watching what they do.

Funny, affecting, unpredictable and charmingly performed, About Around is well worth a viewing. But don’t expect it to be a passive one.

Part of Dance Umbrella 2010
5 – 30 October **”www.danceumbrella.co.uk“:http://www.danceumbrella.co.uk

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