Review: Jonathan Burrows and Chrysa Parkinson in Dogheart

Performance: 25 & 26 October 2010
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Wednesday 27 October 2010

'Dogheart' illustrations

Reviewed 25 October

In a post-performance discussion, Jonathan Burrows paraphrases Seamus Heaney in saying that choreography, as poetry, is “To arrive somewhere I could not have expected to arrive but that I recognise when I get there.” This seems to sum up nicely the process behind his collaboration with the American dance practitioner, Chrysa Parkinson, who concurs that theirs was an emergent narrative which was the “product of a structure of time … [or the outcome of] where that structure was pushed”.

Had that structure been pushed or pulled in any other direction or through an alternative set of parameters, Burrows and Parkinson would have ended up with a different work altogether. As it is, what they present is *Dogheart*, a title that came about by two sketches of, surprisingly enough, a dog and a heart, which were selected for marketing purposes early on in the work’s development. If it is not clear how the title or the sketches, which, in addition to others, are projected at intervals throughout the 45 minute piece, correspond with the other elements of movement and poetry, Burrows assures us that although “not everything relates obviously, everything relates”. So basically, don’t try too hard to look for the logic and you will probably get more out of it. Saying that, however, the post-performance talk revealed the decision-making process that shaped the work, giving us the clues to piece the jigsaw together.

The repeated movement phrases are rhythmic and easy on the eye; no virtuosic trickery here but plain, criss-crossing footwork and circular arm motions interspersed with idiosyncratic gesture and everyday references. Parkinson strides boldly with her long, willowy limbs and sashaying torso whilst Burrows turns and veers without apparent haste, occasionally a trace of a smile suggesting a natural ease and enjoyment.

The poetry does not really suggest an overriding narrative but acts as a loose framework to piece the layers together. A single word, step, or musical motif alone doesn’t carry meaning, but when placed side by side, a rationale or dialogue is created. The performers speak over each other, converging or pausing together before wandering apart again. Individual words are repeated and inflected, given significance because of what has come before or what will follow. Similarly, the recorded piano miniatures by Howard Skempton offer intonation to the looping projections or movement sequences; they are economical yet melodic, subtly adding texture but still allowing space for the other elements to breathe.

Parkinson admitted that she was surprised by how, with experience and familiarity, the meanings within the work become more visible or more submerged, and perhaps it is this that gives it its freshness. Despite the repetition and shift from one medium to another, it is easy to keep engaged with the work and to follow the each trajectory as it dissolves into the next. Dogheart is neither one thing or another but whatever it is, may it continue to evolve.

Part of Dance Umbrella 2010 **”“:

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