Review: Rosemary Butcher in Festival of Miniatures at Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells

Performance: 23 Sep - 3 Oct 2010
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Wednesday 29 September 2010

Nicole Beutler’s 'Interior Drama' - part of 'Dialogue with Lucinda' in Rosemary Butcher's Festival of Miniatures.

Reviewed: 27 September

Curated by Rosemary Butcher, the Festival of Miniatures, brings together Phillip Gehmacher and Vladimir Miller’s dead reckoning, Nicole Beutler’s Dialogue with Lucinda and Butcher’s own collaboration, Lapped Translated Lines.

The second billing of the festival offered two reinterpretations by Beutler of Lucinda Childs’ early silent works, Radial Discourses (1976) and Interior Drama (1977), both of which explore the concept of the individual dancer within a group work.

For the first work, the audience were invited to sit or stand around the performance area of the Lillian Baylis Studio theatre, thereby surrounding the four dancers and watching them on their level. After walking swiftly around a circular pathway, a couple would break into a striking, hopping step that would propel them past the others. Further in to the work, turning was also added.

Couples would instinctively shift direction on the beat, each individual responsible for the dynamics of the group. Their togetherness could be heard in the rhythmic unison of their footfalls. The impression that the four dancers represented a unique part of the work’s entirety could be seen in the subtlely different shades of grey each was wearing.

At one point, a dancer briefly comes to the standing microphone to talk about the coloured markers that organise the space, preventing collisions, and the precise counting that keep them in synch. Another later breathes heavily and whispers the counts of nine, but as a prop, the microphone didn’t really seem necessary.

At 18 minutes, Radial Discourses was just the right length to remain compelling and avoid becoming monotonous; the energy of the performers could not be faulted and they seemed intensely, yet internally, focused.

Interior Drama was similar in style and theme to the previous work but seemed more developed and complete.

Initially introduced by one female dancer, she is joined onstage by two women and two men. Throughout the work, they keep to a V-shape formation with the first dancer at the tip and the others branching out behind her. The main motif is a simple ronds de jambe type action, alternating right, right, left, left, the dancers moving back and forth like a wave.

At first a single triangle sounds the rhythm but gradually more percussion is added, then piano, and eventually the score becomes more electronic, before taking on a grungier vibe.

Likewise, further choreographic structures are interposed; first a meandering backwards pathway, then a turning port de bras step. The dancers also change facings and gradually occupy more of the stage, whilst maintaining the same basic structure. One woman does separate from the group, using her upstage corner to weave in and out of the others’ sequence.

The costume of smart/casual knitwear with cotton trousers or skirt was effective in enhancing the cool and detached yet engaged demeanour of the performers.

Interior Drama has a ritualistic simplicity, but it is also deceptively captivating – it was one of those rare occasions when the audience seemed reluctant to break the awed silence once the dancers had exited the stage.

Festival of Miniatures continues with Lapped Translated Lines, Fri 1 – Sun 3 October

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