Review: Retina Dance Company in Antipode at The Place

Performance: 2 March 2010
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Thursday 4 March 2010

Retina Dance Company 'Antipode' 2 March, The Place

Antipode, the title of Filip Van Huffel’s latest work, can be defined as polar or innate opposition. It is a piece for four male dancers and one double bass player, each of whom is on a journey of exploration to find the extent of their own extreme physicality.

Steve Martin’s solo is full of snakelike bending and twisting as he unfurls and coils supplely on the spot. He is joined by Robert Guy and their duet becomes a mass of limbs spilling out in to the space. A second duet with dancers Brian Tjon Tjauw Liem and Matthew Slater is full of leaning and treading steps before the quartet break into a trio and a solo. There is a constant coming together and breaking apart as the dancers regroup into shuffling variations. Brief moments of unison are suddenly broken and we realise that the foursome is a set of individuals connected only by being in the same space at the same time.

Joris Vanvinkenroye’s accompaniment also acts as the connective thread that weaves itself among the performers to create a cohesive pattern. His playing is sometimes percussive as he drums his bow against the body of his double bass, and sometimes flowing with his nuanced acoustics. Electronic layering adds a further texture to the soundscape. Throughout all he keeps his focus fixed on the dancers, matching his rhythms with theirs and driving them on like a silent puppeteer.

A birds-eye view of the action is projected on to the back wall, giving us two simultaneous perspectives from which to observe the action. As Martin lies inert, Slater fits his own body upon his restless form so that only the outline of the former remains. Slater lifts him almost to an embrace, pressing his body against him, before pushing him away, and finally pulling his head back sharply.

Liem’s slight form seems to mark him out as easy prey as the others lift, throw, push and pull him in an aggressively playful manner. He is however, incredibly swift on his feet, and ducks and dives as Guy strikes out at him with fierce karate-like moves. At one point he deftly lowers Guy so that he sinks to a kneel at his feet.

Familiar motifs are repeated and developed but a freshness is maintained as group work is interspersed with shifting trios, duets and solos. Both the music and movement grow to a crescendo with the dancers uniting in a series of low flying shunts and virtuosic one-handed back-flips. Each unique performer may be set upon his own path but when these paths cross, it seems that none can resist the attractive force of opposition.

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