Review: Annie Pui Ling Lok – Metaphors We Live By - Greenwich Dance

Performance: 8 April 2016
Reviewed by Alice Westoby - Wednesday 13 April 2016

Annie Lok - 'Missing'. Photo: Header

Anni Pui Ling Lok’s Metaphors We Live By premiered in Greenwich Dance’s vast Borough Hall, taking a capacity audience through a string of dreamlike anecdotes fuelled by a quest for meaning in the choreographers day to day encounters.

With the audience sitting in raked seating around a central performance arena, the piece began in the dark with the solitary ring of cow bells moving around the space in a creatively designed sound score by musician James Dunn. The soundscape he created became more and more significant throughout the piece and was an example of the collaborative efforts that Lok stated in the programme note helped make the piece.

As the lights came up, the dancers entered the space while the clang of bells moved in circles around the audience and the space as if it were inside our heads, providing a cleverly immersive experience for those watching, despite the distance between the audience and dancers.

It was clear that not only the inspiration, for the piece but also some of the movement, was drawn from the everyday as the dancers entered the space in the same way they might for a dance class, warming up before piece began and they launched themselves into incredibly physical and stamina demanding choreography.

As the dancers swirled around the space together in perfect unison, zig zagging across the room, an ominous voice echoed around the space and the audience. “A tower of giraffes, a clan of hyenas, a board of directors, a troupe of dancers” – nonsensical and utterly ordinary sentences strung together leading the dancers and audience in and out of the surreal. These animal references also drew parallels to the competitive movements of the dancers who were mostly seamlessly in unison through their movements, but when they broke away always kept one eye fixed on the other.

This theme of separation and rejoining, of yo-yo-ing back and forth was recurring as the audience were dragged between realistic and surreal moments, trying to keep up with the pace at which Lok’s mind deciphered meaning in the images she created. One minute the dancers are immersed in their bizarre dreamlike world and in the next they are pedestrianised and join the audience as spectators. It was these flirtations between moments that made the piece like a montage of different scenes, presented to the audience in a way that allowed them to decipher their own meaning.

In one section the sound stopped and the performers writhed on the floor, piercing the silence with their screams before one dancer broke away from the action and spectated with us. The solo performer left on her own in the space performed an incredibly powerful floor work solo, as a blue hue from the square lighting fixture above gave an intense change of mood. In keeping with the changeable nature of the piece, this didn’t last too long before it was broken and she was joined back on stage by sound designer Dunn playing the ukelele and the other performer whistling lightheartedly.

These snapshots into the mind of the choreographer were the backbone of the piece and we were taken through all of these seemingly random moments, all metaphors formed in the creative process by Lok and her collaborators. Perhaps with the immersive sound design the audience were also intended to be collaborators of the piece and could draw their own meaning from the anecdotes that unfolded on stage? This might have been clearer if the audience were closer to the action and truly, physically immersed with not only sound, but proximity to the piece.

In the same way that the piece started, the performers exited the space through the main doors to Borough Hall like normal folk, simply leaving the performance in the same way as one would leave a room, letting the disjointed and surreal story just told to resonate with the audience before we too left in the same way.

Alice Westoby studied Dance at the University of Chichester and now works in arts marketing in London, as well as writing about dance for A Younger Theatre and London Calling. She has taken part in The Place’s Resolution Review 2016. Find her on Twitter @alicemayw_

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